European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on April 2 reportedly apologised to Italy for a 'lack of solidarity' from Europe in tackling the rapid spread of coronavirus in the country. Italy is one of the worst-hit countries as it has recorded more than 13,000 coronavirus deaths, which is more than any other country. Ursula’s apology came after widespread dismay over Europe’s response to the pandemic, starting with an initial failure to send medical aid and followed by a refusal amongst northern nations to endorse joint bonds to mitigate the cost or recovery.
The far-right League party has also jumped on the discontent to call into question Italy’s continued membership of the 27-nation bloc. Furthermore, several pro-Europeans have also expressed consternation at the lack of empathy and support. After facing criticism, however, Ursula has now reportedly promised greater help in dealing with the economic fallout.
A letter published in a local Italian newspaper, the European Commission President reportedly defended herself and said that too many EU countries had initially focused on their own problems. She said that the countries did not realise that they could only defeat the pandemic together, as a Union. She added that it was harmful and could have been avoided.
However, after a request from Italy and eight other countries to issue ‘recovery bonds’ on behalf of all eurozone countries to help fund efforts to rebuild national economies that are expected to dive deep into recession, Ursula reportedly said that the EU will allocate up to 100 billion euros to the hardest-hit countries, starting with Italy in a bid to help cover the cost of lost wages and to preserve jobs. She also said that the commission also wanted to make sure that every euro still available in the EU’s annual budget is spent on tackling the coronavirus crisis.
With the 100 billion euros scheme, the EU chief said that it would keep people in work and will enable companies to return to the market with renewed vigour. She added that the commission will provide loan to those member states that need them to strengthen their short-time work schemes.