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Italy blocks EU's bid to get tough on Venezuela

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Italy blocks EU's bid to get tough on Venezuela
'What you call interference I call complicity': people protest outside the Italian embassy in Caracas. Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP
09:19 CET+01:00
Italy on Monday blocked a bid to toughen the EU's common position on Venezuela, diplomatic sources said, even as a dozen of its member states recognized opposition chief Juan Guaido as interim leader.

After President Nicolas Maduro rejected an ultimatum to call snap presidential elections, Spain, Germany, France and Britain led a run of European countries in individually recognizing the young National Assembly leader on Monday and called on him to organize free and fair polls soon.

But an attempt to muscle up the bloc's common position was vetoed by Italy, four diplomatic sources told AFP, with the coalition government in Rome divided over how to handle the Venezuela crisis.

"It is clear that at the moment there is not going to be [a new common statement]," Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borell told reporters at a meeting of EU and Arab League foreign ministers. "There are still some who oppose it."


Italy's move drew protests from Guaido's supporters outside the Italian embassy in the Venezuelan capital. Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP

Some EU countries hoped to go further than a joint statement on Venezuela agreed ten days ago declaring Maduro's re-election illegitimate and warning of "further actions, including on the issue of recognition of the country's leadership" if new elections are not called soon.

Foreign policy positions require the unanimous support of all 28 EU countries, so Italy's veto sank efforts to agree on a beefed-up version, which would have mentioned the recognition of Guaido by numerous member states.

Rome rejected the stronger position because it regarded it as "interference" in Venezuela's internal affairs, one diplomat said.

Divisions over Venezuela emerged last week during an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Bucharest, with hardliners pushing to recognise Guaido, those with a more cautious line such as Italy and Greece and legalists like Austria and Luxembourg who wanted to reach consensus.

Speaking to AFP, one minister remarked that the Venezuela debacle showed "we no longer have a common foreign policy". 

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