by Alessandra Cardone
ROME, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Italy would be ready to veto next European Union (EU) budget, if other European partners do not provide more help in the migration crisis, according to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Renzi made his remarks on Tuesday evening, after tension between the EU Commission and Rome increased over Italy's own 2017 budget draft.
"Italy is going to put a veto on next EU budget, if some (EU) countries will not be taking in more asylum seekers," the Italian prime minister told RAI state broadcaster.
He specifically mentioned Hungary and Slovakia as example of eastern countries less willing to share the burden of Europe's migrant crisis.
According to Renzi, Italy was currently contributing some 20 billion euros (about 22 billion U.S. dollars) to the EU's budget, receiving 12 billions euros back.
"Yet, if Hungary or Slovakia want to preach to us about migrants, providing no help but asking for our money ... In 2017, the (Italian) government will say there is absolutely no way, and we will provide further contributions only when responsibilities are equally shared," he told RAI.
The political background of the current row between Rome and Brussels was related to the doubts raised by EU authorities over Italy's 2017 budget draft.
The EU Commission, in charge of reviewing EU countries' draft budgets, on Tuesday sent a letter to Italy after examining its budgetary plan for next year, asking explanation for a breach of previous fiscal commitments.
The letter was addressed to Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, and it gave Italy 48 hours to reply.
"Italy has benefited from significant flexibility under the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact both in 2015 and 2016," the commission said.
Part of such flexibility was "granted subject to Italy making use of this allowance for the purpose of ... presenting credible plans to resume the adjustment as of 2017".
The commission asked further information for the revision of the targets, and the gap emerging with respect to the commitments made last spring, in order to "assess if Italy fulfils the conditions under which the additional flexibility was granted for 2016".
In particular, it mentioned "the extraordinary costs that Italy is incurring for the recent earthquake and migration inflows."
Italy's cabinet had indeed stated the change in the budget plan was linked to additional spending due to a disastrous quake that hit Italian central regions in August, and to the refugee crisis.
A major point of concern for the EU would be the budget deficit forecast, which Italy in its 2017 draft budget raised to 2.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from a previous 1.8 percent forecast in May.
"Our deficit to GDP ratio would be below two percent, but because of the migrant emergency and the earthquake it will reach 2.3 percent," Padoan said, after confirming the letter was received.
"Each (EU) country has the right to decide how to use the EU resources. We believe the migrant emergency is a priority," said the minister.
"If Europe ignores such emergency, and tolerate walls (against immigrants), it means it will have to struggle to survive," Padoan added.
Some 153,450 migrants and refugees have arrived by sea to Italy so far in 2016, including at least 20,000 unaccompanied minors, the cabinet said on Monday.
The total figure is now expected to exceed that of 2015, when this same number of arrivals was registered throughout the whole year.
Some 3,740 migrants and refugees have died crossing the sea in the attempt to reach Europe so far, making 2016 the likely deadliest year in the Mediterranean, the UN refugee agency UNHCR stated. (1 euro = 1.10 U.S. dollars)