Von der Leyen issues grovelling apology to Italy for EU’s ‘awful’ coronavirus response

The continent’s worst-affected country has constantly been ignored by its neighbours with EU solidarity virtually disintegrating overnight. Despite desperate calls for help from Rome, Brussels bureaucrats failed to come to its rescue and was slow with their response to the global pandemic. Speaking in the EU Parliament, Mrs von der Leyen said: “We need truth about everything, about our own actions.

“Nobody was really ready. Too many weren’t there on time when Italy needed helping hands in the very beginning.

“It’s right that Europe offers its heartfelt apology.”

The European Commission President said, after a bad start, she still hopes to be able to right the bloc’s wrongs.

“Saying sorry only counts for something if it changes behaviour,” she added.

“The truth is it did not take long before everyone released that we must protect each other to protect ourselves.

“And the truth is that Europe has now become the world’s beating heart of solidarity.

“The real Europe is standing up, the one that is there for each other when it is needed the most.”

Former Brexit Party MEP Rupert Lowe tweeted: “EU Chief von der Leyen has offered “a heartfelt apology” to the Italian people over the EU’s awful response to the pandemic there.

“For many Italians that won’t be good enough.

“The EU wasn’t there for them in their hour of need. Many won’t forget that.”

Italy has suffered over 21,000 coronavirus-related desks and witnessed a total of 165,155 cases of infection since the outbreak reached its borders, according to the latest statistics.

Prime minister Giuseppe Conte was been forced shutdown the country’s already frail economy in a desperate bid to protect his citizens’ health.

The lockdown, which has entered its sixth week, has already seen swathes of usually packed restaurants and bars go out of business and other firms fighting for their survival.

In an interview last week, Mr Conte warned the EU risked “failure” over its response to the crisis.

He told the BBC: “We’re talking of something that started as a health emergency but turned into an economic and social emergency. It’s testing the economic structure of Italy and other countries in Europe and the world – that’s why we need economic and social response at a European level.”

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“It’s a big challenge to the existence of Europe and the history of Europe,” he added.

“We are not just writing pages in the books of economics, we are writing history books. This is a big appointment with history and we can’t miss it… If Europe fails to come up with a monetary and financial policy that is adequate for the biggest challenge since the Second World War, for sure, not only Italian citizens but European citizens will be disappointed.”

Mrs von der Leyen wants the creation of a new Marshall Plan to lead the EU’s economic recovery from the impact of the global pandemic.

The Commission chief said at least one trillion euros would have be mobilised in order to meet the needs of the bloc’s worst-hit countries.

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She said: “A European budget that with all its might is able to leverage the necessary money for a huge investment initiative in order to really restart the economic process.

“We’re not talking about a billion, we’re talking about a trillion, looking at the investment initiative that has to be done.”

Writing on Twitter, the German added: “Europe needs a new Marshall Plan. We will need massive public and private investments to rebuild the economy and create new jobs. The key to this is a new, powerful EU budget.”

She is hoping to use the coronavirus crisis to reconvene negotiations on the EU’s next multi-annual budget, which broke down in February, to create a financial vehicle to deliver support for those that need it.

The Marshall Plan financial support package was provided to Western Europe by the US in the 1940s to support the Continent’s recovery after the Second World War.

European leaders are expected to start discussions on the plans next week during an emergency European Council summit.

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