Grazie Italia – “Italy’s sacrifice probably indirectly saved lives in the rest of Europe.”

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European Council President Charles Michel praised Italy for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday, declaring in an address to Italian leaders that the country is “leading the way” for the rest of Europe.

In a speech via video to the gathering of the “Stati Generali dell’economia,” convened by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to explore ways to revive Italy’s troubled economy, Michel said: “The tragedy in Italy, and subsequently also in Spain, raised awareness and pushed the rest of Europe to take drastic measures more quickly,” Michel said, adding that “Italy’s sacrifice probably indirectly saved lives in the rest of Europe.”

Michel said that the Italian citizens set an example to other Europeans with the discipline, endurance and courage which has enabled them to gradually stop the spread of the epidemic.”

EU Commission’s President Von Der Leyen said “Italy has been hit before anyone else in Europe, and you have been hit the hardest. Thousands have died – and this is a void that no one can ever fill. My thoughts are with the victims and their families. And also with the doctors, healthcare workers, and every citizen who has helped save lives and deliver essential services.

Grazie, Italia. Your government has taken bold measures, asking people to stay home for long weeks and months. It required courage, but it worked. And you led the way for other Member States.

You have also taken bold measures to secure jobs, protect companies and limit the damage to the Italian economy. And after the deep fall in the past months, economic activity is gradually rebounding.

Yet we all understand that the recovery will be a generational challenge, not only for Italy but for Europe as a whole. Today I can say: The spirit of our founders is back. Europe is back.

Italy must not let the economic crisis wrought by the coronavirus pandemic “go to waste” and should instead reform its stagnant economy so that it thrives after the outbreak, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said on Saturday. “I therefore encourage you, as policymakers, not to let this crisis go to waste,” Lagarde told Italian policymakers via video-link during a consultation launched by the government. “My institution, the ECB, will play its part within its mandate. But it is for you to prove to citizens that our societies will emerge from this transformation stronger and greener,” she added. 

About Stati Generali (General States of the Economy) 

For a few days now, the political scene in Italy has been dominated by the polemics surrounding the General States of the Economy. But what are these?

The idea of an open forum made up of different economic and institutional actors and other players, «to restart Italy» after the coronavirus emergency and to plan and kick start the economy was announced by President Giuseppe Conte during a press conference on the 3rd of June.

After a few days of elaboration, the programme now seems close to finalized.

The General States will be held between Saturday 13th June and Sunday 21st June at Villa Pamphilj, in Rome. Till now, it is being envisaged that no journalists will be present and the event will not be screened live: everything will be held behind closed doors.

The premier could reach out with a written summary document of the various proposals, starting with the dossier by Vittorio Colao’s group, examined in recent weeks. Three – according to what has been announced – are the cornerstones of this summary: the simplification dossier, the revitalization of the infrastructures and the extension of High Speed incentives for investment.

According to what has emerged, the first day, was dedicated to international interventions through videoconferencing: the President of the World Bank Kristalina Georgieva, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli and – also if there is still a margin of uncertainty – the president of the ECB, Christine Lagarde. The Governor of the Bank of Italy, Ignazio Visco, should speak immediately afterwards.

Monday should see an intervention by Colao, who chaired the task force that presented the government with dozens of proposals for the revival of the economy. The social partners should then speak (even if, on Wednesday, the CGIL leader Maurizio Landini claimed that he had not yet received any invitation).

Tuesday would be the turn of Confindustria and other business associations.

Saturday afternoon should be dedicated to a debate moderated by Harvard professor Raffaella Sadun: with the participation of two French economists, Olivier Jean Blanchard and Esther Duflo, who won last year’s Nobel prize for economics

Prime Minister Conte should be summarizing all the outcomes at a press conference as a conclusion to the whole event.

Participants should include CEOs or presidents of the main Italian industrial and financial entities – as well as larger subsidiaries such as Eni, Enel, Leonardo and Fincantieri – and some of the best known Italian entrepreneurs, economists and architects (from Oscar Farinetti to Renzo Piano and Massimiliano Fuksas).

The former governor of the Bank of Italy and president of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi will not be present, because of the roles he has held and for the choice of institutional confidentiality he has made since he left the ECB.

Nor will there be representatives of the center-right parties. At the end of a summit held on Wednesday, Matteo Salvini (Lega), Giorgia Meloni (Fratelli d’Italia) and Antonio Tajani (vice-president of Forza Italia) decided not to participate in the meeting, despite the wish expressed in the opposite direction expressed by the leader by Forza Italia Silvio Berlusconi, on Tuesday evening.

According to what was stated, the motivation for this choice is linked to the fact that the General States would not be an institutional seat: “If they convene us at Palazzo Chigi, we will go,” said Antonio Tajani. The Prime Minister replied that Villa Pamphilj “is the institutional seat of the Prime Minister’s high representation: to invite (the opposition parties) there so that we can plan the Italy we want, the Italy of the relaunch is a gesture of attention towards them. A more institutional place than this, there isn’t, in fact we also invite heads of state and government”.

The idea of ​​General States also clashes, at the moment, with considerable uncertainty about the financial resources that be possible to put in place to support Italy’s relaunch. On the 37 billion from the European Stability Mechanism there is resistance from the 5 Star Movement; on the other instruments put in place by the EU for the next few years, and subject to confirmation of structural reforms, there are still missing points, since the June EU Council, which should launch them definitively, may not be decisive.

Faced with the EU’s request for rigorous plans as a condition for the disbursement of funds, the PD – while giving its support to the operation of the General States, and stressing that “there are no contradictions” with Conte – asked that the government makes a “qualitative leap”: “We are in a crucial moment”, said the secretary of the Democratic Party Nicola Zingaretti, “the fate of the legislature is at stake”.

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