The German government is planning to stop funding Mediterranean Sea rescue charities after being slammed by Italy over the issue, according to reports.
Germany's 2023 budget allocated €2 million ($2.1 million) in funding to sea rescue charities but there is no such mention of them in the draft budget for 2024, Bild newspaper reported.
This was “not an oversight”, it said, citing sources in the German Parliament's budget committee.
The Chancellery and the Foreign Ministry are both in favour of cancelling the funding, the report said.
Neither institution was immediately available for comment.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni recently wrote a letter of complaint to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to express her “amazement” about Berlin funding charities helping irregular migrants arrive in her country.
Asked about the letter, Berlin confirmed that it was providing between €400,000 and €800,000 each to two projects relating to migrants.
At a press conference last week following talks with her Italian counterpart, Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock defended Berlin's backing of rescue missions.
“Volunteer sea rescuers have a life-saving task in the Mediterranean,” she said.
However, at an EU summit in Granada on Friday, Mr Scholz took a different tone.
Asked about the funds at a press conference, Mr Scholz stressed they had been approved by parliament and not by the government.
“I did not make the proposal,” he said.
When asked what his opinion was on the matter, he added: “That is the opinion I have, that I did not make the proposal. And I think that is also unequivocal.”
The Granada summit was dominated by a row over planned changes to Europe's migration rules.
Poland and Hungary prevented the leaders from referring to migration in a joint statement, although supporters of the reform vowed it would not be derailed.