Germany not the EU's blood donor - Renzi

Premier says EU behind on asylum seekers, not Italy

(ANSA) - Brussels, December 18 - Premier Matteo Renzi had a heated exchange with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over banking union and asylum seekers during the European summit in Brussels, sources said on Friday.
    "You cannot tell us that you are Europe's blood donor, dear Angela," Renzi reportedly said.
    The exchange took place at the start of the second day of the summit, when Renzi confronted Merkel about Germany's opposition to rapid completion of the process towards a banking union in the eurozone, the sources said. Merkel is said to have admitted that there have too many delays over this issue due to a series of emergencies that the Union has had to face.
    Renzi's stance was backed by several other leaders, including French President Francois Hollande, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
    The Italian premier later denied he had attacked Germany.
    "It was anything but," he told reporters at the close of the EU summit. "I asked Chancellor Merkel some questions. My friendship and respect for her does not preclude my asking some questions," Renzi explained.
    Berlin is not "Europe's blood donor", he added. Earlier on Friday, Merkel's spokesperson denied speculation of a rift between Rome and Berlin over migrants after Renzi said he was against the EU being led solely by Germany. "I don't see any conflict between the German government and the Italian one," Merkel's spokesperson Christiane Wirtz said. "There are intense discussions about refugees at the European level". German Chancellor Angela Merkel said later that Germany and Italy will always find common ground in spite of disagreements. "It's not the first time we have different opinions, but we always find an agreement in the end," she said.
    Renzi said that Italy does not see eye to eye with Germany on repatriating Afghan migrants and asylum seekers. "It's a mistake to think Afghanistan is stable," he said. "In this case our opinion differs from that of Germany - if Italy and Germany intervene to restore peace in the country, and Afghan brothers and sisters keep means that (Afghanistan) has some stability issues".
    Renzi on Friday said that the EU is at fault for failing to respect its commitments on asylum seekers, not Italy. He also described the European Commission's decision to open an infringement procedure against Italy over registering the finger prints of asylum seekers as "extravagant". "It's not Italy that's behind on migrants, but the EU," the Italian premier said.
    Renzi's government has repeatedly warned that the European system to tackle the asylum seeker crisis risks breaking down if the EU does not keep its pledge to relocate thousands of refugees in front-line countries like Italy and Greece, whose outlying islands are the first landfall for people taking to the Mediterranean in a bid to flee war, persecution, and Islamist terrorists in Africa and the Middle East.