Europe is embroiled in a serious health and economic crisis, with coronavirus exposing critical failures at the heart of the European Union.
A lack of the oft-touted “solidarity” amongst European countries has led to a rise in skepticism which could mark the beginning of the end for the EU.
Having failed to act when vulnerable member nations like Italy and Spain desperately begged for help, supplies, and a collective response to the virus, the European Union is now clamoring for relevance.
Not a single EU country responded, instead banning exports of supplies for fear of suffering shortages in their own countries. Some simply closed their borders.
“Between the E.U.’s inevitable descent into being the usual moribund bureaucracy and the fact that ancient nations turn inward when threatened, the E.U.’s break-up is beginning to seem inevitable,” writes Andrea Widburg.
“The problem lies deep within the E.U. itself. It’s being eaten alive because the individual nations will cling to their national interests and because the E.U. bureaucracy is incapable of reacting quickly to a rapidly changing situation.”
This was already demonstrated through the 2008 recession, the 2015 migrant crisis, and the exit of the United Kingdom. Failures which the EU so far manages to survived.
Now, with distrust coursing throughout Europe and countries viewing this as the latest in a string of continued failures by the bloc, this pandemic may prove to be its undoing.
Italians feel abandoned by their European “friends” and a new poll shows 72 percent of Italians say the EU has not contributed in any way to addressing COVID-19. Seventy-seven percent say that won’t change in the future.
This is a massive shift for a nation like Italy.
In 2010 the level of trust among Italians in the European Union was 74 percent. It has now fallen to just 25 percent, and a new poll by Tecnè shows that nearly half, 49 percent, of Italians, want to leave the EU.
Italy, Tecnè poll:
European Union membership referendum
Remain: 51% (-20)
Leave: 49% (+20)
(14% don’t knows excluded)
+/- vs. 23-27 November 2018
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) April 11, 2020
This turn against the EU is not only evident in Italy, as countries around Europe lash out in frustration against the bloc.
In Bulgaria, MEP Angel Dzhambazki echoed this sentiment labeling European Council President Charles Michel a “hypocrite” during a fiery address in the European Parliament this week, he also issued a scathing rebuke over Brussels handling of the pandemic and said that top EU leaders should be “ashamed” of their response to the crisis.
In Portugal, Prime Minister António Costa described comments by the finance minister of the Netherlands calling for Spain to be investigated for its lack of budgetary capacity to cope with COVID-19 as “repugnant” and “a threat to the EU’s future.” he went on to stress: “We have to be able to respond together” or else “nobody has understood anything about what the European Union is.”
Even in countries with historically favorable views of the EU, like France, tensions are rising and French President Emmanuel Macron is predicting a wave of Euroskepticism in the hardest-hit countries if the EU continues its refusal to support them: “Today, tomorrow, the day after, in Italy, in Spain, perhaps in France and elsewhere.”
“It’s obvious because people will say, ‘What is this great journey that [the EU] are offering? These people won’t protect you in a crisis, nor in its aftermath, they have no solidarity with you,'” he said.
It is now plain that one of the most critical raisons d’etre of the European Union – the notion of unity in the face of adversity – has been dashed.
“Passionate pro-Europeans routinely begin their columns and tweets with the famous quote by Jean Monnet: ‘Europe will be forged in crises and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises’. But many other things can be forged in crises — including Euroscepticism and a belief that, when it comes to the crunch, you really can only rely on your nation.” writes Matthew Goodwin.
“We tend to forget this now, but it was the EU’s fumbled response to two earlier crises — the Great Recession and refugee crisis — that convinced Britain’s Leave voters that being in this organization was not in their longer-term economic interests.”
This pandemic marks a turning point as countries will continue to see a rise in nationalism and a push for a return to strong independent nations, which cannot happen if they remain members of a failed European project.
Unless the EU comes up with a coordinated response to the crisis quickly and is able to bring unity, it will have long-lasting consequences and we may look back on this as the beginning of the end for the European Union.