And he suggested Rome will harbour feelings of resentment after getting “precious little help” from Brussels. At Thursday’s European Council meeting, leaders of the 27 member states will discuss a 500 billion euro-package of measures agreed by the bloc’s finance ministers. Sparks are likely to fly, given Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has already said he will not sign his country up to the plan, describing the response as “inadequate”, and calling for the issuing of so-called coronabonds which would spread the cost of financing debt issued to mitigate the impact of the pandemic across the bloc.
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Mr Hague, writing in The Daily Telegraph, outlined his concerns in the form of op-ed in which he highlighted eight ways in which the onset of the coronavirus would change the world.
He said: “For an obvious example of this, take a look at the eurozone.
“Some of us have argued for years that it cannot work in its current form.
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William Hague has said the eurozone faces an “existential crisis” (Image: GETTY)
Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (Image: GETTY)
“To put it crudely, Italians will not work as productively as Germans, and Germans will not agree to pay off the debts of Italians.”
Mr Hague added: “Without this crisis, such a fundamental chasm in the foundations of the euro would have continued to be a troubling but not imminent problem.
“Now it has yawned wide open.
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Italy has been hit harder by COVID-19 than anywhere else in Europe (Image: GETTY)
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When Italy has looked north in its hour of need, it has found belated sympathy and precious little help
“When Italy has looked north in its hour of need, it has found belated sympathy and precious little help.
“Suddenly, the EU faces an existential crisis.”
The European Union has been accused of a sluggish response to the crisis, while European Central Bank (ECB) chief Christine Lagarde was likewise criticised for rejecting calls to cut interest rates to ease borrowing costs for highly indebted eurozone countries.
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European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde (Image: GETTY)
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (Image: GETTY)
After the finance ministers’ meeting, Mr Conte said: “At the European Council I will not sign anything until I have a set of measures that are adequate to tackle the challenge we face.”
The European Council meeting will be in the form of a video conference as result of ongoing social distancing regulations.
A joint statement issued by members of the European Council on March 26 said: “The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an unprecedented challenge for Europe and the whole world.
IMF projections in the wake of COVID-19 (Image: Daily Express)
“It requires urgent, decisive, and comprehensive action at the EU, national, regional and local levels.
“We will do everything that is necessary to protect our citizens and overcome the crisis, while preserving our European values and way of life.
“We recognise the burden these measures put on all our citizens and praise their sense of responsibility.
The eurozone is a 19-country monetary union in which the euro is the official currency (Image: GETTY)
“We express our deepest sympathy with the victims of the pandemic and their families.
“We commend the dedication and tireless efforts of the healthcare professionals at the forefront of the outbreak and the contribution of those who provide essential services to the population.
“We will cooperate with the international community and our external partners in combating the global pandemic.”