With the death rate continuing to grow and the economy on the brink of collapse, some voters have begun to question Italy’s membership of the 27-member bloc. COVID-19 has plunged Italy into its most severe crisis since World War 2, with more than 15,000 deaths from coronavirus and its economy set to suffer the deepest recession in its modern history. Rome has begged for help but its desperate pleas have fallen on death ears as rich northern member states, like Germany and the Netherlands, reject efforts to deliver financial aid.
Carlo Calenda, a member of the European Parliament for the pro-Brussels Action party, has warned of a growing crisis in confidence in the bloc.
Having won his seat under the slogan “We are Europeans”, he is now receiving doubting messages from supporters.
“This is an existential threat, I am not sure if we are going to make it,” he told the Financial Times.
“You have to consider my party is one of the most pro-European parties in Italy and I now have members writing to me saying: ‘Why do we want to stay in the EU? It is useless.’”
Mr Calenda, a former government minister and Italian permanent representative to the EU, has warned the tides are turning after Matteo Salvini’s eurosceptic Lega left the coalition government last year.
“A massive, massive shift is happening in Italy,” Mr Calenda said.
“You have thousands of pro-Europeans moving to this position.”
Senior politicians in Rome fear that unless the EU’s northern capitals can deliver a bold rescue package, Italy’s future inside the bloc is at risk.
Italian president Sergio Mattarella last month sent a public warning shot to Brussels, claiming citizens risk turning their back on the project forever if its institutions did not show solidarity with their country.
“I hope that everyone fully understands, before it is too late, the seriousness of the threat to Europe,” he said during a broadcast to the nation.
Former European Council president Donald Tusk, who presided over Brexit, has attempted to avert another membership crisis.
In an Italian survey, conducted by Tecne, 67 percent of respondents last month said they felt being part of the EU was a disadvantage to their country.
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Mr Salvini may have been sent to the opposition, but support for the eurosceptic politician could soon reemerge.
Lorenzo Pregliasco, a pollster at YouTrend, said: “There was a feeling before that the political system has marginalised the anti-EU forces.
“Now if pro-European party activists and politicians are no longer so sure how they feel, imagine what the voters think.”