Italy still blocking funding for Turkey migration scheme

BRUSSELS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Italy continued during a meeting of EU finance ministers on Friday to block funding of 3 billion euros pledged by the bloc to Turkey to help care for Syrian refugees, the meeting chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said.

“On the... key question whether Italy has lifted its objections, the answer is still ‘no’. But we hope that that is possible very, very soon,” Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister, told a news conference.

Dijsselbloem declined to say what Italy’s objections were but said the funds were needed urgently and added that finance ministers had also discussed a need to channel more funds to help refugees in Turkey, a view also shared by Germany.

EU leaders agreed to the aid grant as part of a package of measures aimed at reducing the numbers of refugees leaving Turkey and heading for Europe.

Earlier on Friday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also said the funds were urgent but noted that the EU executive had existing funds that it could deploy for initial projects.

$1 = 0.9168 euros Reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Francesco Guarascio; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alastair Macdonald