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Now or Never

Confronted with Covid-19, Europeans began, as usual, by disappointing before recovering somewhat. That does not mean the game has been won however.

The first reaction everywhere was to close the borders and withdraw into the Nation-State. But the Nation-State has failed us; despite the warnings, it was unable to anticipate an epidemic of this kind. It was not big enough to cope on its own. Shortages of medical supplies and disorganised responses have exposed Europe at its worst in a long time, and the common institutions themselves, too entrenched in the tradition of diplomacy, have lacked empathy for those most affected.

When it was more or less certain that everyone would be affected, the second impulse was more honourable. We began to support each other, to lend each other equipment and, above all, to talk to each other and exchange experiences, solutions and hospital beds.

The European Central Bank finally came out with its €750 billion "bazooka" and found the right words to mark its determination.

The European Commission, which has no power in the health sector, then became more active, suspending the rules of competition and the Stability and Growth Pact, increasing the number of initiatives and practical aid, suggesting that partial unemployment due to the crisis should be financed by a common Community instrument, etc.

However, the Member States have failed to deliver. Nine of them suggested a large mutualised loan, which they felt was the only way to guarantee the considerable budgetary resources they would have to engage to mitigate the effects of the huge economic crisis that was looming.

Some, thinking that solidarity is charity, have objected to the "coronabonds" which common sense and the European spirit demand. Among the most reticent are those States on the continent that have benefited the most from the single market and currency or from trade liberalisation. But, locked once again in a questionable moral stance, they confuse survival instinct with selfishness.

For the Union is indeed at stake. If it is unable, in these circumstances, to make the leap towards mutualisation, it will probably never do so.

Coronabonds, Recoverybonds, Sanitarybonds, an exceptional investment plan, let us call it what we like, but the Union needs a major act which voluntarily expresses its solidarity in the face of an external event which has nothing to do with good or bad management. It is about the life and death of European citizens. If this does not move us, what would it be like in the event of a conflict?

Rather than waiting for events to force them to do so, as in 2008, the 27 can mobilise considerable resources to overcome the crisis, if they decide to do it together!

If they accept it, European integration will have given irrefutable proof of its usefulness, its solidity and will finally have taken the step we have been waiting for a long time.