Italian PM Conte’s Coronavirus Challenge to Brussels! “Europe must be united or it does not exist”
By Monica Guerzoni
By Monica Guerzoni – from Corriere.it – translated by Jonathan McCarthy for FRN
The premier’s strategy to get the most out of it: Brussels has 10 days to give us a sign, Italian finances are in order
At the height of the most dramatic crisis since the post-war period, with the whole of Italy committed with all its strength to fight against “an invisible enemy that goes where it wants, like the wind”, two things Giuseppe Conte had asked Europe: unity and speed of action. And when the head of government realized that he would not get either of those, the split happened. “If the EU is not supportive, the European project is over.”
Strong of the axis with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and the support of Emmanuel Macron, Conte shouted his “stop”. A move that photographs the split of Europe between the sympathetic and the indifferent and also causes havoc internally, in the majority of the yellow-red government.
Luigi Di Maio, currently Minister of Foreign Affairs, re-launched Conte’s line: “Conte has done well, if they want the old instruments we will do it ourselves”. But the timing of the declaration, with the European summit still in progress, infuriated some of the leaders of the Democratic Party. Matters of method, because even within the dems, starting with Roberto Gualtieri (Economy and Finances Minister), there are those who share Conte’s hard line on the merit: Italy is at war and to get up it needs help for businesses, workers, families. The premier has read the hundreds of desperate appeals that rain on his Facebook page, people who have no money to shop and fear the “civil war”. Conte knows well that many billions at once are needed to avert unrest and to do this he needs to break the wall of the Northern countries which refuse to share the price of the pandemic.
“We want the European Recovery Bonds,” said Conte in the Senate. “It is a question of reacting with innovative financial instruments suitable for a war”. But European leaders did not want to include even a reference to “coronabonds”. And so Conte gave the ultimatum: “Ten days to show us a sign”. The Prime Minister has claimed that Italy has “the credentials for public finance”, because 2019 ended with a deficit / GDP ratio at 1.6 and not at 2.2, as planned. Conte’s reasoning is that this is not a question of facing the isolated crisis of a country that has not done homework, but of reacting to an «unpredictable and symmetrical shock of epochal importance», which affects all of Europe: « You can keep the personalized protection mechanisms developed in the past, because Italy doesn’t need them ».
Conte’s approach seems to find support also in Mario Draghi, the former president of the ECB, who has recently stated the need to go “all-in”: act immediately, enter liquidity in the system without worrying about the increase in public debt, because the recession will be deep and is likely to be the grave of Europe.