Renzi, Merkel united amid disagreements

No sign of breakthrough over Turkey refugee fund

(by Stefania Fumo).
    (ANSA) - Rome, January 29 - Italian Premier Matteo Renzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after talks in Berlin on Friday that their two countries remain united amid disagreements over Italy's contribution to a three-billion-euro refugee fund for Turkey. The Renzi government says it will veto the fund as long as the EU doesn't agree to free Italy's spending on migrant rescue, reception and processing from Stability Pact constraints. Renzi said earlier in the month that Italy will sign off on the Turkey fund "tomorrow" if the EU agrees to its request. "We were asked to contribute 200-250 million, I said fine, but I asked for the immigration funds to be freed from the Stability Pact for Italy as well," Renzi said on January 21. "If they recognize 0.2% of the clause for migrants fine, we'll sign tomorrow morning". However on Friday, it appeared that the two leaders had failed to make a breakthrough. "The accord on Turkey must urgently be enacted," Merkel said, adding that Italy remains a key ally in handling the exodus of asylum seekers from war zones in Africa and the Middle East that is putting a strain on the European Union. "Italy is the country that was most affected initially," Merkel said. "Things only began to change in April and May (2015), and we were the first to fight for equal redistribution (of asylum seekers). Italy is a very strong ally on the refugee policy, and (Italy's) orientation is fundamental". "We live in a time of great challenges," Merkel went on. "The European spirit unites us". Renzi echoed that sentiment. "If Europe loses Schengen, it loses itself," Renzi said. "Every effort that we can make to keep the European ideal alive must be made together. Italy like Germany wants a stronger Europe, one capable of solving all the problems - from immigration to the economy". "We're at a delicate moment in the history of Europe," Renzi added. "I feel the weight of that responsibility". "We are ready to overcome the misunderstandings there have been," he said. "We have no problem, either with Turkey or Germany," he continued. "We have always been willing to contribute Italy's (part of the Turkey refugee) financing...We ask for existing EU rules on flexibility to be applied," Renzi said. "We're not asking for new rules". Italy and Germany "don't see eye to eye on everything" because "we come from different political families," the Italian premier went on. "But together we believe that combating unemployment is combating populism - we have a common enemy". The two leaders also exchanged mutual praise on Germany's leadership and on Italy's reforms.