PARIS – A French minister stated how the European Union responds to the coronavirus outbreak will determine its future credibility as the pathogen continues to take a heavy toll across the bloc.
“If Europe is just a single market when times are good, then it has no sense,” French State Secretary for European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin told France Inter radio on Sunday.
De Montchalin’s comments came after the European Union failed to agree last week on measures to soften the economic blow of the pandemic and prepare for an eventual recovery. Germany and the Netherlands came out strongly against a push by Italy, Spain, Portugal and France to issue joint bonds to help finance an economic stimulus.
There were also arguments over the sharing of medical equipment and border controls. De Montchalin said that there could be no financial rebound in Germany and the Netherlands if the rest of Europe remained sick. The coronavirus crisis raised existential questions for Europe, she added.
“Our Europe is one of action, one of solidarity, and if certain countries see otherwise, well then the question of their place will raise itself, as what the union should be doing as a group of 27,” noted de Montchalin.
Europe’s populist parties could be the winners if EU leaders failed to act collectively throughout a serious crisis, she stressed. As the coronavirus crisis persists in the EU, particularly in Italy, Spain, Germany and France, the lack of cooperation on some fronts within the bloc is attracting criticism.
The EU has been struggling to coordinate a joint response to the coronavirus outbreak and to counter the economic impact of the epidemic. The novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, initially emerged in China late last year and is now spreading across the globe. Worldwide, there have been more than 720,000 confirmed cases of the virus and over 34,000 deaths.
The economic damage has also intensified, with business districts beginning to empty and stock markets to tumble. Analysts say the world economy is headed for a sharp downturn, where several countries could plunge into recession this year.