Von De Leyen apologises to Italy but stops short on issuing monetary help through ”coronabonds.”


European Commission leader Ursula von der Leyen told Italy on Thursday (2 April) that European countries were ready to help it deal with all the coronavirus after initially focusing on “their own home problems”.

However, the EU leader stopped short of agreeing to Rome’s petition for the bloc to begin issuing joint debt dubbed “coronabonds” — which could let nations such as Italy address the catastrophe more cheaply.

“Now Europe is mobilising alongside Italy. Regrettably, this has not always been the case,” von der Leyen wrote in Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper.

“It must be recognised that in the early days of this crisis, at the face of the demand for a common European answer, too many have thought only of their own home problems.”

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Von der Leyen’s letter opened with an apology. Still, it ended with a list of the several ways the EU was helping Italy handle the financial consequences of its own high-value lockdown.

Italy has expanded its closing of companies and ban public gatherings until 13 April to help stem infections that have already claimed a world-leading 13,155 lives.

Von der Leyen said that the EU “will devote up to $100 billion to the hardest-hit countries, starting from Italy, to compensate for the reduction in the wages of those working on shorter hours.”

She stated the newly agreed initiative supplies “loans guaranteed by all member countries — hence demonstrating European solidarity”.

Von der Leyen concluded by proposing, “Every euro still accessible in the EU’s yearly funding be spent on tackling the crisis”.

“In the past month, the European Commission had left no rock unturned to help Italy,” she wrote.

Spain and France — two fellow high-spending countries with rapidly climbing COVID-19 tolls — have endorsed Italy’s plea for the new standard debt instrument.

However, more spendthrift countries such as Germany and the Netherlands oppose the idea.

Standard debt instruments can theoretically dilute risk and reduce the borrowing costs of indebted countries, while slightly raising those of countries spending in their way.

EU leaders on Thursday (26 March) continued to disagree on the economic reaction to the coronavirus as Northern countries rejected the idea of issuing a joint debt, known as “corona bonds”, suggested by nine-member nations to finance the recovery.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte explained that Italy could agree to tap the European Union’s emergency war weapon, the EMS if its accompanying rigorous spending principles were dropped.

“If we’re a marriage, now’s the opportunity to prove it,” Conte composed in Germany’s weekly Die Zeit.

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