BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union nations agreed a slightly revised long-term budget for the bloc on Tuesday, including backing nearly 4 billion extra to deal with migrant flows and border controls.
The deal was reached after Rome withdrew a veto that former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had threatened in October in a bid to obtain more support from EU partners in managing the arrivals of migrants to Italy from Africa and the Middle East.
Under the deal, the EU 1-trillion-euros budget for the 2014-2020 period will channel 3.94 billion euros more to migration and border controls. Another additional 2.08 billion euros will be used to spur growth and create jobs.
Italy is on the front line of the migration crisis and has one of the bloc’s highest unemployment rates. But the measures, which were meant to address these woes, were considered by Rome as not sufficient.
After blocking the decision for months, Italy has lifted its reservation on Tuesday because the European executive commission agreed to consider the use of extra funding until 2020 for migration and growth, Italy’s European affairs secretary Sandro Gozi told reporters after a regular meeting of EU ministers in Brussels.
But the EU programme to relocate asylum seekers from Italy to other EU countries remains far off target. Fewer than 4,000 migrants have been so far transferred from Italy to other EU states out of the nearly 40,000 that were expected to be relocated over two years when the plan was launched in 2015.
Around 1.5 million refugees and migrants reached Europe in 2015 and 2016, mostly landing in frontline states Greece and Italy to later head to wealthier Germany, Austria and Sweden.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Alison Williams