The results of the EU Extraordinary Summit were successful on paper — money was allocated for the fight against coronavirus. But in fact, it became evidence that the image of a united Europe is becoming illusory.
Today the European Union is the most successful integration project in the world. It is a model of phased integration (from free trade zone to currency union) and an example for others, including the EAEC. It has been oriented, its experience has been studied and implemented by other integrators. Even now, during the coronavirus epidemic, the European Union has again become an example for others. But it is an example of how not to act. What was once again proved by the results of the online EU summit held on April 23.
Yes, at this video meeting the leaders of the states seemed to be able to reach an agreement. In particular, the European Union agreed on a short-term program — allocated 540 billion euros for the restoration of national economies affected by the coronavirus. Of these, 100 billion will be used to mitigate the risks of possible growth in unemployment, 200 billion will be used for lending to businesses and another 240 billion will be used to support member states of the community to fight the pandemic.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte calls the agreement «great», arguing that it «would have been hard to imagine just a few weeks ago». Of course, the document should have been adopted earlier — when the same Italy was in vital need of support. But better late than never.
On the other hand, Europe recognizes that this agreed package is a drop in the sea. It is clearly not enough, because it is clear that the economy of the community will suffer very seriously — according to the most pessimistic forecasts, it will shrink by 15%. That is why French President Emmanuelle Macron is dissatisfied with the compromise reached — he is waiting for a larger response. I am sure that the EU states should spend up to 10% of the total GDP not fighting the crisis. And indeed, another larger aid project worth between 1.6 and 2 trillion dollars is already on the agenda. However, they cannot agree on it in any way.
The main reason is simple — Europe no longer sees itself as a whole and does not understand the need to pay for «other people’s» problems at its own expense.
For example, Italy, Spain and France believe that the notorious aid package should be allocated in the form of grants or collective Eurobonds, while Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and a number of other countries talk only about repayable loans — and «with high demands on efficiency and repayment. And they deeply care that Italy is already overwhelmed with credit obligations. And it doesn’t matter that, as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen rightly says, «the pandemic knows no borders and no nationalities. They do not feel solidarity with the other members of an integration bloc, trivial.
Besides, a number of countries do not trust the European Union, so — this is the second question — they are not ready to make this large-scale package of assistance part of the EU budget (which, we remind, is formed by all member states).
The current crisis spurred national selfishness and increased distrust of the institutions of centralized management — a very familiar situation for the residents of the post-Soviet space. It is a perfect storm that has crushed many powerful integration groups and multinational projects. The European Union — and both the European Commission and national elites — must not only accept a massive package of assistance, but also somehow restore the faith of the population and elites in a single Europe as a community with a common destiny. After all, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel absolutely rightly noted, «the welfare of Europe is not a matter of solidarity, but of national interest».
The radicalization of the elites of one country of the community in the conditions of the collective principle of decision-making is binding on all other countries. Therefore, to some extent successful countries become hostages to problems in the poorest countries — but they must understand that it is much cheaper to solve these problems at their own expense than to allow the crisis to deepen or even collapse of the European Union. Given the many smouldering territorial disputes in Eastern Europe and the growth of nationalism there, it is more economical and safer.
Gevorg Mirzayan, Sputnik