Five ways that the coronavirus should transform the EU

ECFR reflected on the prospects of EU development after coronavirus. Anna Diamantopoulou distinguishes five challenges. Unified response and direction of all funds for fighting pandemics open the list. Question of implementing European policies on national levels rests unanswered. Protection of internal market and planning of foreign politics should contribute to the new convention of 21 century

Anna Diamantopoulou, European Council of Foreign Relations

When I joined the European Commission, the first rule I learnt related to the mantra “the country I know best”. When one serves in the European Union’s institutions, it is imperative to believe that what matters most is the interest of the union as a whole – and to act accordingly. Political action stands upon the firm belief that national interests should be incorporated in the common European good. This applies in all circumstances, including the second phase of the crisis Europe faces because of the pandemic. Northern Europe cannot exit the crisis as a victor if the south is wounded.

This is, therefore, the key dilemma that President Ursula von der Leyen and members of her Commission need to resolve. Will they act like politicians who hail from separate countries or as European statespersons who reaffirm unity, solidarity, and coordination among member states? There are at least five fundamental challenges that they must deal with.

Firstly, the crisis is universal. And so should be the response. There is a broad consensus in Europe that the crisis has been neither caused by a single actor nor dealt with by another alone – that it involves no guilty parties and no judges. The crisis has been triggered by external factors rather than structural problems or mismanagement by individual EU member states. The covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated international organisations’ importance to the management of international issues.

Secondly, Europe should provide whatever funding is required to tackle the crisis – and to do so in any way necessary. European policymakers agree that large amounts of money should be poured into Europe’s economies to tackle the pandemic and stabilise the situation. However, from the first moment, they have disagreed on the form in which they should deploy this money. The argument centres on whether the funds should be disbursed through loans or through subsidies. The recent Franco-German initiative on a recovery fund – as well as the Commission’s proposal for a €750 billion package, which mainly takes the form of grants funded through joint debt issuance – respond to the dilemma and make for an agreement of historic importance. These measures break taboos about the EU increasing its budget without a parallel rise in national contributions, and on it guaranteeing certain types of debts.

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