The battered seams of the European Union (EU), patched up after years of austerity and pan-African bailouts during the 2008 debt crisis, are relenting again. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed thousands of lives and unleashed a global recession. Its economic consequences are incalculable and, in addition, again subject the European project to a very harsh test, while the old ones open wounds between northern and southern nations and it fails to give a joint response. In countries like Spain or Italy, where the virus rages, the Euroscepticism It is growing by leaps and bounds as solutions are demanded, and the question remains: where is European solidarity?
The Lisbon Treaty has numerous articles that appeal to mutual cooperation and the coordination of the Twenty-seven if necessary. Other regulations are more precise and reflect the obligation to give a concerted response if one of your countries suffers. For example, Article 222 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union reads: “The Union and its member states will act together in a spirit of solidarity if a member state is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a natural or man-made catastrophe” . For the moment, an attempt has been made to cover the file with the Solidarity Fund, which has expanded its coverage to natural disasters and is mobilizing its funds to help the worst affected countries.
In addition, the European Commission has launched a working group and to cushion the impact on people’s livelihoods and the economy, the body has adopted a global economic response to the outbreak, has making EU budgetary rules more flexible, has revised its rules on state aid and has established an iinvestment initiative in response to the coronavirus, endowed with 37,000 million euros, to provide liquidity to small businesses and the healthcare sector.
But all these measures will be insufficient in the pandemic recovery phase, when there are risks of an unprecedented geopolitical cataclysm, according to some forecasts. Economists and financial analysts demand a “initiative at European level ” that includes aid for the most affected regions. “Local stimuli such as those implemented in Germany are extremely important at the moment,” write Bank of America experts, “but the euro zone needs a confidence boost and a global movement across Europe to help its cohesion,” they say, at a time when it has been questioned by politicians from countries like France.
Last week’s EU summit ended without consensus on how to proceed, the option of the eurobonds, already scrapped in the crisis of 12 years ago, and the Twenty-Seven gave themselves two weeks to find new solutions. Since then, divisions in the block have become increasingly apparent, with lhe countries of the south enraged by the resistance of the north to offer more support and the German and Dutch stubbornness for Italy and Spain to go to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), to obtain a rescue in the event of force majeure. In contrast, the US investment bank insists that “a common response such as joint debt issues could be very useful in both economic and symbolic terms to ensure that all euro partners overcome this crisis with the least possible long-term harm” .
The critical voices in the European institutions and in countries like France have not stopped call rectification, amid ominous messages that this will be the definitive crisis that will break the community project. How the EU responds to the coronavirus outbreak will determine your future credibility, declared a French minister this Sunday. “If Europe is only a single market when the times are good, it does not make sense,” stressed the French Minister of European Affairs, Amelie de Montchalin. “If Europe can die, it is inaction,” added French President Emmanuel Macron the same day. “Some act as if Spain and Italy were responsible for the virus,” he regretted to top it off that “France will fight for a Europe of solidarity.”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also denounced the double standards within the European club when it comes to supplying medical supplies, while warning that when the crisis ends “there should be a serious debate within the EU.” And from Paris, Germany and the Netherlands have been warned that there will be no economic rebound if the rest of Europe remains ill, which will affect the exports of the German locomotive, among other things.
David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, echoed his words and turned to Twitter to urge a stronger unity in the face of the pandemic. “Those countries that still doubt: to whom will they sell their technology or their tulips if the European market is not protected?” Wrote Sassoli in clear reference to the countries that oppose the “coronabonds” to relaunch the EU economy.
However, Pantheon Macroeconomics experts point out that the debate on joint debt issuance is a mere distraction. And they distrust the ability of the bloc to “provide solutions to the crisis that cannot be applied in a way more efficient from national governments” “The key challenge now is to ensure that all of this aid is transmitted correctly in individual economies,” they add, because “the EU has little influence on the health of the member states.” However, they believe that discussions on this matter will continue, which will do nothing but damage confidence, especially economic confidence, as Euroscepticism grows and populism takes its toll.