The Italian politician, who served as the 10th President of the European Commission, said: “This is like a war, but the EU has no strategy”. Mr Prodi hit out at the bloc by demanding Europe steps up to its role as an “anchor of democracy” if it does not want to “disappear from the map”. The ex-president of the European Commission described the battle against COVID-19 as not being like the 2008 financial crisis that started from finance and then affected the rest of the economy.
He warned that this pandemic “affects everyone”.
He added: “It affects the restaurateurs and those who have to eat.
“There is a widespread idea that European solidarity ends up helping others, but the Dutch must understand something: if a big crisis happens, who is going to buy their tulips?
“We need a strategy or we will disappear from the map.”
In Europe, he added, “there is no strategy for the future,” but “the group of countries that reject austerity by definition has become much stronger.”
He also called for more financial help from the European Central Bank.
He stressed how the EU needs a common strategy and, “a strong immediate incentive for businesses like the one in America, but we haven’t seen anything like that”.
He added: “We don’t understand, that Europe has remained the only anchor of democracy.
The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), which unites the parties of 11 EU leaders, including Angela Merkel and Leo Varadkar, issued a statement on Monday calling on the government to extend the Brexit transition beyond the end of the year.
Christophe Hansen, an MEP from Luxembourg who sits on the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, said: “Under these extraordinary circumstances, I cannot see how the UK government would choose to expose itself to the double whammy of the coronavirus and the exit from the EU single market, which will inevitably add to the disruption, deal or no deal.
“I can only hope that common sense and substance will prevail over ideology. An extension of the transition period is the only responsible thing to do.”
David McAllister, the German MEP who leads the European Parliament’s work on the future relationship with the UK, said the pandemic complicated an “already very ambitious” schedule.
He added: “The ball is now clearly in the British court.”
Under the withdrawal agreement, the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020, terminating British membership of the EU single market and customs union.
But it can be extended for one or two years if both sides agree by 1 July.