Italy and the EU
Italians Hold Migrant Deal Hostage

Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is once again playing the role of obstructionist in Europe, blocking the establishment of a €3 billion fund that’s part of the migrant deal negotiated between the EU and Turkey late last year. Reuters reports:

The move marks a further escalation in Italy’s combative position on EU issues. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi blasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at an EU summit in December over EU policies on energy, banking and migration.

Since then, Italy has reiterated its opposition to the funding of the EU plan to stem migrants coming to Europe from the Middle East and Asia through Turkey, officials said. The plan is strongly backed by Germany, which is the final destination of most.

“There is only one member state that still has objections against the funding for Turkey. We do not understand why Italy is blocking it,” a European diplomat said.

Here’s why. As we wrote when Rome held up the extension of sanctions against Russia in December, Italy is hurting economically, and feels that moves like these are the only way to send a message and get some much-needed relief from the north. Without control of its own central bank, Italy is bereft of many of the usual tools nations would use to ameliorate the economic pain and jump-start recovery. Meanwhile, as Italian PM Matteo Renzi has made clear in a series of blunt interviews recently, on issues ranging from Russia sanctions to the euro to migrant policy, Rome feels like decisions are being made up north without regard to the efforts Italy has gone through to be a good European neighbor, or the burdens the Italians must bear implementing those decisions.

The European Commission is set to make a decision on the Italian budget this spring, and Rome is pushing hard to be granted additional fiscal leniency under EU budget rules. Until that decision is made, we expect to see more moves like this one.

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