No Italexit but won’t be fooled on migrants Di Maio says

Italy’s demand for the EU to take in 150 migrants aboard the coast guard ship Diciotti or see Rome pull its 20 billion euro contribution to the Union’s budget will not lead to an Italexit but Rome will not be “fooled” on migrants, Deputy Premier and Industry Minister Luigi Di Maio said Friday.

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 Agoirà 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”.

Italy has a clear duty to fulfill its obligation to contribute to the EU budget, a European Commission spokesman said after Di Maio’s threat. “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.

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.

Interior Minister Matteo 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”.

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’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.

Friday’s meeting of sherpas from 12 EU countries was not organised to solve the Diciotti case but to find European solutions on migrant landings, on the basis of cooperation and solidarity among member States, European Migration Commission spokeswoman Tove Ernst said Friday.

Ernst explained that “all 12 countries invited to the meeting responded in a positive way” but it is a technical meeting “and we don’t expect any decisions to be made”.