Europe Unable To Provide An Ambitious And Coordinated Response To The Coronavirus Crisis

The European Union is born from war. Of the Great War. Of the dramatic conflict between Germany and France; of a border turned into a battlefield during the first half of the 20th century. The European Union is born from the war between neighbors and from the war won against Nazism and fascism.



Italy receives support from China to fight the coronavirus.



“Europe will not be done at once or in a joint effort: it will be done thanks to concrete achievements, which first create de facto solidarity,” said Robert Schuman, French Foreign Minister, on May 9, 1950, in a statement that illuminated the European Coal and Steel Community. It had been five years since World War II had ended – in fact, May 9, 1945 was declared by the USSR Victory Day – and it was to avoid a third through a peace alliance between France and Germany.

European Council President Charles Michel at the summit by video conference with EU leaders on March 17, 2020.

European Council President Charles Michel at the summit by video conference with EU leaders on March 17, 2020.

European Union


“Creating de facto solidarity” 70 years later, in the face of a crisis comparable to that experienced then, is the challenge facing the current generation of European leaders.


EU heads of government are meeting weekly via video conference, as are their finance ministers. But they have been unable to make more rapid, coordinated and forceful decisions in the face of the coronavirus crisis, although some of them, such as French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have compared it to times of war.


And, facing that enemy, the EU is not responding together. On the contrary: each country has made health decisions at its own pace; it has made the economic announcements when it deemed it necessary – always before the EU opened its hand with the deficit and the debt – and the meetings of EU ministers are losing their reason for being: approving previously agreed decisions.


A dozen countries, including Spain, decreed the closure of their internal borders by suspending the Schengen agreement, despite the fact that the European Commission launched two messages: that while the coronavirus was present in all countries, it was useless to close the internal borders; and that external borders be closed to third-country nationals to safeguard the internal market, one of the pillars of the EU.


But it was of little use.


Brussels, in any case, issued guidelines for the closure of borders, demanding green corridors so as not to block the movement of goods, including the medical equipment that is missing in some countries.


The answer? Images of queues of 60 kilometers of trucks on the border between Germany and Poland; and of Chinese doctors delivering medical supplies to Italy due to the inability and refusal of their community partners to sell them: a plane from Shanghai loaded with 30 tons of medical supplies and a team of nine experts who will contribute to fighting the coronavirus.


While the States do not agree on an ambitious coordinated response –either in format of 27 or 19 in the euro area–, the entities that try to maintain the initiative are precisely those that do not respond to a democratic mandate – unlike national governments – such as the European Commission and the European Central Bank.


In effect, the European Commission, which in reality always depends on the approval of the States to implement its proposals, bet from the outset to relax fiscal rules –which has led this Friday to propose the activation of the escape clause–; for a coordinated response regarding borders; for the joint purchase of medical supplies – so that Italy does not need to ask China -; for the mobilization of resources – a fund of 25,000 million – and even for the launch of coronabonuses: European bonds to finance resources for the fight against COVID-19.


The coronabonds could mobilize the 410,000 million that the European rescue fund – the Stability Mechanism, MEDE – has, which would add to the 750,000 million announced by the ECB on Wednesday night – which in turn add to the 120,000 million from the previous week. Thus, Christine Lagarde, president of an organization federal In Europe, it goes much further in one week than the 19 euro governments have reached in their Eurogroup meetings.


It is up to them, the euro governments, to set up ambitious coordinated action as the coronavirus eurobonds would represent. It is expected that the finance ministers will meet on Tuesday, before the meeting of the heads of state and government on March 26.


Heads of State and Government who, since the crisis began, have done nothing more than agree to the historic external closure of their borders and give approval to the flexibility of fiscal rules for expenses related to the pandemic.


Europe has before it “the greatest crisis since the Second World War”, according to Angela Merkel; “a war”, according to Emmanuel Macron. But, for the moment, it is proving incapable of giving a coordinated ambitious response to the coronavirus crisis.

Fiumicino (Italy), 03/13/2020 - A handout photo made available on 13 March 2020 by the Italian Red Cross Press Office shows a Chinese doctors specialized in the fight against Coronavirus disembarking to China Eastern Airbus A-350 from Shanghai, at Fiumicino airport, Rome, Italy, 12 March 2020. The aircraft unloaded fans, respiratory materials, electrocardiographs, tens of thousands of masks and other medical devices sent by the Chinese Red Cross to the Italian Red Cross. The Chinese team will work together with Italian doctors to tackle the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the country. (Italy, United States, Rome) HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY / NO SALES

Italy receives support from China to fight the coronavirus.