"We both believe that in exceptional circumstances there should be variations to the
Rome complains that it has been left alone to handle an influx boosted by revolutions in the region, while France has accused it of dumping Tunisians, many of whom speak French and want to go to the former colonial power.
The 1985 Schengen treaty allowed passport-free travel to 400 million people in 25 nations which signed the pact.
Both Berlusconi and Sarkozy, who faces a presidential election next year, are under right-wing pressure on immigration at a time in which unrest in north Africa has displaced thousands of people around the Mediterranean.
Other questions discussed by the two leaders included:
- Syria – they called for an end to the "violent repression" of peaceful protests but Sarkozy said that any foreign intervention would have to be sanctioned by the UN Security Council;
- Libya – Sarkozy declared “we are optimistic” about the outcome of a revolt against President Moamer Kadhafi, the day after Italy announced it will participate in Nato air strikes after initial reluctance due to Italy's colonial history in the country;
- Italian companies – on the day that French company Lactalis launched a controversial takeover bid for Italy’s Parmalat, Berlusconi assured reporters that both countries have a “shared desire” to set up “big Franco-Italian or Italo-French groups, which can face up to global competition”;
- European Central Bank - Sarkozy offered his backing for Italian central bank governor Mario Draghi's bid to replace France's Jean-Claude Trichet as head of the European Central Bank later this year, declaring, “He is a person of high quality."