Italy threatens EU funding in migrant row

Vastavam web: Italy’s deputy prime minister has threatened to pull the country’s EU funding if the bloc does not come to the aid of 150 people stranded aboard an Italian coastguard ship. The migrants have been blocked at the Sicilian port of Catania on the Diciotti vessel since Monday night because the Italian government is refusing to allow them to disembark without commitments from the EU to take some of them in.

A meeting of high-level representatives from around a dozen EU member states is due to be held on friday to discuss the issue, according to the Commission. “If on Friday nothing comes out of the European Commission meeting, if they decide nothing regarding the Diciotti and the redistribution of the migrants, I and the whole Five Star Movement will no longer be prepared to give 20 billion euros ( USD 23 billion) to the European Union every year.”

EU figures for 2016 say Italy contributed just under 14 billion euros to the EU budget less than one per cent of its gross national income — while the bloc spent 11.6 billion euros in Italy. Di Maio, who heads the anti-establishment Five Star, said Italy didn’t want the “mickey taken out of us by the union’s other countries” on the distribution of migrants.

Yesterday’s meeting follows Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s decision to leave the majority of the migrants on board the Diciotti after they were rescued on August 15. His only concession has been to allow 27 unaccompanied minors off the boat Wednesday. Migration is a hot-button issue in Italy, where hundreds of thousands of people have arrived since 2013 fleeing war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. “Europe needs to understand that the Italian government is irritated. We’ve had enough with their many words and few results,” he said, claiming that the other nations had only taken in 12,000 of the 35,000 people they had promised.

Opinion polls suggest that Salvini’s stance has boosted his far-right League party’s approval rating to around 30 per cent over 10 points up from its showing in the March election and is now level with the Five Star Movement with which it has governed Italy since the start of June. However, according to Salvini’s own ministry, migrant arrivals are more than 80 per cent down on the same period last year, with just over 19,500 arriving up to August 23, compared to to 98,000 in 2017.