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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 July 2018

Italy blocking EU summit conclusions in ‘virulent’ migration row

EU leaders warn that the summit, which continues on Friday, could determine the fate of the bloc itself

Italian PM Giuseppe Conte arrives for an European Council summit in Brussels. EPA/NICOLAS LAMBERT
Italian PM Giuseppe Conte arrives for an European Council summit in Brussels. EPA/NICOLAS LAMBERT

Italy was blocking European Union summit conclusions on Thursday to press fellow member states to do more to help Rome cope with migrants, according to EU sources.

EU leaders warn that the summit, which continues on Friday, could determine the fate of the bloc itself as anti-European movements could profit from a flare-up of tensions on migration.

“As one member reserved their position on the entire conclusions, no conclusions have been agreed at this stage,” European Council spokesman Preben Aamann said.

Several EU sources told AFP that Italy’s new hardline prime ministcer Giuseppe Conte was blocking the conclusions in the migration row, as he had threatened to do when the summit began.

Mr Aamann said it was not possible to issue conclusions following several hours of talks on security and defence, jobs, growth and economic competitiveness.

A press conference scheduled for around 7pm local time was cancelled amid the deadlock.

“It’s a possibility I hope not to consider, but if we reach that point, on my behalf we will not have shared conclusions,” Mr Conte told reporters earlier when asked if Italy would veto the conclusions on migration.

EU sources said he later hardened his position to block all the summit conclusions, not just those on migration, during a debate on procedure.

“It was a very virulent debate and everybody jumped on the Italian, but well, there was no consensus,” a European source said.

“So it was not possible to adopt the conclusions,” the source added. “The others are very astonished and not particularly happy.”

Mr Conte said upon arriving for the summit that he had seen many signs of support during his previous individual meetings with EU leaders but wanted them translated into action.

“Italy does not need more words, but concrete facts,” he said.

Mr Conte’s new populist government has accused the European Union of failing to share responsibility for asylum seekers landing on its shores since the migration crisis erupted in 2015.