The European Union has been largely missing in action during the continent’s most serious crisis in generations. Member states have not only engaged in a row to secure medical supplies, but have also made little progress regarding the EU’s contribution to the economic and financial costs of the pandemic. The main dispute concerns whether the EU should issue mutualised “coronabonds” to finance health-care spending and other crisis-related expenditure in the hardest-hit countries.
In Italy, coronabonds are viewed as the natural expression of European solidarity.
Germany and the Netherlands, on the other hand, regard coronabonds as a mortal danger, because they would open the door to the dreaded Eurobonds – meaning German and Dutch taxpayers could become liable for Italian debt.
The Dutch finance minister, Wopke Hoekstra, even suggested that the countries worst hit by the pandemic deserved little solidarity as they had failed to build up the financial position to combat the crisis over the past years.
And Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was extraordinarily captured on film last week, as he reassured one worker that money was not going to go to the Italians or the Spanish.
During a visit to a waste processing plant, a man urged the Prime Minister to block taxpayers’ money from being used as part of an EU rescue fund for the bloc’s worst-hit countries.
The worker at Hague Environmental Services plant said: “Please, do not give the Italians and the Spanish the money.”
Mr Rutte responded “no, no, no”, before laughing and then giving him the thumbs up.
The video sparked fury, particularly in Italy, where anti-EU sentiment is growing stronger than ever.
In an interview with Express.co.uk, Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at King’s College, London, suggested that Dutch behaviour could be pushing Italy out of the EU.
He said: “I don’t think that not just issuing coronabonds will sink the euro area.
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“The eurozone collapse will be primarily for political reasons.
“Primarily, because of a public reaction in a country like Italy against the euro or the EU.
“If they elect a nationalist, populist government, which engages in some form of confrontation, that could lead to the collapse of the eurozone.
“I don’t think it is the most likely scenario, but it could happen.”
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Mr Portes added: “It could also happen by accident.
“Salvini is too clever to actually leave the eurozone, but could he bluff and could all go wrong for everyone?
“It is a scenario that the eurozone should be very worried about and the reason why they should actually help out the Italian government.”
A recent poll shows that 49 percent of Italians want out of the EU.
Another shows confidence in the bloc has plummeted from 42 percent last September to 27 percent today, a fall of 15 percent.
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