The former Italian Prime Minister and former President of the European Commission warns that Germany and the Netherlands “are playing with fire” with their position on the crisis
Romano Prodi has been locked up in his home in Bologna for a month because of the coronavirus and does not feel like saying goodbye. “I’m not going out for a walk,” he says humorously, agreeing to continue the talk. At 80 years old, the two-time Italian Prime Minister and President of the European Commission (EC) from 1999 to 2004 maintained his didactic and leisurely tone, thus displaying the nickname by which he is known in Italian politics: ‘Il Professore ‘. “At the beginning of the pandemic I was afraid, but now I am more relaxed», He explains in a telematic meeting held this Monday with several international media, including this newspaper, in which he analyzes the problematic situation in which the EU finds itself due to the coronavirus.
‘Europe is divided and has trouble making decisions is not a new problem. All the European institutions have seen their role reduced in recent years while that of the countries has increased. The only strong body is precisely the one that is not democratic, the European Central Bank », says Prodi, who confesses himself disappointed at the inability of the current leaders to take advantage of the health crisis to reinforce the unity of the EU. And this even though “this storm is the same for everyone” and that it is an event “so diverse that it could change things.”
Prodi dedicates the harshest words to the Netherlands and Germany, the countries most opposed to allowing greater flexibility in the public accounts of the most hit nations due to the pandemic, like Spain and Italy. “Don’t play with fire,” he warns, noting that the economies of European countries are so connected that any problem from one member of the EU ends up having repercussions for the rest. “The Netherlands is in charge of proposing theology and Germany is putting it into practice. They make a good policeman and a bad policeman, although it is not clear here who is the good one. It is a team effort”, denounces ‘Il Professore’. “Do we want to spoil the advantages that Europe gives us all? If we continue in this direction, we will provoke an anti-German, anti-Dutch or anti-Italian reaction, depending on the country. If we do not face this situation together, we will all end badly ».
The issuance of joint debt by the EU, the so-called Eurobonds, as a financial instrument to combat the crisis caused by the coronavirus, is for the former President of the EC an urgent need. “He economic problem it requires quick action. Aid must reach companies as soon as possible. It is better to go into debt now than to do it later, when it may be too late, “he stresses, regretting that Eurobonds have not existed for years. “When we created the euro, it is evident that the single currency could not exist without Eurobonds. Then it was thought that they would be created in the future, but then the spirit changed and now it doesn’t seem like the time to take that step forward.
The great successes
Prodi celebrates that the tremendous European achievements come “when we are all together” and recognizes that Euroscepticism may increase in Spain and Italy in the face of the position of other EU countries amid the emergency caused by the coronavirus. “If you put yourself in the place of an ordinary person who sees that in the face of an epidemic you ask for solidarity and what arises are differences, can you ask him to love Europe?” A poll published yesterday by ‘La Repubblica’ shows that only 30% of Italians trust Brussels today. Ten years ago they were 49% and, in 2000, 57%.
“In recent years, we have seen that the States are trying to see who can do more. France and Germany sometimes if they allied and sometimes not. The north is fighting against the south and the east against the west. Why love something that you don’t know what your common interest?, asks ‘Il Professore’. “All these tensions have eroded public opinion.” In his opinion, the change in the cycle was marked by the failure of the draft of the European Constitution in 2005. “Then power passed from the Commission to the Council, which is an expression of national interest and no longer supranational.” Another blow to European identity was Brexit, as “part of the world saw the EU with British eyes. It has been a loss of image, although the United Kingdom always wanted to feel marginal in Europe. As President of the EC, one of the big problems was always dealing with the British ».