Monday

20th Nov 2017

Italy in row with EU on €3bn Turkey fund

  • Juncker on Renzi's criticism: "I keep my bitterness, which is big, in my pocket." (Photo: Consillium)

Relations between Italy and the EU took a sour turn Friday (15 January), as Italy raised objections to the EU's €3 billion plan for Turkey and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker accused the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, of "demonising" the EU.

"The mood between Italy and the rest of the EU, and the commission in particular is not the best ever," Juncker said at a press conference at the commission.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The commission chief said that Renzi "vilifies and criticises the commission on every street corner."

"I don't understand why he is doing this," he said.

"The commission is being insulted. I grin and bear it, I put my resentment and my irritation, which is significant, in my pocket," he added. "But people should stop thinking that I'm naive. I am not."

The latest reason for Juncker's displeasure with Renzi is Italy's objections over the financing of a plan to help refugees in Turkey. The so-called refugee facility is part of a wider EU-Turkey action plan to reduce the number of migrants coming to Europe.

"I struggle to understand Italy's amazing reservation about the €3 billion to Turkey because the money is not going to Turkey but is for Syrian refugees in Turkey," Juncker said.

"These €3 billion are a question of credibility for the EU," he said.

Juncker's accusations were rebuked by the Italian finance minister, Pier Carlo Padoan, after a ministers' council across the street.

"Italy is not blocking anything," he told reporters, before explaining that Italy wants the money for the plan to come from the EU budget.

According to the plan announced in October, only €500 million will come from the EU budget, with the remaining €2.5 billion covered by the member states.

"We think that there is still space in the budget" to cover the €3-billion need "without necessarily requesting member states for additional contributions," he said.

Italy is also asking more details about the use of the EU money by Turkey. It wants to know "to what purpose, to which projects, and which sequencing" the funds will go.

"We need to be clear about the strategy that is underpinning those resources," Padoan said.

According to sources, at the last EU summit in December Renzi asked about the exact breakdown of the refugee facility and whether national contributions would be taken into account when the commission grants budget flexibility to member states.

Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselblomen, who chaired the meeting Friday, said he hoped that Italy would lift its objections "very very soon".

"There was a very strong feeling that we need this facility, we need it very quickly," he said at a press conference.

The discussion about the Turkey fund comes amid a series of swings at EU policies from Renzi.

In an interview with the Financial Times after the last EU summit, he said "Europe has to serve all 28 countries, not just one,” referring to Germany and EU austerity policies.

"I know that those who have been in the front line of being the faithful allies of the politics of rigour without growth have lost their jobs," he said after Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy won the election, but got no majority to govern.

In December, Renzi also tried to force a discussion on EU sanctions on Russia at the EU summit and raised objections to the Nord Stream II gas pipeline.

More recently, after the only Italian member of Juncker's cabinet quit and was replaced by a Briton, Rome said the decision was "unacceptable".

"Starting 2016 without an Italian will certainly not facilitate the relationships with Italy," said the Italian under-secretary for Europe, Sandro Gozi.

Speaking after Juncker's jab at Renzi Friday, finance minister Padoan tried to calm things down.


"There is no intent to offend on the part of the Italian government, but a constructive attitude," he said.

EU failing to deliver on migration plans

Three out of 11 hotspots in place. Two hundred and seventy people out of 160,000 relocated: Last year's EU promises to limit and better manage migration flows yet to materialise.

Turkish PM in Berlin to ask for more EU money

Turkey wants more EU money to stem the flow of refugees, as its PM visits Berlin. But the EU can't agree how to fund an earlier pledge of €3bn, causing frustration.

EU finalises €3bn fund for Turkey refugees

Projects can start in early 2016 after Italy dropped objections. Germany to contribute the most, after the majority of the 1 million EU-bound migrants went there last year.

Analysis

Renzi plots EU collision course

Italy's prime minister Matteo Renzi has stepped up his fiery anti-EU rhetoric. This may boost his support at home, but it may eventually backfire.

UN criticises EU policy in Libya as 'inhuman'

The EU's policy of helping the Libyan coast guard to return people plucked from the sea is "inhuman", says the UN's human rights chief, given that most end up in dire conditions.

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. Decision day for EU agencies relocation race
  2. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  3. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  4. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  5. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  6. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  7. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  8. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin