Top Italian figures have condemned an article in a German newspaper suggesting the mafia was waiting for an influx of European Union cash amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The opinion piece in Die Welt on how the EU could best support its countries financially through the pandemic has caused a stir in Italy, with politicians calling for the German government to condemn it.
“Countries in the EU should definitely help each other amid the coronavirus crisis. But is there a limit? Are there any controls in place?” the article opened.
“In Italy, the mafia is just waiting on a new windfall from Brussels.”
The comment has sparked outrage in Italy, with the country’s foreign minister saying it was “shameful and unacceptable”.
“Die Welt, an important German newspaper, urged Europe this morning to not help Italy because ... ‘the mafia is waiting for money from Brussels’,” Luigi Di Maio said.
“Italy is mourning its coronavirus victims today, but has mourned and still mourns victims of the mafia,” Luigi Di Maio said, adding he hoped to see the German government condemn the comments and distance itself from them.
Speaking about the comments, Fabiana Dadone, an Italian government minister, said: “You should never paint everyone with the same brush.”
She added: “Having the humility to apologise is the foundation to a reciprocal and respectful relationship.”
Mara Carfagna, the vice president of the Chamber of Deputies, said: “We expect a clear condemnation and an apology.”
“Italians are not members of the mafia, and are battling Covid-19 with their heads held high.”
The country has been one of the worst-affected in the world by the pandemic, with more than 143,600 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday, according to the latest figures.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, rejected demands by Italy on Thursday for common eurozone bonds to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t believe we should have common debt because of the situation of our political union and that’s why we reject this,” she said.
“But there are so many ways to show solidarity and I believe we will find a good solution.”
Die Welt‘s owner Axel Springer SE has been approached for comment about the article.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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