Ursula von der Leyen apologised to Italy for a lack of solidarity from Europe amid the tough times caused by coronavirus epidemic. In her speech on Thursday, the head of the European Commission promised greater help in curbing the economic crisis.
The European Commission has confessed that its over-bureaucratized system didn’t give an opportunity for fast reaction to the coronavirus crisis. Thus, Italy and Spain, two EU nations with the maximum of COVID-19 patients left without support and lost thousands of their citizens.
The COVID-19 crisis has naked the most vulnerable place of the EC, said von der Leyen, the lack of solidarity. In light of the latest developments, there has been widespread dismay in Italy over Europe’s response to the pandemic, starting with an initial failure to send medical aid, followed by a refusal amongst northern nations to endorse joint bonds to mitigate the cost of recovery. “A slow response would be a useless response,” Guiseppe Conte concluded after thousands of people have died of the virus in a just couple of weeks.
In Italy, the far-right League party has jumped on the discontent to call into question country’s continued membership of the 27-nation bloc, while even staunch pro-Europeans have expressed consternation at the lack of empathy and support.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in her statement that too many EU countries had initially focused on their own problems, closed borders and forgot the word ‘solidarity’.
“They did not realize that we can only defeat this pandemic together, as a Union. This was harmful and could have been avoided,” she wrote, adding: “Today Europe is rallying to Italy’s side.”
Conservative leaders in wealthy states such as Germany, the Netherlands and Austria have so far recoiled at the idea of issuing bonds with highly indebted nations, such as Italy. Meanwhile, Italy’s PM Conte urged a rethink.
“I believe that everyone will eventually realize even in those countries that a shared, orderly, strong and rapid European response is the only solution,” he told Spain’s La Sexta television.
EU is to provide financial support to affected members
Von der Leyen told La Repubblica that the European Union would allocate up to 100 billion euros to the hardest-hit countries, starting with Italy, to help cover the cost of lost wages and preserve jobs.
She also promised the EC wanted to make sure that “every euro still available in the EU’s annual budget” is spent on tackling the coronavirus crisis. Despite her promises of support, she did not mention the euro bonds sought by Rome.
Underscoring the scale of the epidemic in Italy, the crematorium in the country’s financial capital Milan announced on Thursday that it would not take in any more bodies for the rest of April to allow it to clear its backlog of coffins.