August 24, 2018
A public backlash against the arrival of hundreds of thousands of seaborne newcomers in the past five years helped bring to power the new Italian government, which has made the fight against illegal migration one of its top priorities.
Italian Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio warned on Thursday that Italy could stop making financial contributions to the EU budget next year unless other member-states agreed to take in migrants stranded on a coastguard ship in Sicily.
“If tomorrow nothing comes out of a European Commission meeting on redistributing migrants from the Diciotti ship, the 5-Star and I will not be willing to give 20 billion euros each year to the EU,” Di Maio said in a video posted on Facebook, adding that he was saying this as the head of the Five Star movement.
“The soft line does not work, the hard line will be to withhold funds if they don’t listen to us,” he said on Italian television on Friday.
Responding to this, the European Commission said on Friday it will follow rules governing migration, rather than bow to threats:
“Let’s not engage in finger-pointing. We also believe unconstructive comments, let alone threats, are not helpful and will not get us any closer to a solution. The European Union is a community of rules and it operates on the basis of rules, not threats,” Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told a news conference.
On August 15, the Italian coastguard ship Diciotti plucked out 177 migrants from a distressed boat in Malta’s territorial waters.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
The Italians contacted the Maltese authorities asking for permission to bring the rescued migrants to one of the island’s ports. After Valetta refused to take them in, the Diciotti spent five days outside the Italian port of Lampedusa waiting for a pertinent decision from Rome.It wasn’t until Monday…