The European Union has been largely absent from action during the continent’s most serious crisis in generations. Member states have not only pledged in a row to secure medical supplies, but have also made little progress on the EU’s contribution to the economic and financial costs of the pandemic. The main dispute revolves around whether the EU should issue pooled âcoronabondsâ to finance healthcare and other crisis-related spending in the hardest hit countries.
In Italy, coronabonds are considered the natural expression of European solidarity.
Germany and the Netherlands, on the other hand, see coronabonds as a deadly danger, as they would open the door to the dreaded Eurobonds – meaning German and Dutch taxpayers could become responsible for Italy’s debt.
Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra even suggested that the countries most affected by the pandemic deserve little solidarity because they have failed to build up a financial position to fight the crisis in recent years.
And Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was extraordinarily filmed last week reassuring a worker that the money would not go to Italians or Spaniards.
During a visit to a waste treatment plant, a man urged the Prime Minister to prevent taxpayer money from being used as part of an EU rescue fund for the countries most affected of the block.
The Hague Environmental Services plant worker said: âPlease don’t give money to Italians and Spaniards. “
Mr. Rutte replied “no, no, no”, before laughing and then giving him a thumbs up.
The video has sparked furor, especially in Italy, where anti-EU sentiment is 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 behavior could push Italy out of the EU.
He said: “I don’t think issuing coronabonds won’t sink the euro zone.
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Mr Portes added: “It could also happen by accident.
âSalvini is too smart to leave the eurozone, but could he be bluffing and everything could turn out badly for everyone?
“This is a scenario the eurozone should be very concerned about and why it should really help the Italian government.”
A recent poll shows that 49% of Italians want to leave the EU.
Another shows confidence in the bloc fell from 42% last September to 27% today, a drop of 15%.