Speaking in the Italian Senate on Thursday, the Lega leader and former deputy prime minister blasted Berlin and Brussels’ attempts to help Italy cope with the coronavirus outbreak with financial aid at the condition it will have to pay back every penny in the future. Mr Salvini said: “In Brussels, it is clear they are yet to understand the situation. If the German Government keeps talking about the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) without conditions which provides that funds are given to Italy but have to be paid back in the future, Berlin and Brussels got it wrong.
“We will vindicate our pride of being Italians, in the most beautiful country in the world.
“I hope no-one will mortgage the future of our children in exchange for small change from Europe today.”
It comes after Italy was lent support and help by China, Cuba and even Russia as healthcare staff struggle to cope with the increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients.
On Wednesday, Russia sent military specialists to the north of Italy, the epicentre of the Italian coronavirus crisis.
The convoy, composed of 22 trucks and other vehicles, set off for the northern Italian city of Bergamo.
Germany and the Netherlands are expected to lead opposition to issue joint bonds to help revive the European Union economy from a deep slump caused by the coronavirus when the bloc’s national leaders discuss emergency assistance today.
Nine EU countries including France, Italy and Spain have called for mutualised debt as the continent, seeking to limit the spread of the disease, goes into a lockdown that is hammering its economic outlook.
“We need to work on a common debt instrument issued by a European institution to raise funds on the market,” the nine leaders said ahead of the 3pm GMT video call of all the bloc’s 27 national leaders on Thursday.
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Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland – the fiscally conservative “Frugals” – are opposed, although there are signs that the subject may not always be as off-limits for them as it is now, especially if the havoc wrought by the virus deepens.
“We shouldn’t use up all our instruments this week because we don’t know how deep this crisis will be. There must always be spare ammunition to fall back on if need be,” said an EU diplomat from one of the reluctant countries.
“My country will not agree to corona bonds, that’s quite clear. We don’t think this is the right solution to the crisis at this time,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
The bloc has already suspended state aid rules and limits on public borrowing to allow member states to spend freely to cushion the economic hit.
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It is also mulling a precautionary credit line worth some 2 percent of economic output from the ESM bailout fund of the 19-member common-currency eurozone.
A draft joint statement prepared ahead of the EU leaders’ conference, which was seen by Reuters, would ask the bloc’s finance ministers to work out details of the latter in a week.
It did not mention issuing joint debt.
“A real ‘euro-bond’ is the Loch Ness monster, it has never been seen and is not on the table now,” said an EU official preparing the summit. “Which is not to say we may not get there eventually, but for now we are discussing ESM mechanisms.”
Berlin and its “Frugal” allies are at pains to stress that all EU countries can still finance themselves on the debt market – in sharp contrast to the debt crisis.
The European Central Bank has also announced emergency bond purchases intended to put 750 billion euros into circulation to help the eurozone through the crisis.
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