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Polish Foreign Minister Accuses Italian Premier of ‘Blackmail’ Over Immigration Crisis

Poland’s Foreign Minister has reacted forcefully to a plan by Italy to cut European Union (EU) funding for Eastern European countries that refuse to take in immigrants, calling the proposal “totally unjustified blackmail based on ignorance.”

A week ago Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi proposed that the European Union block all funding to member nations unwilling to accept the relocation of immigrants, referring especially to countries such as Poland and Hungary that have expressed opposition to EU schemes to spread the immigrants throughout member states.

The Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski (pictured) has responded in a radio interview by attacking the Italian Government and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi for what he calls blackmail.

Waszczykowski said that the European Structural Funds are part of the EU Treaties and therefore “Renzi cannot touch them.”

“The problem of migrants and refugees has nothing to do with European policies, it is a prerogative of national security,” he said.

The Polish minister also said that Prime Minister Renzi “probably does not know that Poland is already home to a million Ukrainians in their territory.”

Poland’s indignation at the Renzi proposal was echoed by the government of Viktor Orban in Hungary. Zoltan Kovacs, Hungary’s Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Relations, said that Renzi’s threat to cut the European funds to countries blocking the relocation of migrants amounted to “political blackmail.” Hungary also reiterated its opposition to the quota system for the redistribution of refugees within the European Union.

Hungary has upped its production of razor wire, posts and other materials needed to build border fences meant to stop the flow of migrants.

Kovacs announced that increased production will allow Hungary to build a fence on the Romanian border, or if there is demand for the fence from other countries.

Last year, Hungary reportedly sold Slovenia 24,000 rolls of razor wire, 16,000 fence posts and 48,000 fasteners and also donated 100 kilometers (62 miles) of razor wire, a pile driver and other equipment to Macedonia.

The recent squabble underscores the tensions underlying discussions on Europe’s acute immigration crisis. Italy and Greece are the hardest hit by migrants wanting to get into Europe, but assert their inability to assimilate anywhere near the numbers that are arriving to their shores.

Renzi has come under increasing pressure to deal with the problem, and has been harshly criticized from the right for what has been called his utter ineffectiveness.

Last month, Italian Senator Marco Marin of the Forza Italia Party said that the Prime Minister had converted Italy into a “great parking lot of despair” through his inability to effectively address Italy’s immigration crisis.

Marin unfavorably compared Renzi’s inaction to the more decisive moves of other European states, such as Sweden, the Netherlands,and Denmark.

“Sweden has announced the deportation of 80 thousand migrants, the Netherlands intends to repatriate via train the asylum-seekers arriving into Greece from Turkey and Denmark confiscates valuables as ‘repayment’ for migrant access to welfare,” he said. “The Renzi government, however, waits, standing still, not knowing what to do.”

Forecasts of a tidal wave of as many as 400,000 immigrants into Italy “in the coming weeks” have Italians on edge as the Schengen treaty guaranteeing open internal European borders seems to be dissolving before their eyes.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter  

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