EU Commissioner Threatens ‘Penalties’ if Italy Stops Payments over Migrant Row

ESSEN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 06: European Union Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Guenther Oettinger attends the 29th federal congress of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) on December 6, 2016 in Essen, Germany. Approximately 1,000 CDU delegates will meet to debate and vote on the party's course for next …
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

European Union Commissioner Günther Oettinger has threatened the anti-establishment populist Italian coalition government with sanctions if the Italians make good on threats to stop funding the political bloc.

Mr Oettinger made the threat against the Italians this week after Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio had floated the idea of his country refusing to pay billions to the EU without a deal on member states sharing in the burden of taking incoming asylum seekers landing in Italy, Il Giornale reports.

“All EU states have assumed the obligation to pay contributions on time,” Oettinger said and added: “Anything else would be a violation of the treaties that would result in penalties.”

“Italy has won our support in tackling the migration crisis and its consequences, I can only warn Rome from mixing the migration issue with the EU budget,” he said.

Following the failed EU emergency meeting last week, which came about as a result of the crisis revolving around the migrants aboard the Italian coastguard vessel Diciotti, Italian populist leaders Di Maio and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced Italy would veto the European Union budget without a solution to the migrant issue.

“We won’t let them do it, and if the immigration situation does not change between now and the near future, the veto will be certain,” Di Maio said.

Mr Di Maio, who leads the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, reacted to the threats from the EU Commissioner saying: “Commissioner Oettinger continues to argue every day since we told him we will not give him the money. We did not hear them when we asked for a hand on immigration.”

“The only thing that the EU understands is when we begin to take away the money. Our position on the budget veto remains.  If in the next few days, they want to begin to rediscover the spirit of solidarity with which the EU was founded, then we will talk about it,” he added.

The clash is just the latest between the Eurosceptic Italian government and Brussels following Interior Minister Salvini blaming EU-mandated austerity for the recent Genoas bridge disaster.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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