Berlin ignored Rome’s desperate call for European Union as it emerged the bloc’s richest economy would once again refuse to sign up to an emergency rescue package. The influential capital continued to oppose the so-called “coronabonds” measure despite desperate calls from Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte for the joint-debt mechanism to rescue his economy from the brink of collapse. The backlash has sparked fears that Rome could decide to chart its own course outside the EU if richer member states refuse to rally support it.
Germany has been reluctant to create new measures to assist countries ravished by the coronavirus outbreak.
Finance minister Olaf Scholz said: “We have the possibility to say we can do something as a precaution.
“From my point of view it’s especially important to ensure that if a country says it wants to use these funds, that there’s not then a load of commissioners who go there and first spend weeks discussing with them how they should change their policies in the coming years.”
He added: “We will help, we must help, it’s also in our interests.
“There are opportunities via the European Stability Mechanism – and without using instruments to torture – to financially cushion everything to do with coronavirus.”
The rejection prompted accusations of rich western member states not doing enough to aid their poorer southern neighbours.
Italian MEP Ignazio Corrao, from the governing Five Star Movement, said: “Commerzbank, the second biggest German bank, has lately recommended its investors to sell Italian bonds.
“This is shameful. The Covid-19 outbreak is affecting all the world and we see sharks in the sea.
“Italy will not bend and will never accept games already played during the darkest times of our recent European history in Greece.
“Europe must be united. Fourteen European countries have backed the Italian Coronabond proposal. It is the only way to sort out our difficulties: solidarity means solidarity, not loans with an interest rate.
“The Netherlands and Germany are isolated and we don’t really understand how they can be so stingy in front of a humanitarian crisis – It is time for a new Europe.”
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Both the Netherlands and Germany are in favour of using the bloc’s ESM, a €500 billion bailout scheme born out of the last financial crisis, but want to maintain its strict conditions of use.
In order to access the funds, member states must agree to sign up to long-term fiscal rules.
Allies of Italy’s former eurosceptic deputy prime minister have said the “slap in the face” from their colleagues will lead to questions over whether the country should continue with its EU membership.
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Lega MEP Paolo Borchia said: “The EU has disgracefully let the Italian people down in their hour of need. When we really needed help and solidarity all we got from the European Union was a huge fine. The ECB also did damage by making our debt management more expensive.
“Italians are no longer expecting an EU solidarity that clearly doesn’t exist; however, they do expect the EU not to create more obstacles and grant Italy the much needed flexibility when it comes to the Stability and Growth Pact and the parameters of state aid rules.
“If the EU gets once again in the way, it would be a new intolerable slap in the face for Italian people and make us question why we remain in a political Union which punishes rather than helps us at a pivotal juncture.”
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