A war of wards has broken out between France and Italy after French President Emmanuel Macron threatened sanctions against EU member state refusing to accept migrants.

“I am in favor of sanctions being imposed in the event of no cooperation” on migrant relocation, said President Macron.

Italy’s new Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio fired back at the French leader, saying President Macron’s “arrogance” risked making France his country’s “No.1 enemy” on immigration. “Macron risks making his country Italy’s No.1 enemy on this emergency,” Di Maio said.

Italy provoked the ire of the EU establishment after it closed its ports to several German migrant ‘rescue’ boats carrying asylum seekers picked up near the coast of Libya. However, President Macron’s threats are not limited to Italy alone. France and Germany are backing an EU plan to “relocate” hundreds and thousands of asylum seekers across the bloc. Most eastern European countries are bitterly opposed to the scheme.

The tensions are mounting at a time when the EU leaders are gathering in Brussels on Sunday for the so-called ‘EU mini summit’ to discuss immigration.

French news agency AFP reported President Macron’s comments:

French President Emmanuel Macron came out Saturday in support of financial sanctions against EU countries which refuse to accept migrants.

“We can not have countries that benefit hugely from EU solidarity and claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants,” he said at a press conference in Paris alongside Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

“I am in favour of sanctions being imposed in the event of no cooperation,” he said.

The prime ministers of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have decided to skip the Sunday’s EU summit on immigration, Radio Poland confirmed. This is a bad news for Germany’s Angela Merkel who had called the summit in a last ditch move to save her fragile coalition government. Her Catholic conservative Bavarian ally, the CSU, has threatened to quit the government if she fails to deliver on immigration.

On Friday, Italy’s newly elected government turned away another German migrant boat. Italy has also threaten to seize NGO migrant boats it accuses of colluding with the North African migrant traffickers.

“Foreign NGO boats will never touch Italian soil again,” Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Facebook. “They will only see Italy on a postcard,” he said, referring to illegal immigrants aboard the German boat.

Macron’s threats are not without substance. The European Commission, EU’s executive arms, is currently pursuing infringement proceedings against Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. The process could lead to fines and economic sanction on Prague, Warsaw and Budapest.

The only reason France’s Macron, the unaccompanied minor of the European politics, has the center stage to himself is because Merkel is too busy quelling rebellion at home. His threats to Italy and eastern European countries lack teeth. The EU would be shooting itself in the foot if it were to place economic sanctions on its members state amid an ongoing trade conflict with the United States. Neither can Brussels risk opening an ‘Eastern Front’ in the final round of the Brexit negotiations.

[Cover image via YouTube]


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