The Corona crisis is a severe test for the European Union. There is a fear that the EU might break down
In the Corona crisis, there are increasing warnings of the disintegration of the European Union. This danger was conjured up on Thursday not only by the Prime Ministers of Italy and Spain, but also by EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and CDU politician Friedrich Merz.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many of the 27 states had acted uncoordinated and at the expense of their partners. German export restrictions on protective clothing caused bitterness, as did border controls that hinder the movement of goods and freedom of travel within the internal market.
Added to this is the fierce dispute over aid against the economic crisis and possible community bonds, so-called corona bonds.
“The EU is in danger if there is no solidarity,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told the parliament in Madrid. Spain, along with Italy and other countries, is calling for corona bonds, which Germany and other states are opposing.
Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte made a similar statement. “It is a great challenge for the existence of Europe and the history of Europe,” Conte told the British BBC.
“I myself and other European leaders must rise to this challenge.” The Corona crisis, he said, was a test of the Italian economic fabric.
“That is why we need an economic and social response at European level.” In “Bild live” Conte had earlier said: “Otherwise we’ll have to write off Europe and everybody does their thing.”
Friedrich Merz: Solidarity is not a one-way street
EU Commission Vice-President Timmermans pointed out that the crisis is hitting the southern EU countries particularly hard, which is why an unprecedented aid package is needed.
The flight into national interests was threatening the survival of the EU, Timmermans wrote in the newspaper “de Volkskrant”. A “social and economic apocalypse” must not be allowed to happen in any EU country.
CDU presidential candidate Merz also sees the danger. “A failure of Europe is unfortunately not impossible. A second euro crisis cannot be ruled out either”, he told the newspaper “Rheinische Post” (Thursday).
“Therefore, we must do everything we can to keep Europe together and avoid a second, even deeper euro crisis.” He supported aid programmes which “once again show our European solidarity in the hundreds of billions”. But solidarity is not a one-way street.
Juncker predicts “better Europeans” after the crisis
Former Commission President Juncker painted the future of the EU not quite so gloomy. “If Europeans give their peoples the impression that they prefer to see everyone digging for themselves in their own corner and hiding there, then there is a danger to the European spirit,” Juncker told the Viennese “Standard” (Thursday).
“But it would now be the art to see the common good as something valuable, not the small-minded.”
The crisis offers the chance to show that nation states alone cannot cope with such a situation. “After the crisis we will be better Europeans”, said Juncker.
He advised his successor, Ursula von der Leyen, to keep calm and make further proposals. “She has made no mistakes so far.” Juncker was President of the EU Commission from 2014 to the end of November 2019.