Angela Merkel loves to relax in Italy. In summer it usually comes to Sulden in South Tyrol. She likes Easter on the island of Ischia. This year the Chancellor prefers Germany as a holiday destination because of the corona pandemic. In the meantime, she enjoys a high reputation in Italy again. It looked very different two months ago. The Germans were the unsolidarity, the determinants, the ugly face of Europe. The relationship between Germany and Italy was bad at the height of the Corona crisis, old images of the enemy shaped the political discourse.
But suddenly the tide turned. Merkel is suddenly the “good one” and the Germans are very welcome in Italy. The summer season is approaching and a large part of the Italian vacationers come from Germany. When Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio is in Berlin on Friday, he also wants to promote his country as a safe holiday destination.
“Many Germans can hardly wait”
“The aim is to show everyone that Italy is ready to receive foreign tourists,” said Di Maio to his counterpart Heiko Maas before the trip. The number of cases of infections is declining, travel is safe, the message. Maas in turn spoke in an interview shortly before the visit about his compatriots’ longing for Italy: “Many Germans can hardly wait.”
At the height of the Corona crisis, the Italian government was less favorable to Berlin. When hospitals in Lombardy were on the verge of collapse, it was particularly bad that Germany had imposed an export ban on materials such as respiratory masks and protective suits and glasses. And the categorical no to the communitisation of debts via so-called “corona bonds” put the anti-Germany mood on top of it. The fact that the federal government brought Italian Covid sufferers to Germany was less noticed by the public.
“Merkel and the miracle of a Germany that suddenly became good”
It is a tradition in Italian politics to present yourself as a victim. This also distracts from your own problems. And it seems to be fruitful for the people too. According to a survey, the confidence of Italians in Germany fell to 26 percent in early May – in January 2019 the value was still 42 percent.
But now it’s different. “Merkel and the miracle of a Germany that has suddenly become good,” wrote the newspaper “Il Foglio”. The EU reconstruction fund brought the decisive turning point. For this, Germany wants to accept massive European borrowing via the EU budget for the first time. With French President Emmanuel Macron, Merkel had proposed a program of economic recovery worth 500 billion euros, which should primarily benefit crisis countries such as Italy. Since then, the waves have been smoothed out. Both countries are closely linked economically.
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New bogeyman has already been found
Rome has now found a new bogeyman: Austria does not yet want to open its border with Italy. German vacationers are allowed to drive through Austria on the way to Italy and back home. But Italians are not yet allowed to go to the Alpine Republic. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte spoke of “discriminatory measures”.
For many tourists, however, political disputes are not decisive for the season. Rather, they want to convey a picture of an Italy that is not infected across the country. “There has never been an emergency here on Lake Garda,” said Paolo Artelio, President of the Lago di Garda Veneto Tourism Consortium, the German Press Agency. “And the Germans know that they are treated like relatives here.”