By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - Spain and Italy called on the EU to increase coordination on the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as migration, after a bilateral summit held in Mallorca on Wednesday.
"There is a strong harmony between Spain and Italy when it comes to the idea of a united European response to the crises we face," said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. "Our bilateral cooperation can turn into a motor that will drive Europe forward."
Spain and Italy are home to nearly a quarter of all EU citizens and contribute around 22% of its GDP.
The countries' two leaders have deepened their relationship throughout the pandemic. They were both major proponents of the EU's €750 billion ($893 billion) recovery plan, which Spanish premier Pedro Sanchez said could be as pivotal as the creation of the euro currency.
The departure of the far-right politician, Matteo Salvini, from Italy's governing coalition has also eased tensions between the neighboring countries.
The massive European aid package, however, is currently being blocked by Hungary and Poland, whose leaders want to see scrapped a stipulation tying aid to obeying the rule of law.
Despite these conditions, Sanchez said he was optimistic the package would pass before the end of the year.
"We're sure that these countries will come to understand that not only Spanish and Italian citizens, but no one in Europe can wait any longer [for the financial stimulus]," said Sanchez.
The two leaders also called for more European coordination related to the pandemic in aspects like mobility, border control and vaccination.
Conte explained that he had been in touch with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss the issue of Austria opening ski resorts over the holiday season.
"It's not to invade on the decisions that every state is taking, but we're looking for coordination to stop people moving across borders without any organization or safety guarantees," he said.
The other major point of agreement between the two countries was on migration.
On Wednesday, Conte and Sanchez, alongside their Greek and Maltese counterparts, signed a joint memorandum that slammed the EU's new Migration and Asylum Pact.
The countries argue that there needs to be more shared responsibility on migrants in the EU and that processing them should not be left to the Mediterranean countries that are their main points of entry.