ROME, March 31 (Reuters) – Italy’s mayors and regional governors bought a page from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper to ask Germany for solidarity on the outbreak of the coronavirus, recalling that other states agreed to apply debt relief after the Second World War.
Italy has suffered more deaths from the coronavirus than any other country, with 11,591 registered until Monday, about a third of the world total, while the cases of those infected exceed 100,000.
This initiative highlights the growing resentment of Italian citizens against the alleged indifference of Germany to its difficult situation, since Berlin has refused to grant the request of other EU countries to proceed with a joint debt issue to help their battered economies.
“Dear German friends, memory helps you make the right decisions,” says the letter, after referring to an agreement signed in 1953 whereby Germany’s debt was reduced in order to aid its post-war recovery.
The text published in the German newspaper was signed by mayors of left and right parties in the cities of northern Italy most affected by the coronavirus outbreak, including Bergamo and Milan, as well as by the regional president of Emilia-Romagna.
The letter also targeted the Netherlands, seen in Italy as a kind of paradise for corporate tax, noting that it has “established a ‘favorable’ tax regime that has been stealing resources from all major European countries for years.”
Nine countries in the European Union, including Italy, France and Spain, last week called for a joint debt issue with which to finance the economic recovery of the eurozone after the more than likely deep recession to which the outbreak will push their economies of the virus.
Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Austria opposed the so-called “Eurobonds” proposal, insisting on its deep-seated refusal to share the debt of the weaker economies.
“Eurobonds to combat the coronavirus will not erase or mutualise pre-existing debts,” reads the Italian translation of the letter published on Twitter by member of the European Parliament Carlo Calenda, one of the signatories.
EU leaders have so far not agreed on the scale at which they will come to the aid of their economies, which have been crippled by restrictions applied by states to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
At the end of the video conference held last week, Germany and the Netherlands said countries in need could access the eurozone rescue fund to obtain lines of credit. Italy opposes this mechanism, which carries a number of conditions.
(Edited by Gavin Jones and Angus MacSwan; translated by Darío Fernández in the Gdansk newsroom)