A common debt in Europe to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic?
At the European Council, the Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa made it very clear “Either the European Union does what needs to be done or it will cease to exist”. In reality, the public opinions of the Mediterranean states most affected by the pandemic (Italy, France, Spain, Greece) has not seen a strong solidarity attitude on the part of the richest of Northern Europe.
As a result, parties hostile to the Union have been joined by several new websites which are dangerously siding against the EU. There are two reasons. The first is that Brussels did not promote concrete and timely actions in the darkest hours of the epidemic storm; the second is that the few things that they did do, even if relevant, had not been properly disclosed by the continent’s media. The enormous cargo planes coming from Moscow, the medical equipment from China, and even the generous gesture of Albania who sent some health workers to Italy, all had a different emotional echo of the transport of a few German-speaking patients from Alsace and Tyrol and of medical supplies sent to the peninsula.
A real failure on the subsidiary principal on which the Union would be based, according to which countries facing a problem that they, themselves, cannot solve alone must be ‘subsidised’ by the other members of the EU (art. 222 of the Lisbon Treaty). Even the prestigious Die Zeit, in their editorial, could not help but criticise both the German government and the Union decision-makers for their indecisiveness and slowness. Also, because this time it is not a matter of perfecting the convenience of trade treaties, but about saving lives.
In addition, it is not only about that, because there also exists the problem of the after, of the revival of the economy. The idea of creating a common debt in Europe to deal with it at this time is not accepted by Berlin, because the German ruling class believes that the governments of some states are not very responsible with which it should be shared. And, it is on this point that the negotiations have stalled. The Germans and the Northern countries fear that they will have to pay the public debt accumulated by the Mediterranean states in the future.
It’s certainly understandable, but it is also true that European integration must necessarily pass through this bottleneck, otherwise it will continue to be only a common market and a single currency. Meanwhile, German intellectuals have massively opposed their government and favoured the southern countries, Considering the ideal objective of a truly united Europe much more relevant than the momentary sacrifices that will have to be faced, even if these will include a common debt in Europe.