February 15, 2019 / 12:16 PM / 7 months ago

EU says Rome may have to reimburse funds on delayed rail link with France

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Friday that Italy should clarify as soon as possible whether it plans to complete a high-speed rail link with France, a project which has divided Italy’s government coalition parties for months.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement has long opposed the plan for the train connection as a waste of money while its coalition partner, the far right League, strongly supports it as an urgently needed investment.

The EU Commission has already approved more than 810 million euros ($913 million) of funding for the project, known as TAV, that would link the Italian city of Turin to Lyon in France.

A spokesman for the EU Commission told a news conference that clarifications from Rome should arrive in the coming days, putting pressure on Rome as infighting within the Italian government continues.

The spokesman said Italy risked losing some of the grants approved by the Commission. He also said that Rome may be forced to reimburse part of the EU money already spent if the project continues being delayed.

“The commission cannot exclude that it may have to request Italy to repay” the grants provided, he said.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Catherine Evans

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