EU President Apologises to Italy as Anger Against Political Bloc Grows

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President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has apologised to Italy for a lack of solidarity over the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, as anger towards the political bloc grows.

President von der Leyen acknowledged that Italy has been the hardest hit by the Wuhan virus outbreak in the European Union, saying: “Italians are demonstrating their mutual solidarity in everyday life with thousands of small gestures — at the same time discreet and heroic.”

The comments came from a letter entitled “I apologise, we are with you” published by newspaper La Repubblica.

“It must be acknowledged that in the first days of the crisis, faced with the need for a common European response, too many have thought only of the problems of their own homes,” it read.

“They did not realise that we can defeat this pandemic only together, as a Union. It was malicious behaviour and could have been avoided.”

The Commission head added that the bloc will be allocating up to €100 billion to help countries like Italy and Spain deal with the economic impacts of the coronavirus lockdown measures.

On Thursday, von der Leyen reiterated her commitment to helping the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, saying that the next EU budget should resemble the Marshall Plan — the U.S. aid programme for Western Europe that helped economies recover in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Previous polls have shown Italy to be the most eurosceptic country within the European Union, with a 2018 poll suggesting only 44 per cent of Italians wanted to remain in the political bloc.

The lack of aid from the EU during the coronavirus crisis has led to even more animosity from Italians, with residents filming themselves burning EU flags on social media and uttering the phrase, “we save ourselves”.

Italian politicians have also expressed their outrage with the EU publicly. Fabio Rampelli, an MP for the national-conservative Brothers of Italy (FdI) party, filmed himself removing the European flag from his parliamentary office and replacing it was an Italian national flag.

The President of the Autonomous Province of Trentino, Maurizio Fugatti, who is a member of Matteo Salvini’s League party, filmed himself taking down an EU flag as well, saying: “The attitude of the European Union towards our country has deeply disappointed me.”

“Today, at a time when Italy is in serious difficulty, I felt abandoned by this Europe which not only gave us no concrete answers but did not meet any of our requests,” he said.

Belgian economist Professor Paul De Grauwe has predicted that the coronavirus outbreak could be the beginning of the end of the European Union due to a lack of solidarity from the richer northern countries.

The sentiment has been shared by French populist National Rally leader Marine Le Pen who stated that the EU was the first casualty of the coronavirus.

Le Pen criticised the EU for wanting to keep borders open during the early days of the crisis and said that the EU viewed free movement as a “religion”.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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