Consequences from EU migrant decisions

PM highlights European 'hypocrisy'

(ANSA) - Rome, August 24 - An angry Premier Giuseppe Conte said Friday that the European Union's decisions, or lack of them, on 150 mostly Eritrean migrants being held aboard coast guard ship Diciotti in Catania will have "consequences".
    Italy had threatened to withhold its 20 billion euro contribution to the EU budget unless the EU agrees to take in the e migrants.
    Conte said "it is known to all that Italy has been handling for days, with the Diciotti ship, an emergency with very complex and delicate aspects. "Yet again we gauge the discrepancy, which tinges into hypocrisy, between words and deeds. "If these are the 'deeds' it'll mean that Italy will act accordingly and from now on will try to eliminate this discrepancy by pursuing a coherent and determined framework of action for all the issues it will be called on to tackle in Europe". Conte said that in today's emergency meeting called by the European Commission "no follow-up was given" to the European Council conclusions at the end of June. "On the contrary, on the part of some States a step backwards was proposed, suggesting a sort of disguised Dublin regulation, which would have identified Italy as a country of safe landing, with the willingness of the other States to take part in the redistribution of only those with asylum rights, which are a minimal percentage". Conte said "Italy is forced to note that Europe today missed a good opportunity: on immigration it did not succeed in making progress towards principles of solidarity and responsibility that are constantly declaimed as fundamental values of the European order".
    Italy's threat to pull its 20 billion euro contribution to the European Union's budget unless it takes in 150 migrants aboard the coast guard ship Diciotti won't work, the EU said Friday as Italy's foreign ministry recognised the duty to pay and aid agencies called for the migrants to be let off the vessel in Catania harbour.
    Threats on the migrant issue do not lead anywhere, the European Commission said Friday.
    A spokesman said "threats in Europe do not lead anywhere".
    "The way in which Europe functions is cooperation and not threats," he said.
    He said the European Commission was "working hard to find a solution" to the migrant emergency.
    Italy has a clear duty to fulfill its obligation to contribute to the EU budget, an EC spokesman said after the threat aired by Deputy Premier and Industry Minister Luigi Di Maio's. "European rules also apply to the budget, member states have always paid their contribution, there is a clear legal obligation (in the Treaties)" said Alexander Winterstein.
    He stressed that such a move as Italy has mooted "has never happened before".
    Winterstein said "I don't want to go into hypothetical scenarios" on what might happen if Italy doesn't pay its contribution.
    Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said Friday that "paying contributions to the European Union is a legal duty".
    He said "we will talk about this and other issues".
    The threat will not lead to an Italexit but Rome will not be "fooled" on migrants, Di Maio said earlier.
    Di Maio's threat to stop the EU contribution unless the EU agrees to redistribute the Diciotti migrants currently being held and not being allowed to land at Catania "won't lead to an Italexit," the minister told Agorà Estate on RAI TV.
    "The government is not saying it won't do its bit but we don't want to be fooled," said the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S).
    Di Maio said EU states were not respecting a July deal.
    "What signal do we send by caving in? It means having them ride roughshod over us. Italian citizens are asking us to make sure Italy is respected".
    Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who said he was "waiting to be arrested", said on a hunger strike by the mostly Eritrean migrants that five million Italians in absolute poverty "are on hunger strike every day".
    "#Diciotti migrants on hunger strike? Let them do what they see fit. In Italy there are five million people in absolute poverty (1.2 million children) that do hunger strikes every day", the minister said on Twitter.
    He said this happened "amid silence from do-gooders, journalists and their various hangers-on".
    Italy expected more collaboration from the EU on the Diciotti coast guard ship carrying 150 migrants who Rome says won't land until the EU agrees to redistribute them, Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said Friday.
    "Italy saved thousands of human lives for years and the other EU member States amply recognised that, on several occasions" he said.
    "We are asking for deeds and concrete acts of real solidarity to follow nice words.
    "The Diciotti ship saved almost 200 people," he said, referring to the 27 migrant children that have been let off the ship in Catania.
    "We would have expected an effective and swifter collaboration from the other EU States to arrive, as soon as possible, at the best solution".
    The 150 mainly Eritrean migrants stuck on board the Diciotti at Catania have started a hunger strike, Democratic Party (PD) Senator Davide Faraone said Friday.
    "There is tension on board and visits to inspect the migrants' conditions have been suspended," he said.
    However, he later said the situation on board had returned to normal and visits could resume.
    Salvini has said the migrants, who have been at Catania for three days and on the ship for eight days, cannot land until the EU agrees to redistribute them.
    The EU must not leave Italy to cope alone with the Dicotti case, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesperson Ulrike Demmer said Friday.
    Demmer reiterated Berlin's general position on migration after Di Maio's budget contribution threat.
    "The countries particularly struck by the migratory phenomenon, and Italy is one of these, cannot be left on their own," Demmer said.
    "All (EU) States must collaborate and we must reach a common solution".
    Italy's Asylum Table associations on Friday urged the government to let the migrants off the Diciotti.
    In a statement, the Tables said it was "urgently asking the Italian government to authorise the disembarkation of the 150 people still aboard the Diciotti ship".
    The associations included: A Buon Diritto, ACLI, ActionAid, Amnesty International Italia, ARCI, ASGI, Caritas Italiana, Casa dei Diritti Sociali, Centro Astalli, CIR, Comunità di S.Egidio, CNCA, Emergency, Médecins du Monde Missione Italia, Mediterranean Hope (FCEI), MEDU, Oxfam Italia, Save The Children, and Senza Confine.
    Also on Friday a meeting of sherpas from 12 EU countries failed to reach an agreement on Italy's request to take in the 150 migrants, diplomatic sources said.
    One of the points against the request, the sources said, is that the per capita migrant flow is much lower than that in other member States.
    Therefore, the sources said, no need to share responsibility has been established.
    Salvini meanwhile said he was waiting to be arrested.
    "For me Italians come first, then others," he said on Facebook.
    "Some judges want to ARREST ME for this? "No problem, I'm waiting fo them".
    Prosecutors in Catania, Agrigento and Palermo are probing the Diciotti case for possible abduction.
    Salvini has been reported by citizens in the northern city of Treviso for instigating race hatred, sources said Friday. Salvini was reported by a group of Italian citizens for statements he made in June and July, legal sources said.
    They cited statements including "the happy days for clandestine immigrants are over, get ready to pack your bags, in a well-mannered and tranquil way, but they must go home".
    Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Thursday rejected a request from Italian counterpart Moavero Milanesi to take some of the 150 migrants, the Italian foreign ministry said Friday. Moavero made his request to his Hungarian opposite number at the Italian foreign ministry in Rome.
    Szijjarto said Rome and Budapest saw eye to eye on European migrant policy, the ministry said.
    Moavero, for his part, explained how Italy's vision differed from Hungary's in some respects, the ministry said.
    On Friday Belgium declined to take any of the mostly Eritrean migrants on board the Diciotti.