Meanwhile, the so-called Frugal Four – defined as the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, and sometimes referred to as the Frugal Five with the addition of Finland – have been referred to as “selfish” for their opposition to the EU’s Â£ 677 billion coronavirus rescue fund which has made it “less effective”. The warning was issued by billionaire financier George Soros during a high-profile interview in which he also suggested German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s attempt to pull Europe out of crisis during the six-month presidency from his country to the Council of The European Union is hampered by internal opposition.
Mr Soros, who has donated billions of dollars to liberal causes through his Open Society Foundations, was speaking to Italian newspaper La Repubblica on its 90th birthday.
Citing the country of his birth, Hungary, ruled by Viktor Orban, and Poland for specific criticism, Mr Soros nevertheless stressed: “But in reality my biggest concern is Italy”.
He explained: âA very popular anti-European leader, Matteo Salvini, was gaining ground until he overestimated his success and dismantled the government.
“It was a fatal mistake. His popularity is now waning. But he has in fact been replaced by Giorgia Meloni of Fratelli d’Italia, who is even more extremist.”
Mr Soros warned that the situation would worsen for Brussels if the administration headed by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ended up collapsing.
He said: âThe current government coalition is extremely weak.
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“They are only held together to avoid an election in which anti-European forces would win.
“And this is a country that was once Europe’s most enthusiastic supporter.
“Because people trusted the EU more than their own governments.”
Two weeks after former Five Star Movement senator Gianluigi Paragone announced the launch of his No Europe for Italy party, modeled on Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, Mr Soros said: âNow the research on public opinion shows that supporters of Europe are waning and support for remaining a member of the eurozone is waning.
âBut Italy is one of the biggest members, it’s too important for Europe. I can’t imagine an EU without Italy.
“The big question is whether the EU will be able to provide enough support to Italy.
Turning his attention to last month’s marathon European Council meeting which endorsed the broad package of measures amid huge feuds between countries to the north and south of the bloc, Mr Soros said: “The EU has done a very important step forward by committing itself to borrow money from the market on a much larger scale than ever before.
âBut then several states, the so-called Frugal Five, managed to make the real deal less effective.
“The tragedy is that they are fundamentally pro-European, but they are very selfish. And they are very frugal.”
Their intervention resulted in an “inadequate” deal that reduced commitments on climate change and defense policy, Soros said.
He added: “They also want to make sure the money is well spent. This creates problems for the southern states which have been hit hardest by the virus.”
As for Ms Merkel, he added: “She is doing her best, but she faces deep-rooted cultural opposition: the German word Schuld has a double meaning.
âIt means debt and guilt. Those who incur debt are guilty. It does not recognize that creditors can also be guilty.
“It’s a cultural problem that’s very, very deep in Germany. It has caused a conflict between being German and European at the same time.
“And that explains the recent decision of the German Supreme Court which is in conflict with the European Court of Justice.”