An opinion poll was taken in Italy in April regarding the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic on Italy and its relationship with the European Union. It found that 42% of Italians believe that the EU’s response to the crisis is undermining the bloc’s unity.
The same polls revealed that about 59% of Italians want to leave the EU and the Eurozone. These numbers are particularly significant given that Italy was one of the bloc’s main founders, and historically has been quite willing to adapt to European integration.
These results occurred after Italy was badly affected by the pandemic, as countries like Germany and France did not assist Italy in the way Italians wanted.
Italy has recorded the third-largest number of deaths worldwide due to the virus so far, and confirmed cases have reached 219,000 as of this writing.
Rome has accused its partners in the European Union – most especially Germany and the Netherlands – of selfishness for refusing to share the debts it has incurred as a result of the crisis. Italy desires the issuance of so-called “Corona Bonds” and “European Bonds” (Eurobonds) that would distribute the debt across all member states, while Germany and the Netherlands want to merely allow Italy to take out loans that it will have to repay. As a result, this issue has become an internal political contest.
The Italian economy is suffering greatly from the crisis. The International Monetary Fund predicts that the country’s gross domestic product will decline by 9.1% this year.
Right-wing eurosceptic parties in Italy are calling for the strengthening of Italian national sovereignty. They are seeking to take advantage of the German and Dutch objections to “Corona Bonds” in order to force the country to face the repercussions of the pandemic.
In this context, Giorgia Meloni, who is the co-founder of the Right-wing Brothers of Italy party, said last weekend that the government “has no conception of its negotiating power, because it is we who are currently deciding whether the European Union continues to exist or not.”
She added that everyone understands that there will be no European Union without Britain and Italy, as then the only major country that will remain is Germany, and it would crush everyone else in the bloc – even France.
Matteo Salvini, who has been the Federal Secretary of the Right-wing Lega party since December 2013, has taken the same view, despite being forced to leave the government in August 2019 after being Minister of the Interior.
Salvini has accused Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of wanting to sell Italy cheaply. Certainly, after the pandemic ends, Italy will not be the same as it was before. There are political facts and new trends in public opinion that will become clear after the end of the quarantine, as normal public and private life resumes. It seems that Right-wing populists such as Salvini are preparing for developments on the ground in order to demand early parliamentary elections, and to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the disasters that hit Italy in last winter, whether the flooding of Venice or the pandemic. This suggests that a hot political summer lies ahead in the stronghold of Roman civilization.