Rome: The European Union should punish central and Eastern European countries which refuse to take in asylum seekers by cutting their funding, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi said on Monday.
"If you don't show solidarity on migration, I think it is legitimate for bigger countries to not show solidarity on (EU budget) contributions," Renzi told journalists at the foreign press club in Rome.
He warned that Italy will take a hard line in the upcoming 2020-26 EU budget talks in retaliation for Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary's rejection of an EU plan to redistribute tens of thousands of migrants who have landed on Italian and Greek shores.
Renzi raised the issue of regional aid funding cuts to anti-migrant countries at last week's EU summit in Brussels, he said.
The so-called Visegrad nations are in the debt of leaders of older EU members who "took risks and sometimes also lost their jobs" to defend their entry to the bloc in 2004 despite hostile public opinion worried by the prospect of "job-stealing Polish plumbers", he said.
"You cannot expect Germany, Austria, Sweden and Italy take the burden of migrants and refugees alone and at the same time to give economic aid to all the others," Renzi said.
Together with Greece, Italy is one of the main entry points for the influx of refugees and migrants seeking refuge in Europe from conflict, persecution and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Over a million asylum seekers reached Europe in 2015, most of them from war-torn Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. (IANS)