by Guido Keller
The European Union has shown its inability to face the emergency of Covid-19 and supporting Italy. Due to the lack of EU support Italy is strengthening its relations and cooperation with China considering that Beijing is interested in enhancing the Memorandum of Understanding toward the Belt and Road Initiative signed last year with the previous Italian government.
Italy is facing Covid-19 locking down the entire country and almost blocking any kind of economic activities. The current Italian government, after having spent the entire month of February trying to understand if the virus was a serious menace and how to contrast it, imposed harsh restrictions in the entire country forcing the population to stay at home copying the Chinese model.
The Italian government adopted a new economic decree to face the economic crisis which the country might experience during and after the quarantine. According to the words of the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the government will allocate around 25 billion euro to contrast the economic crisis and help small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Although the Italian Prime Minister described these economic measures as something extraordinary and the perfect strategy to support the Italian citizens, in the entire country the feeling of discontent is spreading among the population considering that governments such as in France, Spain, and Germany decided to allocate hundreds of billions of euro for the economic recovery.
While Italy is living in quarantine and trying to overcome future economic problems, Brussels has shown again its immobility and incapacity to support EU members. Indeed, last week the President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde commenting on the current crisis worsened the financial crisis which Italy is living due to Covid-19 because she stated that the Bank was not ready to support EU members. Considering that other European countries did not demonstrate their support to the Italian population and, in some cases, they make unpleasant jokes regarding the spread of Covid-19 in Italy (i.e. the French version ‘Pizza Coronavirus’), many Italians are developing negative feelings toward the European Union.
Furthermore, recently the Italian minister of foreign affairs Luigi Di Maio accused some European countries of blocking the import of mask and medical products useful during this period of quarantine. Covid-19 is underlining the serious contrasts inside the European Union and the fact that every country follows its national agenda instead of being part of the community.
Meantime the European countries are facing the emergency of Covid-19 and accusing each other of misconduct, China is emerging as Italy’s partner in the fight against the virus. On March 10th, 2020, the Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a phone talk with the Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio to discuss bilateral friendship.
Last week the first Chinese team of doctors arrived in Italy to support the Italian fight against the virus and check if the quarantine system applied by the Italian government will give the same results as in China. Also, Beijing sent to Italy around 500 thousand of masks, 4 tons of medical equipment, and 150 thousand gloves to support the Italian health system.
The Italian citizens have perceived China as the only country which has given support to Italy while the EU members have only tried to create obstacles and taken advantages of the Italian emergency. Moreover, several videos of Chinese people supporting Italian citizens have been spread on Social media.
In conclusion it possible to state that Brussels’ lack of support to Italy and the different behaviours that the EU governments have had since the spread of Covid-19 have pushed Italy toward China which is interested in making the ‘Bel Paese’ one of its most important assets and markets in the Mediterranean Sea with the aim at supporting the Belt and Road Initiative.