Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose country now has the most deaths from COVID-19, is asking the EU to use its bailout rescue fund to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. Italy has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe and its death toll has surpassed China’s. The southern European nation has been in national lockdown for more than a week, with the population only allowed to go to the supermarket or pharmacy.
The virus is bringing the Italian economy a standstill, and many economists are predicting that Rome will not be able to escape a recession in 2020.
Mr Conte said the EU should make use of a €500billion (£460billion) fund, created at the height of the last decade’s sovereign debt crisis to bail out nations, to finance countries struggling to cope with the pandemic.
However, so far, the EU has been accused of being slow in coming to the country’s aid.
When COVID-19 started spreading rapidly, the country appealed for help via the Emergency Response Coordination Centre, a special European crisis mechanism.
However, no EU country responded and fearful of their own shortages, Germany and France initially banned the export of medical masks and other protective gear.
Around the same time, a Chinese aircraft landed in Rome carrying nine medical experts and 31 tons of medical supplies including intensive care unit equipment, medical protective equipment, and antiviral drugs.
Beijing’s gesture reinforced the perceived lack of support from Europe, compounded by a communications blunder by the European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, who implied it was no longer her job to keep Italy in the euro.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Maurizio Brucchi, a renowned Italian doctor who served as Mayor of Teramo, claimed euroscepticism in Italy is on the rise.
He also argued the country is likely to leave Brussels once the pandemic comes to an end.
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He said: “We, Italians, do not feel European at the moment.
“On Facebook you can now see so many more groups and pages pushing for Italexit.
“Some of them with thousands of likes.
“I firmly believe that the coronavirus pandemic has been an eye-opener for many of us.
“Right now, China and the US are helping us. Not the European Union.
“So far, we got nothing from them.”
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Mr Brucchi noted that coronavirus will mark an important moment in history – as the EU will inevitably change.
He added: “We will end up in a completely different world after this pandemic.
“Italy will undoubtedly wonder whether it makes sense to remain in this bloc.
“I believe, and many of us believe, we should focus our foreign policy away from Europe and look further… to Asia and the US.
“Definitely not Europe.”
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