EU left Italy ‘practically alone’ to fight coronavirus, so Rome looked for help elsewhere, incl Russia – ex-FM Frattini to RT

24 Mar, 2020

The EU’s initial response to the massive outbreak of coronavirus in Italy was largely “inadequate,” and a lack of European solidarity opened the doors for Russia and China, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told RT.

The new epicenter of the dreaded pandemic, Italy, has been struggling to stop the spread of Covid-19 for weeks now. The disease has already killed more than six thousand people in the country, with over 60 thousand people infected.

EU tried to pin the blame on Italy

The EU clearly underestimated the virus, blaming the outbreak in Italy on its national healthcare system flaws, according to the two-time foreign minister and OSCE representative. As a result, Brussels, which preaches pan-European solidarity, failed to act when this solidarity was needed in the face of a crisis that eventually affected the entire bloc.

Frankly speaking, Brussels is not doing enough. At the very first moment, Italy was practically alone against the virus. Many said it was all because of the Italian habits, because Italians do not respect the rules. Suddenly, they realized all the other countries were equally affected.

The situation in other major EU states like Germany and France deteriorated rapidly, forcing them to deal with thousands of infected on their own soil.

“Everyone just focused on the situation at home before even thinking about helping others,” Andrea Giannotti, the executive director of the Italian Institute of Eurasian Studies, told RT.

The lack of solidarity was recently noted from outside of the bloc – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic decried European solidarity as a myth, while praising Beijing for its assistance. His remarks came after Serbia received five million masks from China, which it could not get in Europe.

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The EU is now trying “to do more” and somehow “make up” for its initial poor execution of a coordinated response, former Italian MP Dario Rivolta said.

Brussels has indeed ramped up its efforts, suspending the bloc’s strict Stability and Growth Pact regulating budgetary policy among others. Frattini particularly hailed this decision, which allows Rome to act freely in terms of budgetary spending, as “very important.” But this came only after Europe “realized its [measures] were inadequate to give a united response.”

Still, it is not enough, Rivolta told RT, adding that “for the moment,” there are no major changes. And while financial relief is necessary, there are other things to be considered, such as medical assistance.

“As for the medical aspects, the only thing that the EU did up to now was to put barriers between Italy and other countries.”

Huge support in terms of expertise

At one point, requests for help were sent out all over the world, according to Giannotti.

“Some Italian embassies were tasked with negotiating with local governments in order to find any opportunities to receive assistance from abroad, including help with equipment, which Italy lacks.” Russia and China were among those who responded.

In total, Moscow prepared nine cargo planes with emergency aid, delivering vital medical equipment and supplies, as well as bringing experienced specialists in infectious diseases and military doctors to Italy. Now they will be deployed to the most affected regions in the country’s north.

Frattini said the help was of the utmost importance: “What Russia has done is not comparable to what other countries have done, including China because China also sent something but not comparable with the support provided by Russia.”

The specialists have provided “very huge support in terms of expertise… in terms of virology.”

In total, Moscow prepared nine cargo planes with emergency aid, delivering vital medical equipment and supplies, as well as bringing experienced specialists in infectious diseases and military doctors to Italy. Now they will be deployed to the most affected regions in the country’s north.

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Frattini said the help was of the utmost importance: “What Russia has done is not comparable to what other countries have done, including China because China also sent something but not comparable with the support provided by Russia.”

The specialists have provided “very huge support in terms of expertise… in terms of virology.”