EU rescue package: borrowing to prevent a north-south split

After feeling betrayed by Brussels’ initial pandemic response, Italians have welcomed the new fiscal deal

Sam Fleming in Brussels, Miles Johnson in Rome, and Ian Mount in Madrid JULY 24 2020

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte was unrestrained in his triumphalism about the deal he secured at this week’s crisis summit in Brussels. The unprecedented pan-European rescue package, he boasted, “would change the face of Italy”.

Even Mr Conte’s most hardened domestic critics found it difficult to dismiss the agreement by EU leaders to create a €750bn pandemic recovery fund.

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the hard-right Brothers of Italy party, who had blasted Mr Conte and EU’s response early in the crisis, came the closest she has ever to outright praise. “I want to say that Conte came out [of the talks] on his feet,” she acknowledged, before quickly adding “he could have and should have done better”.

The Eurosceptic League leader Matteo Salvini, who had hoped to replace Mr Conte as prime minister last year and who now languishes in opposition, was forced to accept that “if there is something good for Italy then we will all be happy”. The government-friendly daily Il Fatto Quotidiano duly ran a front-page picture depicting the prime minister as a Covid mask-wearing hero holding a comedy-sized cheque.

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