Mare Nostrum or Europa Nostra?

Between Triton and Mare Nostrum: an insight on the current operations at sea, their aims and effectiveness

triton_mare nostrum“Each individual has to right to be saved at sea” and ”European countries cannot ignore these tragedies” said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres, who in an interview for the Swiss paper “Le Temps” has denounced the ”unacceptable tragedy” of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean of migrants fleeing violence and poverty. Triton is not enough, according to Guterres and many of his colleagues, who urge European countries not to ignore the current tragedies, and perhaps to reflect on ‘new legal ways to ”bar the way to traffickers” and their ”odious trade”. The countries of origin, those of transition, and of arrival should share the burdens and checks of every phase of the migration.

Triton has been attacked multiple times in the few months of its existence, as it is deemed not as efficient as previous operation Mare Nostrum. It seems to have the same duty to rescue at sea that Mare Nostrum had, but with much less significant funding.

During an interview for Radio LUISS, Admiral Donato Marzano, who has also been Italian Senior Representative at the US Central Command,  explained the Navy has always been an operative branch of the Foreign Ministry, acting in order to support and represent the nation, hence as a mediator for what he defined naval diplomacy. Operation Mare Nostrum, he said, had the humanitarian aim of supporting the rescues; the practical one of controlling the borders and contrasting clandestine immigration; and the military exigency of preventing and stopping human trafficking. Operations Frontex and Triton were instead born with a focus on border control, but the end of Mare Nostrum does not imply the end of rescue operations, Admiral Marzano stressed, since every sailor has the duty to intervene at sea, whenever needed.

“Is the Navy a starting point to talk about Community military forces?”, we asked Marzano. “Italy is already among the NATO Countries expected to give the biggest contributions to international operations, and it already flies the European flag. But a strong political willpower is needed, in order to have a unified military tool”.

At the end of his meeting with French President François Holland, the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi recently affirmed that Europe should use in foreign politics, in the humanitarian field especially, the same strength it uses to impose financial standards. “The Mediterranean Sea is not a cemetery nor a periphery”, Renzi said, “but it is the heart of Europe. And as such it should be a priority for the whole Union”.

On March 3rd, EC vice president Frans Timmermans declared that, due to the most recent events, especially the tragedy of the ten deaths near the Sicilian coasts, the issue of migrations has been moved up on the Agenda and it will be discussed in May rather than in July. “This issue concerns all Member States. – he added – It’s no longer Mare Nostrum, but Europa Nostra“.

Maria Felicita Ferraro

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