The EU, focused on the problems of the Middle East and beyond, has failed to solve and prepare for its own. A dangerous prospect in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
By Eldad Beck, ISRAEL HAYOM
It was an impressive, formal and surreal event: On Monday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation, for the second time in five days. He declared that France is “at war” with the coronavirus pandemic and announced further closures and restrictions on the French population. It was surreal because Macron went beyond his authority and declared the borders of the European Union closed – not just France’s borders. Although few hours earlier the idea was touted publicly by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, Macron made the announcement before a joint decision had been made by the leaders of the member states. Macron took up the reins of bloc leadership amidst a general sentiment that the EU had completely failed in dealing with the pandemic. A failure that has now placed Europe at the center of the global spread of the disease.
The EU completely failed to identify the threat posed by the coronavirus and did not come up with a practical, European-wide, response to deal with the quick spread of the disease. Instead of coming together to formulate a uniform health policy, the Europeans wasted time complaining about the US administration’s decision to stop air links between the US and the EU. The Europeans, previously infuriated by Trump’s decision, followed suit a week later and closed their own borders, without confessing their mistake.
Dealing with the coronavirus has become a national mission, and each government has adopted its own measures in accordance with the severity and speed of the spread of the pandemic in each country. One after another, they declared that their borders were shut, just as they did in the last major crisis, the refugee crisis. Then too each EU member state broke one of the most basic principles of the union – free movement within its borders. For the second time in under five years, the EU has shown that it does not deal quickly enough with acute crises that happen on European ground.
The coronavirus crisis could turn into an existential crisis for the EU: The financial implications of the pandemic are expected to be devastating for many European countries, whose economies are already on shaky ground. The financial situations in Italy and France – the main centers of the spread of the coronavirus in the continent – were not particularly stable before the disease hit.
In France, Macron announced that he was halting his reforms, which were meant to heal many of the problems with the country’s economy; Britain is still meant to reach an agreement with the EU on the financial aspects of Brexit; and the German economy – the strongest in Europe – has been on the cusp of crisis for the last year because of the rigid and lackluster management of the government in Berlin. If the German economy does sink into crisis – the ramifications will be felt strongly all over the EU. A situation of severe financial instability will play right into the hands of the parties in Italy, France, Germany and elsewhere who are opposed to the idea that the EU needs to become “the United States of Europe.”
Instead of trying to solve problems that are not theirs around the world, the bloated and massive bureaucracy of the European Union should have been preparing to deal with internal European crises. After all, the EU is meant to improve the living conditions of European citizens, and not to bring peace to the Middle East. From one failure to the next, the EU is now striding confidently towards its end.