The global pandemic has seen pro-Brussels voices being drowned out by a new wave of euroscepticism. Italians have been left seething by the the EU’s slow and often lacklustre response to the continent’s worst-affected country. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen was forced to offer a grovelling apology, conceding the bloc had failed Italy.
But her remorseful concession has largely fallen on deaf ears, with hatred for Brussels and its most influential member state, Germany, continuing to grow.
“Italy was in love with the European project and it has fallen out of love,” Marc Lazar, a history professor at Sciences Po University in Paris told Bloomberg.
“I don’t know if Europe will be able to regain that trust.”
Shock opinion polls carried out within the last month has painted a gloomy picture of Italy’s current relationship with the Brussels project.
In one, 59 percent of respondents said the country’s EU membership now makes no sense.
And in another, most Italians described China, where coronavirus originated as a friend and almost half said Germany is now an enemy.
Prime minister Giuseppe Conte has desperately tried to reverse the worrying eurosceptic trend in his country, pleading with EU leaders to do more to help him rebuild the bloc’s third-largest economy.
He will join colleagues for a virtual summit on Thursday, once again hoping to push the creation of “coronabonds” to share the debt of the recovery from the global pandemic.
The concept has been widely rejected by Germany and the Netherlands, leaving it an unlikely prospect.
Pier Paolo Baretta, of the finance ministry, said: “If Italians don’t see a positive outcome, euroscepticism will grow, also an anti-Germany policy which could be rooted in our country’s deep psychological past.
“In our historic memory, Germany has always been an adversary in times of difficulty.”
Italians have witnessed over 24,000 family, friends and colleagues lose their lives to coronavirus since the devastating outbreak begun.
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Hospitals in the worst-hit regions have been left on the brink as they struggled to keep as many patients alive as possible.
During that time both France and Germany banned the exports of much-needed medical supplies and protective equipment.
European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde triggered a huge sell-off in the Italian markets with her attempt to prop up the Eurozone economy.
Now Matteo Salvini’s Brussels-bashing League party are once again on the rise after being forced out of government last year.
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The eurosceptic movement is now Italy’s most popular political party, and its leader is playing to a crowd sickened by the actions of eurocrats.
“This isn’t a union,” Mr Salvini last month wrote on Twitter.
“First we defeat the virus, then we have a rethink about Europe. If it helps, we say goodbye, without even a thank you.”
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