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!