Coronavirus: Are Italians losing faith in the EU?PM Italy

When Covid-19 came to Europe it was Italy that was hit first – and hit hard.

Little help came from its European neighbours in those first weeks in February and March, as hospitals in the north were overwhelmed.

As Italy counts it’s 31,000 dead, the concern is mounting over the economic impact too, and there are signs of a rise in the number of Italians losing faith in the EU. The Treaty of Rome launched the then European Economic Community in 1957, with Italy a founding member.

“I have changed my mind a little on Europe. We are facing an absolute emergency, and seeing countries turning their backs on each other is really awkward,” says Rome real estate agent Marco Tondo, 34.

He is currently receiving nine weeks’ redundancy pay from the government at 80% of his normal salary. When Covid-19 came to Europe it was Italy that was hit first – and hit hard.

Little help came from its European neighbours in those first weeks in February and March, as hospitals in the north were overwhelmed.

As Italy counts its 31,000 dead, the concern is mounting over the economic impact too, and there are signs of a rise in the number of Italians losing faith in the EU. The Treaty of Rome launched the then European Economic Community in 1957, with Italy a founding member.

“I have changed my mind a little in Europe. We are facing an absolute emergency, and seeing countries turning their backs on each other is really awkward,” says Rome real estate agent Marco Tondo, 34. He is currently receiving nine weeks’ redundancy pay from the government at 80% of his normal salary.

The country’s economic output will fall by 8% this year, according to the government of Giuseppe Conte. That scale of downturn will bloat Italy’s public debt this year to the tune of almost 155.7% of GDP, Italy’s National Institute of Statistics forecasts.

How has Europe responded?

When the health crisis broke out, Mr Conte called for the creation of coronabonds, which would have been underwritten by all eurozone members to share the burden of economic recovery.

But within days Germany and the Netherlands had ruled out any kind of debt mutualisation. That didn’t go down well in Italy. Critics said the prime minister had been humiliated in the EU.

“Asking for coronabonds was the perfect way to have the door slammed in his face,” argues Carlo Altomonte, associate Professor of Economics of European Integration at Bocconi University.

“Mutualisation of debt is forbidden by EU treaties and Germany’s constitution. I think Conte used it as a weapon in negotiations.”

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