The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has asked the EU "not to make tragic mistakes" in its management of the coronavirus crisis, warning that if it does, "the whole EU project will lose its raison d'être".
In an interview published by the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore on Saturday, Conte said the coronavirus pandemic could "destroy" the European economy.
"Not doing anything would leave to our children the burden of a destroyed economy," Conte said.
"We want to be up to the task. So let's launch a great European Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, that would support the entire European economy."
The Italian PM said that there had been "more than a disagreement, a strong and frank confrontation" between himself and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the EU Council on Thursday, which was held over video conference due to the pandemic.
"We are living a crisis that has caused a great number of victims among our fellow citizens and is causing a major economic recession," Conte said.
"I represent a country that is suffering greatly. I cannot afford to play for time", he added, as Italy has recorded over 9,000 deaths since the pandemic hit the country.
"In Italy, but also in other member states, we have no choice but to take tragic decisions."
Conte delivered a stark warning to his fellow EU leaders: "We must avoid making such tragic choices in Europe. If Europe does not show itself to be up to this task, the whole European project risks losing its raison d'être in the eyes of our own citizens."