Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which is in a coalition government with the far-right League, warned on Thursday that Rome was prepared to withdraw its annual funding to the EU if key European states meeting on Friday did not reach a solution for the refugees stranded aboard the Diciotti vessel at the Sicilian port of Catania.
"If tomorrow (Friday) nothing comes out of the European Commission meeting, if they decide nothing regarding the Diciotti and the redistribution of the migrants, I and the whole Five Star Movement will no longer be prepared to give 20 billion euros ($23 billion) to the European Union every year," Di Maio said.
European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said on Friday, "Unconstructive comments, let alone threats, are not helpful and they will not get us any closer to a solution."
"The EU is a community of rules and it operates on the basis of rules, not threats," he told a briefing.
Winterstein further said that the European Commission called on "all the parties involved to work constructively together to find a swift solution for the persons on board in the spirit of good cooperation."
Diciotti, with 177 refugees on board, docked in Catania on August 20.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini decided not to allow the majority of the refugees to disembark unless other EU nations agreed to take them in.
PressTV-177 refugees refused authorization to disembark in Italy
The 177 refugees aboard the Diciotti rescue ship who arrived in the Sicilian seaport of Catania still remain on board as they have not received official authorization to disembark.
Salvini's only concession has been to allow 27 unaccompanied minors off the vessel, which took place on August 22.
"Europe needs to understand that the Italian government is irritated. We've had enough with their many words and few results," Salvini said in an interview with Corriere Della Sera newspaper, claiming that the other EU countries had only taken in 12,000 of the 35,000 people they had promised.
Since coming to power, Italy's new populist government has adopted a harsh anti-refugee stance.
Considered the main entry point into Europe, Italy demands that the EU do more to share the refugee burden.