The Lega leader and former Interior Minister of Italy said at a press conference on Wednesday that the European Union is “dead” if it fails to provide Italy with emergency financial support to combat the deadly outbreak of coronavirus. Matteo Salvini said: “We have the most europhile government in the history of the world, with Gentiloni in Brussels. It should be able to get anything in a moment of emergency like this.
“If they who are beautiful, good, funny and euro-happy can’t get what it’s not aimed at increasing the turnover but at helping businesses avoid firing their employees – if this help doesn’t come because maybe the purists and fanatics of perfect budgets put budgets before the jobs and livelihoods of their people, then this European Union is dead and makes no sense.
“It’s dead at the border with Greece, it’s dead in Libya, it’s dying in shops in Milan and Rome.
“So paying five billion euros every year for a membership to a union that is blinding us is, at this point, no longer sustainable.”
The country may ask for a temporary suspension of European Union budget rules as it struggles to contain a coronavirus epidemic, the deputy economy minister said on Thursday.
Laura Castelli told Il Messaggero daily that the government was considering increasing the amount of money it planned to spend mitigating the crisis to 5 billion euros from a previously announced 3.6 billion.
But she said Europe needed to be more flexible with its strict stability pact budget deficit rules.
“Europe needs to agree in order to tackle an epidemic that risks creating serious economic damage, and Italy is at the forefront. Among the options being considered is that of temporarily suspending the stability pact,” she said.
In Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, at the time of writing Italy’s death toll hit 107, according to data released on Wednesday, while total cases are 3,089.
The government introduced 900 million euros of financial support for the worst-hit areas last week and later promised spending of 3.6 billion euros to help the wider economy.
On Wednesday, a government source had told Reuters this might be raised to 4.5 billion, or 0.25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Politicians from opposition parties have called for much more aggressive spending to support the economy.
However, the European Commission may baulk at the prospect of highly-indebted Italy raising its deficit sharply from one year to the next.
Rome’s 2020 budget deficit target of 2.2 percent was set in September on the assumption the economy would grow 0.6 percent this year.
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But that forecast now seems unreachable, analysts say, with a recession looking inevitable at least for the start of the year.
Mario Centeno, chairman of Eurogroup which links nations what have adopted the euro, has said that EU finance ministers were prepared to take fiscal measures to support growth across the bloc amid the coronavirus outbreak and “no efforts will be spared”.
Ms Castelli said she thought it was “necessary to raise the bar as much as possible, also considering the fact that Italy has registered a lower than expected deficit (in 2019)”.
According to data released on Monday, Italy chalked up its lowest deficit in 12 years at 1.6 percent last year against 2.2 percent in 2018, giving it some unexpected budget leeway.
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