Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has called on the European Union (EU) to loosen its budget rules, warning that a failure to do so could mean “the end of Europe.”
Members of the bloc are currently divided over an economic response to the coronavirus outbreak, and Conte called for collective action in an interview with German newspaper Bild.
“European nations must act without ifs or buts,” Conte said Wednesday.
National responses to what he called the greatest “emergency” the continent has faced since World War II risk “being less effective than coordinated European action and can jeopardize the European dream,” he added.
“If Europe does not give itself financial instruments up to the challenge, like Eurobonds, Italy will be forced to face the emergency and the relaunch with its own resources,” he said, referring to a proposed form of collective EU debt that has so far been opposed by countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. “In order not to not lose competitiveness, we need Eurobonds,” said Conte.
“We compete with China, with the United States -- see the reactions they have put into play. In the United States we are talking about a maneuver that is about 13% of the GDP,” he said. “If Europe does not react in the same way, it will remain behind.”
Italy is not “asking others for money,” said Conte, as he sought to reassure those who oppose collective debt.
“Eurobonds are useful and they don’t mean that Italy’s debt must be paid for by German or Dutch citizens," he said. "We pay out debt, we have always done that.”
Conte went on to say that collective debt emissions were not “about Germans having to help Italians,” but rather about Europeans acting to “help each other in their common interest."
“I ask a question to German citizens, do you really think that Germany can proceed and have economic advantages if other countries go through a serious recession?” he said.
“We must strengthen the current instruments we have, that weren’t created to face such a symmetric shock, that is as extraordinary as this,” added Conte.
“We must improve our capacity to respond.”