The agreement also empowers a single EU government to defer payments if it believes another country is not living up to its reform commitments.
In Italy, the conditions attached to the subsidies have raised the specter of the so-called Troika – the decision-making group of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – that has become synonymous with punishing austerity in Greece in the aftermath of the 2015 debt crisis.
Critics on the right say the deal weakens Italian sovereignty, warning that it could lead to EU demands to reverse populist-led pension and welfare legislation.
The corona virus is a “Trojan horse” that has enabled Europe to take over Italy, said Roberto Fiore, leader of the far-right Forza Nuova party. “The Troika has won”, he said on Twitter. “We receive € 68 billion in grants at a very high price – every last remainder of our sovereignty.”
Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League, also attacked the deal, saying that the terms attached to the recovery fund amounted to “an unconditional surrender” by Italy.
Italy will be forced to implement mandatory reforms across Europe when it comes to pensions, work, justice, health and education, Salvini said. He accused the leaders of the so-called ‘economical’ northern countries, including the Dutch Mark Rutte, of his attempt to dismantle his flagship formation, which lowered the lowest retirement age to 62.
“Every Rutte who comes next spring and says ‘I will not give the money to Italy if they do not lower the pensions’ is possible,” he told a news conference Tuesday in Parliament in Rome.
In reality, Rutte failed to veto payments to non-compliant countries, but instead negotiated a “super emergency brake”, allowing individual states to defer payments for up to three months, under the supervision of EU leaders and under the supervision of the European Commission.
The Commission has also explicitly stated that the national plans expected from EU countries will be far from the austerity policies needed in response to economic rescue measures. Any reforms are based on country-specific recommendations from the Commission and not from competing countries.
Still, Salvini claimed that EU-imposed reforms would harm Italy and make it less competitive. He also warned that the mechanisms for disbursement of EU recovery funds could create leverage in disputes on other issues such as migration.
“When the League returns to government and blocks ports, Brussels will wag its finger at the first blocked boat and say we are mean and mean,” he said.
Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, was also critical of the deal, leaving Italy with less access to grants than initially proposed and at risk of “an unacceptable takeover of a Sovereign’s economic and political decisions. nation. “
The super emergency brake “will act as a veto by any other name,” she said.
Euroskeptic politicians were not alone in criticizing the deal; even some pro-European voices questioned the deal. Stefano Fassina, head of the left-wing Free-and-Equal party, called the conditions for subsidies and the emergency brake “seriously risky.”
Carlo Calenda, an Italian MEP and leader of the centrist party Azione – who took part in the European elections last year under the slogan “We are European” – criticized the “triumphant tones” of the Conte government. He pointed out that funding is less abundant than it seems, as Italy makes a significant contribution to the EU budget. He also regretted the fact that sparing countries and Germany have received higher discounts on their payments for the next seven-year EU budget.
For Conte’s government, much will depend on how she presents the deal, according to Raffaele Marchetti, a professor of international relations at Luiss University in Rome.
If it can portray the outcome of the summit as a victory, it can help unite the government, according to Marchetti, pending a difficult decision on how to apply for further EU funding for health care. The coalition is currently still divided over accepting money from the European Stability Mechanism, which was used to implement austerity measures on Greece.
Imposing reforms by the EU can also have a positive effect if it helps overcome local resistance to painful but necessary measures, he said. “In the past, Brussels has been instrumental in implementing reforms.”
Among Italians, the EU’s delayed response to the coronavirus crisis left many feeling abandoned in their time of need. That feeling may be hard to bend – one survey in April raised the number of Italians with little or no confidence in the EU to 70 percent – but effective use of the new EU funds could help, Marchetti said.
“Without the money, Italy would have serious problems,” he said, “but the government must communicate the added value of the funding, which it has not done so far, to the citizen.”