Skip to main content
//empty //empty
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you manage your health, your finances and your family life as Canada reopens.
Visit the hub

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a news conference at EU headquarters, in Brussels, on April 2, 2020.

The Associated Press

The head of the European Commission apologized to Italy on Thursday for a lack of solidarity from Europe in tackling its coronavirus crisis, but promised greater help in dealing with the economic fallout.

There has been widespread dismay in Italy over Europe’s response to the pandemic, starting with an initial failure to send medical aid, followed by a refusal by northern countries to endorse joint bonds to mitigate the cost of recovery.

The far-right League party has jumped on the discontent to call into question Italy’s continued membership of the 27-nation bloc, while even staunch pro-Europeans have expressed consternation at the lack of empathy and support.

Story continues below advertisement

Italy, which has recorded more coronavirus deaths than any other country, said on Thursday its toll had risen by 760 over the past 24 hours to 13,915. The number of new cases was steady, growing by 4,668 to 115,242.

In a letter published in the Italian daily La Repubblica, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said too many EU countries had initially focused on their own problems.

“They did not realize that we can only defeat this pandemic together, as a Union. This was harmful and could have been avoided,” she wrote, adding: “Today Europe is rallying to Italy’s side.”

The main bone of contention is a request by Italy and eight other countries to issue “recovery bonds” on behalf of all euro zone countries to help fund efforts to rebuild economies that are expected to dive deep into recession.

Conservative leaders in wealthy states such as Germany, the Netherlands and Austria have so far recoiled at the idea of issuing bonds with highly indebted countries, such as Italy.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged a rethink.

“I believe that everyone will eventually realize even in those countries that a shared, orderly, strong and rapid European response is the only solution,” he told Spain’s La Sexta television. “A slow response would be a useless response.”

Story continues below advertisement

The opposition League, Italy’s most popular party, has struggled to gain much attention during the coronavirus crisis, and has leapt on the EU debate to gain greater traction.

“Commission President von der Leyen has apologized today to Italy and Italians. She could have thought of this sooner. From Europe, all we are getting are words and smoke: zero substance,” League leader Matteo Salvini wrote on Twitter.

The party’s economic adviser, Claudio Borghi, posted on Twitter a fascist-era poster from the Second World War of a smiling Nazi soldier with the slogan “Germany really is your friend.”

“Time passes but the tactics are always the same,” Mr. Borghi wrote.

Ms. Von der Leyen told La Repubblica that the European Union would allocate up to €100-billion ($153-billion) to the hardest-hit countries, starting with Italy, to help cover the cost of lost wages and to preserve jobs.

She said the EC also wanted to make sure that “every euro still available in the EU’s annual budget” is spent on tackling the coronavirus crisis. However, she did not mention the euro bonds sought by Rome.

Story continues below advertisement

Underscoring the scale of the epidemic in Italy, the crematorium in the country’s financial capital Milan announced on Thursday that it would not take in any more bodies for the rest of April to allow it to clear its backlog of coffins.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies