Italy must learn to look after itself: Dutch PM

Italy must learn to look after itself in the next economic crisis, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in an interview with the magazine of the largest Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. Rutte said he understands Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and needs help, but the country must also learn to stand on its own two feet, NOS reports.

"The impact of the pandemic has been huge on Italy, both in terms of human lives and economic damage. We understand and therefore we must help Italy," Rutte said. But that aid must be accompanied by reforms, he added, because Italy must make itself resilient to future crises. 

"I think it is admirable what Prime Minister Conte has done so far. The measures he has taken to make Italy more productive and competitive. Unpopular measures have also been taken, and that is a good start. It is crucial that Italy is next time able to respond to a crisis on its own."

The European Commission proposed to provide 750 billion euros in aid to EU countries hit hard by the coronavirus crisis - 500 billion euros as subsidies, the rest as loans. Italy would receive the largest amount at around 170 billion euros, if this proposal is accepted.

Italy can count on help from the Netherlands, but not free money, Rutte said. If it were up to the Netherlands, the EU recovery fund would consist only of loans. "Because loans are help too," he said. Rutte is considered the leader of the "frugal four" countries who have been fighting for strict conditions to be attached to EU coronavirus aid.