EU chief says Europe owes Italy a ‘heartfelt’ apology

Europe owes Italy “a heartfelt apology” for not being there when the country was severly suffering from the consequences of coronavirus pandemic, the head of the European Union executive said on Thursday.

Speaking at the European parliament, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said truth was needed to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, including political honesty.

Too many were not there on time to help Italy at the very beginning, Leyen noted, adding that it is right there to say that that Europe as a whole offers a heartfelt apology.

She claimed that Europe is now “the world’s beating heart of solidarity,”. She cited deliveries of ventilators to Spain, the Czech Republic’s decision to open hospitals to French coronavirus patients, as well as the Polish paramedics and Romanian doctors saving lives in Italy.

The direct apology to Italy went further than von der Leyen’s previous expressions of regret, where she chided member states for an “only-for-me response” during the early phase of the spread of the pandemic.

At the beginning of the health crisis, France and Germany imposed export bans on vital medical equipment, while no European country initially answered Italy’s call for help via the EU’s emergency mechanism, she added.

A mid-March opinion poll compiled by The Guardian found that 88 percent of Italians felt Europe was failing to support Italy, results that rattled Brussels and other national capitals.

EU leaders will be meeting next Thursday, where they will again try to chart a common path out of the health crisis, but they remain divided on the best economic rescue plan.