05:59 GMT +324 January 2020
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    Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has repeated his threat to veto the distribution of EU funds to countries that refuse to take part in the relocation of migrants, calling for European cooperation to assist with the crisis.

    As the EU remains divided over the response to the migration crisis, Renzi threatened to scupper the bloc's draft budget for 2017, which is due to be discussed and voted on by the European parliament on Wednesday, October 26.

    "We give €20 billion (US$22bn) to Europe so that we can get back 12 — and if Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia want to preach at us about immigrants, allow Italy to say that the system is no longer working," Renzi told RAI 1 television.

    ​When questioned further over whether he was willing to veto the EU's budget over the migrant situation, Renzi replied, "yes, absolutely."

    "If you build walls against immigrants, you can forget about seeing Italian money. If the immigrants don't go there, the money won't go there either," he said.

    ​Renzi said Italian resources were struggling to deal with the increasing number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Italy, with 155,000 people arriving on Italian shores this year, equaling the number in 2015.

    "Italy cannot take another year like the one we've just had," he said, calling for action to be taken to reduce flows across the Mediterranean.

    EU Divisions Widening

    The comments mark an increase in tension over the matter, with Renzi taking aim at the stance of some central and eastern European member states who have vehemently rejected proposals that would see member states accept migrants currently in Italy and Greece.

    Chief among these countries is Hungary, which earlier this month held a referendum on the issue of EU-coordinated migrant relocation systems.

    ​And while not enough people voted to validate the referendum, 98 percent of those who took part backed the hardline stance of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has rejected calls to assist with the relocation of migrants.

    The spat has further highlighted the various divisions in the EU in regards to the migration crisis, with member states failing to come to a consensus on the matter.

    Renzi's Budgetary Timing

    Renzi's threat also comes as the European Parliament on Wednesday, discusses and votes on the draft general EU budget for 2017.

    Italy has been at the centre of budgetary debate, with Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan confirming that the government had received a letter from the European Commission demanding "clarifications" over its 2017 national budget.

    Italy has predicted a higher than expected deficit of 2.3 percent in 2017, citing a deadly earthquake in August and the increased costs associated with housing migrants.

    It's thought that Renzi's threat to scupper the EU budget could win Rome some concessions in regards to public spending.

    ​The disagreement comes amid a wider debate in the EU, with Italy, France and others pushing for more fiscal flexibility in order to reverse the policies of austerity and promote growth.

    However Rome is facing stiff opposition in the form of Germany, with Berlin calling for existing policies that restrict levels of public spending to remain in place.


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    EU budget, migrant distribution quotas, migration crisis, veto, relocation, refugees, European Parliament, European Union, Matteo Renzi, Viktor Orban, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Europe, Mediterranean Sea
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