ON THE BRINK: Italian Government ‘Facing Collapse’ Over Coronavirus Aid

MEMBERS of the Left-wing Five Star Movement have threatened to end its coalition with other Leftist parties in protest against measures being proposed to accept loans from the European Union to deal with the massive problems Italy is facing as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Right-wing Lega party, is also opposed to the aid package.

Some members of the Five Star Movement, or M5S, are objecting to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s proposal to accept funds from the EU’s European Stability Mechanism (ESM), known by Italians as the “Cura Italia.” The proposal, which was negotiated by the member states with the EU’s finance ministers, would make 240 billion euros in loans available, according to a report by Il Giornale. Conte previously promised that he would never accept a loan from the ESM, however.

The Five Star Movement, or M5S, is currently the largest party in the Italian Parliament. If it were to withdraw from the ruling coalition, it would force new elections to be called. Such an election could end up returning Salvini’s Lega to government, as it currently leads in the polls.

Senator Mario Michele Giarrusso of M5S made his opposition clear and said he expected other party members to support his opposition to the bill, which could lead to infighting within the M5S itself. “If Conte does not keep his word, the M5S will have to pull the plug on this government,” Giarrusso said on Friday. “Without ifs and without buts!”

Vito Crimi, the M5S’s leader, assured Giarrusso that both he and Conte still prefer the idea of having the EU issue so-called “Corona bonds,” which would distribute the debt among all the member states, as opposed to activating the ESM. The idea of such bonds is being resisted by wealthy member states such as Germany and the Netherlands, however.

Senator Salvini also objected to the proposed move, claiming that ordinary Italians would never see any of the money, according to another report by Il Giornale. Salvini is aligned with Senator and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Forza Italia on this issue, as both have said that they would reject the ESM proposal. Salvini warned last month that unless a minimum of 100 billion euros are distributed, it could lead to a revolutionary situation in Italy.

Austria, Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands are all rejecting the corona bonds proposal, however, and it seems unlikely that without their support that the ESM can be avoided, as previously reported by Voice of Europe.

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