Greece, Italy join forces on illegal immigration

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Italian Premier Matteo Renzi laid the groundwork for closer cooperation between the two countries when they met in Florence on Friday for unofficial talks that focused on the issue of illegal immigration.

Both countries have expressed their concerns at a European Union level about the influx of undocumented migrants, the vast majority of whom pass through Italy or Greece to reach other countries in the 28-member bloc. Greek sources told Kathimerini that Samaras and Renzi were in agreement during their 2.5-hour meeting that the EU should provide more funding and logistical help to their two countries.

There were also discussions about the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will transport natural gas from the Caspian Sea via Greece, Albania and Italy to other Western European countries, and common investment projects in the future.

Greece has so far refrained from publicly supporting Renzi in his efforts to convince eurozone leaders that there should be a letup in fiscal targets. After making efforts to win the trust of its lenders, Athens is concerned about what impact its backing for Renzi’s initiative would have. Samaras had pursued a close understanding with Renzi’s predecessor Enrico Letta and is keen to realize the idea of forming a regional alliance of southern EU members so they can lobby on certain issues, such as immigration and regional funding.

There were no comments after the meeting. Renzi simply told journalists that the talks had gone “very well,” according to Italian news agency ANSA.

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