BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Italy clashed with Germany and France on Friday over exactly what was agreed hours earlier at a European Union summit to ease disputes over migration threatening the foundation of the EU.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the deal did not foresee that Rome would take back migrants who had moved onto Germany from Italy, a remark likely to displease Germany’s Angela Merkel who needed clear commitments to do so from EU partners to stave off the collapse of her governing coalition.
“The accord does not foresee that Italy takes migrants from Germany,” Conte told a news conference after a two-day EU summit in Brussels. “I did not undersign any specific agreement with Merkel” on taking back migrants, he added.
Conte also openly denied what French President Emmanuel Macron had said earlier about new asylum processing centres, namely that they can be set up only in “frontline” states, which include Italy but not France.
“Macron was tired. I deny what he said,” Conte told reporters, adding that all EU states could set up such centres, “including France”. Most migrants enter EU territory via Italy, Spain or Greece as they form the bloc’s southern periphery.
Conte further said that some EU states had informally offered to open these centres on their soil, but underlined that Italy was not among them.
The deal hinges on “voluntary” actions from EU states on hosting migrant centres or taking refugees from other states, but Conte said that “procedures” could be used against countries who do not commit to respecting the agreement.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Steve Scherer; Editing by Mark Heinrich