In April 2020, the President of the EU Commission apologised to Italy. President Ursula von der Leyen offered a “heartfelt apology” on behalf of Europe for failing to offer enough support during the initial stages of the crisis. She added, however, that “Europe has now become the world’s beating heart of solidarity” thanks to schemes to share medical supplies and hospital beds, and increased offers of financial support.
According to the official EU motto, we should be “united in diversity”. The European Union was founded as a common project for peace and prosperity, whilst also celebrating and preserving the continent’s rich diversity in terms of cultures, languages and traditions. Saturday 9th May is supposed to be Europe Day. Who feels like celebrating?
During the COVID-19 crisis, EU Member States have followed very different strategies. During times of crisis, the EU is there to help coordinate measures and ensure we are stronger together. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, however, it feels like national initiatives have been decided alone. Yet, at the same time, the crisis is once again making people aware of how closely interlinked Europe’s economy is. Simply put, crops rot in fields in Germany when Poland closes its borders.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Liliana, who says: “I expect Europe to stick together and not be divided against one another. Only in this way can Europe continue to exist!”
To get a reaction, we put Liliana’s comment to former German Justice Minister Katarina Barley, who was elected as a Social Democratic MEP in 2019 and is now a Vice-President of the European Parliament. What would she say?
NOTE: These interviews were carried out before the COVID-19 pandemic.
I can totally understand that. Europe was founded so that together we can create something that is better for everyone. We have to get back there. We are currently in a phase where everyone wants something for themselves but does not want to give anything back. Unfortunately, this is the case in many countries. We have to do something great together again, which the European Union is.
For another perspective, we also asked the German Christian Democratic MEP David McAllister to respond to Liliana’s comment.
I can support this comment. We have to be clear about this, if we want to assert ourselves with our interests but also with our values in a globalised world of the 21st century, then this can really only be done together and, unfortunately, the European Union has not always had strong levels of solidarity in recent years. But that is in the hands of the Member States.
We are a very colourful bunch; an association of 28 Member States – unfortunately only 27 Member States now. There will always be different interests, but in the end there has to be a willingness to agree and compromise between the Member States. The European Union has honoured this so far and should continue to do so in the future. National selfishness has to be set aside, we have to see the big picture.
Can Europe stay united during the COVID-19 crisis? Are we “United in diversity” as we celebrate Europe Day on 9 May? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
European Union and Europe is not the same. Neither is united.
Indeed, the EU and Europe are not the same, yet solidarity was tested in both. What impact do you think the crisis will have on either?
I feel disassociated from the EU during the Covid-19 crisis. I think it is better that each country ran the lockdown without an imposed outside authority as each situation in each country is unique and requires a different plan. I think this was the wisest action in the case of a pandemic. However there should be an EU united plan of action when airplane travel begins so as not to create problems and confusion.
What would make you feel more connected with the EU again, Julia
Stay? When was it ever united?
EU’s downfall started long before the COVID crisis.
Governments in many member states have been veering towards totalitarian regimes for the past few years.
Even the European Commission itself has become a dictatorship that is tightening its grip on member states one directive at a time and weakening the democratic process.
The way the Euro zone work has been broken for a long time. Making everyone pay for the mismanagement of a specific member state is a patently broken way of running the economy.
I kind of agree with you especially on the totalitarian nature of the EU. Which countries were you referring to as my first thought was France considering there have been about a year of protests and they ignored their vote on the eu constitution and simply renamed it
I was mainly thinking of Hungary and Poland. Other governments also currently have extreme-right elements e.g. Estonia. Whose vote are you refering to?
I was referring to the French and Irish vote on the eu constitution, they voted the wrong way so we’re told to vote again and then the constitution was repackaged as the Lisbon treaty which in essence was no different. Why is Poland ans Hungary right wing, because they won accept mass migration they didn’t ask for? Surely Germany should take them all as after all it was merkle who invited them
Lisbon harmonized many things and improved a few aspects of EU, but it also made the more contreversial aspects of EU much worse.
The situation of Hungary and Poland is not just anti-immigration, it’s violations of its own citizens’ rights and a dictatorship.
EU must withstand the current situation and emerge stronger. It was the right call to allow individual member states to make their own isolation policy and now is the time to lead. We need standards and protocols in place to resume local and international business (and potentially travel) within EU while focusing on developing vaccine. I thought UK was leaving EU, yet Brits appear to stay in this group… wonder why?
I think that the future of the EU is black. Too many differences, realities, needs, views and, over all, dangerous and toxic stereotypes. Just look at the response of the Netherlands when people were dying in other countries.
The euro has been a massive disaster. Europe preferred to sacrifice the lives of millions of Europeans under the interest of the German Banks during the financial crisis, just look at Greece.
What could have been fantastic has turned into an empty project.
it just doesn’t work as a political or financial union, why would German tax payer want to pay for Greek debt and early retirement any more than us brit want to pay for bulgarian roads and other countries to have far lower retirement ages. The nation state independent but working with others through bilateral deals is far more sustainable
EU stands for piece and promoting growth within its member states, it has done both in my checkbook. As one body, EU is able to withstand financial pressure from powers such as China and USA in a way that no country individually could have. It appears that you are a Brexit fan so explain us how do you think UK can get better trade deals compared to the ones it had under EU
because the eu take age to do anything and it costs us 9b net a year, great if you are a recipient I’m sure but British tax payers are sick of paying for other countries thanks. The british commonwealth is bigger than the eu and has far faster growing economies so I imagine we will build that trading relationship, we already have great relations through CANZUK and five eyes and a fantastic relationship with the USA and in sure we will have that deak sewn up soon. As regards the eu trade befefjts the eu far more, the UK is the whole of the EU’s second largest customer after the USA with a 100b deficit so all this wind from the EU is just that. Go ahead impose tarrifs and we will benefit because of the trade imbalance. We can also deregulate and lower corporation tax to Singapore Levels which will suck investment straight out of the EU and into the UK. The eu is straight out of the socialist handbook and works about as well
ok so you got out , ciao , what are you brits still doing polluting this page?you guys seem obsessed with the eu..mayne for you it going great on the island but for many of us is 100x times better inside the eu than without.
british commonwealth is a thing in history…. about 1,200 years ago Bulgaria was on three seas and occupying the majority of Balkan pinisula do you still see Bulgarians rambling how they could go back to old days?! Moving forward, you have fantastic relationship with USA… Trump has a fantastic relationship with Xi but you still see him bashing on China every chance he gets. What makes you think you will do a “great”deal with Mr. America first based on relationship… that’s not how business works. As for your trade with EU you are referring to goods, how about you add services into the list? EU will slap tariffs if UK is not playing by the book in regaerds to corporate tax that’s just natural. You want to turn to Singapore model that fine but think twice before it comes with consequences. And btw just like UK is the second largest EU customer, EU is the number one trading partner with UK due to a number of things including geographical promiximity. Go ahead and try to export more goods/services to any other market…
yeah be a sue the eu so so helped Italy, you need salvini and fast. Get out before they do a Greece on you. Oh and not polluting anything, as far as I was aware this page is called, “debating Europe,” and not debating the eu mafia. The UK is still part of Europe just left the ponzi scheme
I cannot give you an answer. The topic is so complicated. I think that the European project is fantastic, it is the only real future that Europe has to not become irrelevant and at the will of the monsters as USA, China, India…. but, even understanding that the project is so challenging, things go badly. Also the stereotypes and prejudices that all the countries have about the others.
The euro, for me, has become a trap for many societies. It doesn’t make any sense to have a common currency without a unique fiscal policy.
The response of some”friends and allies” with the coronavirus has been offensive and painful for many of us. What the EU made with Greece, there is a lot to talk about what happened with Greece, was awful.
I want to believe, but I have many doubts.
why is the eu panicking so much then, we are happy to leave no deal and London is the financial centre of Europe doesn’t matter about the eu the commonwealth still exists I think you were talking about the British empire which spanned 2/3rds of the globe, notctje same thing. You also collaborated with Hitler but I think you forgot to mention that one. The UK is the link between the USA and Europe and alway will be culturally, language wise, transport hub from the USA and will always have a close relationship unless another lefty gets in. You are welcome to your great socialist eu project, thought you would have learned from such projects in the past as the ussr didn’t Co that well. Now you have the massive ecb money printing fiasco coming to an end where is the money gpigg to come from, Germany is coming to its senses and their tax payer are tired of paying forcthe sick man countries of Europe, whose gonna pay now, France I don’t think so. Italy economy knackered. Netherlands sick of paying for everyone else. The people’s of Europe want the money spent where they live not some other country. The nation state is taking its place again and supra national organisations have gone out of vogue. Enjoy your financial crash
that’s it. You are leaving, aren’t you?
Just bye and forget, if you can, the EU.
yeah, but not leaving Europe, you forget the eu isn’t Europe
Indeed. It would be very tricky to leave Europe.
what country are you from then?
Spain, but living in the UK.
hey welcome my mum and dad live in Spain. One of my favourite European destinations
thanks. I hope they are happy there. This is one of the good things of the EU. Where are they?
hondon valley, I never had a problem with people coming here or visa versa just the uncontrolled levels and the lack of border controls in the wider eu. Unfortunately many African and Asian immigrants head straight for britian die to the benefits system. We can’t take any more people as the population is already unsustainable as shown during this covid crisis. There has to be control over who lives in any country or nation states cease to have meaning and cultures start to dissappear. I love going to Spain to see Spanish culture and enjoy the differences.
it is a very complicated topic. I understand your point, but I, even being totally disappointed with the EU, really believe that the UK is making a mistake.
Whether I like it or not, I am in the same ship as you and only want the best for the country that has given me a chance
All the best mate and go to Spain as many times as you can
cheers and let me say as a brexit supporter you are welcome in the UK friend
Chris, as a Brexit supporter you welcome Spaniards to come and live in the UK… However, Brexitt means that people like Victor CANNOT come and live in the UK and that was a big part of the pro-Brexit campaign. So, what kind of nonsense are you talking about? You are either ignorant of the facts of Brexit or deluded about what you have voted for…
And, as others have said above, if you are not interested in the EU what are you doing commenting here?
You also seem to have an issue with Brits paying for Bulgarian roads. Are Londoners and the English OK paying for Scottish and Irish roads though or where exactly does your fascism end?
A European Union that allows measures like in Italy or Spain has nothing to decide, legally and morally. To prison children without valid reason and long after all provided justification has been proved wrong by a landslide and then some more has nothing to do with the idea of a European Union. That military and police can be in the street, hugh penalties for 100thousands, violence, the states suspected of fake Facebook posts (like in Russia) and nobody from the EU says anything means that this Union is at the end. Unfortunately. I love Europe and European Union. P. S. Germany just starts the engine and the rest will get some loans from them if they behave, also sad
what do you wish the EU would do?
the bare minimum speaking out loud and clearly for the rights especially of the children. To be trapped over month in tiny apartments without chance of sun or fresh air (for a respiratory virus) cannot be in line with the EU values and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
Those tried to disconnect from rest of the world are now paying a heavy price and hopefully will learn the lesson that how hollow their nationalism rhetoric is. We are better United to tackle global issues.
I think it is the End of Europe as we know it. Northen Countries being selfish when bad times come. Northern richer thanks ro southern poorer countries.
Totally agree with this comment.
The major problem in European union is democracy. Yes, it’s democracy. All countries have politicians and elections at a different time and all of them are thinking how can they earn more votes. The northern how to hold the taxes and to limit the transfer to the south, and the southern counties always think in how they can get more money. Europe only prevail united with one federal government and state elections at the same time.
Europe has already failed to stay united during the pandemic. Free movement of individuals was suspended just like that, Germany blocked attempts to help Italy financially and now they are refusing to comply with the law for travel booking refunds. The EU/its member-states don’t seem to believe in its own laws and values. They have failed to show compassion and solidarity. It is a matter of time before the EU is dismantled now.
Yeah right, LOL.
David McAllister’s comment: “National selfishness has to be set aside, we have to see the big picture.”,open’s up a huge can of worms. Who get’s to decide what constitutes “National selfishness”? This comment goes to the heart of a lot of EU debates