Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini pointed the finger at Brussels in the wake of a deadly bridge collapse in Genoa that killed at least 38 people. But the European Union responded saying it had given billions of euros to Rome to fix infrastructure.

“It is very human to look for somebody to blame, when terrible accident happens as #Genova. Still, good to look at facts,” EU budget commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Twitter.

He said that in the seven years from 2014 to 2020 Italy was set to receive €2.5bn for roads and trains, €12bn in so-called structural funds to help poorer regions and had been given the green light to receive €8.5bn in national spending.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the European Commission said Italy had repeatedly benefitted from Brussels being prepared to relax its budgetary rules.

“In respect of the terrible nature of things that have happened, that’s all we have been saying until now. However, we think the time has come to make a few things clear,” commission spokesman Christian Spahr told a daily briefing.

A European Commission statement said it would “not engage in any political finger pointing”.

Far-right leader Salvini, who is also co-deputy prime minister, had however firmly pointed the finger at Brussels over the disaster, even as wider attention turned towards the company responsible for the bridge.

“If external commitments stop us spending money that we need for the safety of schools and motorways, we have to ask ourselves whether to respect these commitments or put the safety of Italians first. Obviously, I choose the second option,” Salvini was quoted as saying on August 14.

On August 15, he called for Brussels to exclude safety spending from the Stability and Growth Pact. He said: “Spending that saves lives, jobs and the right to health must not be part of rigid calculations and of rules imposed by Europe”.