Coronavirus, Europe in need of a united front by Roberto Di Maulo CESI Vice-President and FISMIC Confsal Secretary-General

In the midst of the crisis that the pandemic has brought to the hearts of the families and peoples of the world, Europe is called upon to make an exceptional effort in order to ensure that the acute phase of the crisis is managed in the best way possible, given the dramatic circumstances. There is a need for strong guidelines to be given to the individual Member States to ensure a way out of the crisis with the least possible trauma to employment and economy.

Until now, in the European debate, contrasts between so-called rigorist countries and the south of Europe have prevailed. Beyond flags, we believe that at this stage, a common sense of providing Europe with a collective economic and social commitment as well as common health care, capable of putting in place ordinary and extraordinary tools to support recovery, must prevail.

So far significant measures have been taken and tax measures are multiplying. The anti-European sentiment and a dangerous underestimation of the measures taken until now by Brussels and Frankfurt must be overcome. Europe is there, it exists, it is effective, it is flexible, it is fast and, while not yet doing everything it could do, it has already done a lot to avoid some European countries from falling on hard times.

The European Commission, in less than a month, reviewed the state aid rules; set up a first € 37 billion investment fund to provide liquidity for small businesses; proposed to use every single euro of the European Union budget for policies aimed at protecting the lives of its fellow citizens; launched a one hundred billion euro (Sure) support initiative to mitigate unemployment risks in the event of an emergency; proposed to redirect all available structural funds to respond to the crisis generated by the coronavirus; applied full flexibility to tax rules; suspended budget discipline rules and created a potential bazooka worth € 2.770 billion, more than the US $ 2 billion.

To these amounts, we must also add other precious resources which are strategic, crucial and vital. Those that come from the other guardian angels of Europe, such as the ECB: to the 120 billion of Quantitative Easing already planned until the end of the year, it has flanked and additional 750 which will allow for substantial purchases of debts issued by member states and their respective companies; and like Bei which will present a proposal to the Eurogroup for the creation of a guarantee fund that will allow European companies to offer liquidity for investments up to around 200 billion.

Are these measures sufficient? Of course not, but the populist view like Trump’s must be overcome and further interventions must be targeted to support an economy that has been stagnant for over a month and which, at the time of recovery, will have to deal with giants such as the Us and China.

Marshall plans are currently being discussed at the Eurogroup, but in order to be successful, the reconstruction plan must, first of all, have dimensions comparable to those implemented by China and the USA and have flexible financing instruments for businesses, both for small and big. A plan capable of favouring solutions to European giants in order to face crisis and technological transformation effectively and win the global competition.

In recent days, the European Commission has launched an instrument (SURE), funded with 100 billion that can effectively deal with the employment emergency, approved by all governments. Well, that instrument can be enhanced, it is able to issue guarantee bonds (Coronabond and European Bond) and it could overcome the ongoing ideological debate giving perspective to the European economy in view of the recovery. But this is not enough, the proposal of an Esm without conditions could be fine. A new type of unconditional Esm instrument could pave the way for the ECB’s role as lender of last resort of a government in difficulty for the pandemic. 240 billion euros that will be accessible to States unconditionally, this for Italy could mean an additional 36 billion to improve the national health safety network put to the test by COVID-19.

Furthermore, the discussion is open to launching an extraordinary plan of 500 billion that the EU has allocated through various tools to overcome the economic crisis and which, in our opinion, should be guaranteed by the issue of European assurance funds. This must happen because we are in an exceptional moment which we must face with exceptional interventions.

Therefore, we suggest strengthening the existing tools, starting from SURE to give European people the financial strength necessary to overcome an unprecedented crisis. The fate of hundreds of millions of men and women exhausted by the pandemic, as well as industries, is at stake. We, Italians, must be aware that without the EU the road to recovery would be even more difficult. But the EU must be equally aware that without Italy, it would not exist. This is what is at stake. Rulers should put away the cross vetoes dictated by childish political reasoning and face the dramatic phase with measures capable of making a qualitative leap forward for the whole old Continent, also taking advantage of the new 2021/2027 European multiannual budget in order to mobilize large financial resources that could be used to truly make a ‘Europe of peoples’ and not of big finance.

Roberto Di Maulo
CESI Vice-President
FISMIC Confsal Secretary-General