February 19, 2016 / 5:07 PM / 2 years ago

Italy and Poland trade blows at EU summit on migration

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A Polish minister accused Italy on Friday of trying to blackmail eastern European countries by threatening to cut European Union funding unless they show solidarity in the refugee crisis.

At a dinner at the European Union summit in Brussels, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had warned eastern European leaders to help with migration or risk losing their share of European Union development money.

“Prime Minister Renzi cannot blackmail anyone,” Polish Minister for European Affairs Konrad Szymanski told reporters on the sidelines of the summit, where leaders were discussing migration issues and the British terms of EU membership.

Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic have been among the staunchest opponents of EU plans to redistribute refugees among EU member states to share the burden of the worst migration crisis in Europe since World War Two.

Szymanski said Poland had not pointed the finger at Italy during the depths of the euro crisis, and Italy should demonstrate equal restraint over migration.

“There was a time when the Italian prime minister was indicated as one to blame for the situation in which the common currency was on the brink of collapse,” he said.

“We would expect that Prime Minister Renzi show similar sensitivity and recollection of the past.”

About one third of the EU’s 1 trillion euro ($1.11 trillion) budget for 2014-20 is set aside for projects in poorer, mainly formerly communist countries and regions of the bloc.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Jan Strupczewski, editing by Tom Miles

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