Can the coronavirus pandemic bring Europe closer together? It was in response to the pandemic that the EU launched a massive recovery plan to make the EU greener, more digital, and more resilient, thus bringing its members closer together. Additionally, there have been examples of cross-border solidarity during the pandemic, such as Romanian doctors treating patients in Italian hospitals, or German ambulances being sent to France.
On the other hand, the pandemic has also exposed divisions. EU borders were closed, with each EU country implementing different restrictive measures. Furthermore, the pandemic has already triggered supply chain chaos and rising inflation, and could yet plunge the world into an economic crisis. Even before the pandemic, things were not going well for the EU, following a series of crises including the financial crisis, the migration crisis, and Brexit.
Will the pandemic bring EU countries closer together? This was one of the topics that came up during our 100 European Voices focus groups with young people from across the EU. Some think the pandemic has been a missed opportunity for EU countries to get closer, and worry that Eurosceptics and ultra-nationalists could benefit from the EU’s indecisiveness. Others, however, told us they felt the EU made the most of its limited powers and that EU countries had protected their citizens fairly well.
To get a policymaker perspective, we put this question to members of the European Parliament from all political groups. Expand the cards below to find out what politicians think of the EU’s response to the pandemic:
I am an optimist but we are facing four major challenges in our near future: The climate crisis, digital transformation, migration and threats against the rule of law. These threats always transcend boarders and no country can face them alone. Therefore, Europe must stand together internally and act as a cooperative role model abroad.
I believe that politicians must be more ambitious and I would encourage young people to make their voices heard more often. The European Green Deal would not have happened without the massive public protests of Europe’s youth. Young Europeans wrote history and I am grateful to have the opportunity to co-write these laws. That’s exactly what I joined politics for.
In this respect the crisis is not different from other crises: the debt crisis, the EURO crisis etc. In times like these Member States are forced to co-operate to face challenges. This process brings both tensions and common purpose. • There was much and intense wrangling, but in the end some practical solutions and cooperation emerged.
I do not think so. The pandemic has rather worsened the divide between EU member states. I would ask, what does “getting closer together” even mean? Why that even be necessary? National governments have already given vast competencies to the so-called European Union and my group says clearly: Enough is enough. We do not want to give up more of our sovereignty. In fact, we want to reclaim those competencies which are better placed within national governments.
I do not care for an “ever-closer” union. Of course, we must cooperate well and we must cooperate closely. I do not want to destroy the EU, and certainly not end the internal market. But the debt union crosses a red line, we must revert it. And I certainly want neither a social union nor a health union. An area where we must work more together, is the protection of our borders. Europe needs a proper common foreign and security policy. At the moment, all member states are failing collectively in the protection of our external borders.
Curious to know whether the pandemic might bring EU countries closer together? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).
Will the pandemic bring EU countries closer together? Or will it force them apart? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!