Saturday

22nd Sep 2018

Italy threatens EU budget veto over migration

  • Italy helped rescue over 2,000 people on Monday (Photo: Frontex)

Italy is threatening to veto the EU budget if it doesn't get more help with migration.

Prime minister Matteo Renzi on Tuesday (25 October) said he would block the budget unless countries like Hungary and Slovakia take in more asylum seekers from Greece and Italy.

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“Italy cannot take another year like the one we’ve just had,” he said in an interview with RAI state television.

Over 153,000 people disembarked from north Africa in 2015 to Italy in an effort to seek asylum or find a better future in Europe. Around the same number have reached the country so far this year, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). Some 3,195 died in the attempt.

The Italian coast guard is also coordinating large scale rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

They plucked 5,900 from the sea over the weekend alone with the help from vessels deployed by EU's border guard Frontex and NGOs. Another 2,200 were saved on Monday in 21 rescue missions.

Meanwhile, just under 1,400 people have been relocated from Italy under an EU-wide two year scheme to distribute asylum seekers to other EU states that was launched in September last year.

None have been sent to Hungary, Poland or Slovakia.

Renzi then pointed out that Italy's contribution to the EU budget is about €20 billion.

"If Hungary or Slovakia preach to us about migrants and don't give us a hand, and then want our money, in 2017, when the discussion on the budget starts, let Italy be alongside the government in saying there's no way, absolutely," he was quoted as saying in Italian news agency Ansa.

Renzi had also demanded that the number of people arriving from North Africa slows by early next year.

Italy is one of the main drivers behind EU-led efforts to sort deals with a handful of African states to curb migration flows by the end of the year.

Leaders at a summit in Brussels last week promised to intensify cooperation with governments in Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Mali and step up returns and readmission of people not entitled to international protection.

Formal talks with Nigeria have since kicked off to send economic migrants packing from the EU as part of a bigger €60 billion investment package.

Nigerians surpass all other nationalities that arrived by sea to Italy this year, followed by Eritreans and then people from Sudan.

Renzi has in the past voiced frustration over the lack of support from other EU states ahead of a key referendum on Italy's constitutional reform in December.

EU buries migration dispute for now

This week's EU summit will take no new decision on how to manage the migration crisis. But differences of approach remain between member states.

Poland defies EU on rule of law

Prime minister Szydlo said the European Commission concerns over rule of law in Poland were political grudges.

Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate

Issues of sovereignty remain entrenched following a proposal by the European Commission to expand the EU's border and coast guard, also known as Frontex, to 10,000. But EU leaders maintain a "basic consensus" of support had been reached.

EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers

EU council president Donald Tusk wants to discuss deepening relations with authoritarian Egypt, as a model of migrant reduction, with EU heads of state and government at a meeting in Salzburg, Austria on Wednesday.

Analysis

EU to shore up borders, returns and migrant detentions

The European Commission wants more border controls, detentions and returns for rejected asylum seekers. The harsh tone is part of a broader anti-migrant mood. "We are treated like rats," one asylum seeker stuck on a Greek island told this website.

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