The coronavirus pandemic has left Italians deeply bitter towards the European Union, polling shows.
With Italians feeling that the rest of Europe abandoned them in the most difficult times, the key issue from now on will be the financial assistance provided by the EU.
A record number of Italians wonder why their country should even remain in the EU. According to a survey by the Tecné Agency, 49 percent of them are in favor of withdrawal from the EU. At the end of 2018, only 29 percent of Italians supported the idea.
In another opinion poll from this month, 59 percent of respondents said that the EU was already meaningless. In another one, most Italians described China as a friend, and almost half of them called Germany an enemy.
A survey by Termometro found that nearly 40 percent of Italisns want to exit the EU and eurozone and only 40.9 percent of respondents wanted to stay in the bloc. Another 10 percent said that Italy should either leave the EU and remain in the eurozone or vice versa.
The rise of Euroscepticism is one of the pandemic’s consequences. Italy, the EU’s third largest economy, is collapsing due to restrictions and quarantine measures, and is expected to shrink by 9-percentage points this year.
“If necessary, we will say goodbye”
Leaders of the Italian government and the central bank have confirmed that an unprecedented wave of anger towards the EU was rising in the country.
Italy’s relationship with the EU has been complicated for several years now. It was dealt with several blows in recent years as a result of the migration crisis and European budget negotiations.
However, when the COVID-19 virus began to spread in Lombardy, Italians believed Europe would help them without any questions, but that hope quickly soured as reality set in.
Protective equipment and military doctors arrived from China and Russia instead of Europe. In mid-April, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen apologized to the Italians and admitted that the EU underestimated coronavirus.
“It is also that too many were not there on time when Italy needed a helping hand at the very beginning. For that, it is right that Europe as a whole offers a heartfelt apology,” said the head of the European Commission.
Italy now wonders what the rest of Europe will do to save Italy’s economy. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte calls for so-called coronabonds, a joint debt for which all EU countries would be equally liable. However, according to Bloomberg, the coronabonds will almost certainly not be approved, since it is unacceptable for Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and Finland.
In recent days, most EU countries have supported the idea of the EU borrowing money and then providing it to individual states, however, they do not agree on how this should be done.
“If the Italians do not get a positive response, Euroscepticism will grow, as will anti-German sentiment, which is deeply rooted in the country’s psychology,” said Pier Paolo Baretta of the Ministry of Finance.
“It is not a Union,“ said The League party’s leader Matteo Salvini in late March.
“It’s a nest of snakes and jackals. First, we will defeat the coronavirus, and then we must rethink our relationship with Europe. If necessary, we will say goodbye,” Salvini added.