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Living with the virus

For the first time in a long time, science has failed to respond to a challenge deemed vital. The virus has so far withstood the most eminent specialists. When "those who need to know" don't know, fear takes over. This is the real reason for confinement: in the face of mounting anxiety, the uncertainties of contamination and demands for protection, governments have had no choice but to "confine".

But another phase is now beginning. Since the discovery of a vaccine, the only definitive victory over the disease, has not yet been announced, we will have to live with it. The fight against the virus will continue in the laboratories. For citizens, we must live with the virus. We will have to get used to a few precautions, but we can be sure that the desire to be mobile will soon be stronger than the fear. It's time for de-confinement.

In this crisis and as usual, Europeans have reacted in a disorderly fashion. For some, the egos of the scientists have taken over and they have divided over the treatment of the epidemic, for others the concern has been more discreet and the citizens more docile. But all were afraid. And one can measure the extreme difficulty in which the leaders have found themselves. So they tackled the health crisis divided. We hope they're willing to work their way out of it united.

Deciding today solely on the basis of the situation inside one's country is a real health risk and may prove to be very damaging from an economic and social point of view. Yet that is what we are witnessing.

Luxembourg reopened its shops on 20 April, as did Austria and Germany, Denmark reopened its schools, and Italy, Spain and France have announced that they are easing measures restricting freedom. Everywhere, people are preparing to leave their confinement, but on different dates and in different ways.

The same applies to the economy. Although the European Central Bank, and then the Commission, have provided timely guarantees that will enable us to overcome the abrupt cessation of activities and postpone the prospect of chaos for a while, the Eurogroup has only agreed on emergency measures.

Despite objections, some of the richest Member States, those which have benefited most from European unification, are still refusing to take the decisive step which will guarantee the future of the Union: the mutualisation, even partial, of its strong borrowing capacity. In these exceptional circumstances, by refusing to come out of their selfish inertia, they are taking on a responsibility for which they will have to answer before history.

Living with the virus will therefore obviously be difficult for all citizens and their governments alike. But for the European Union and its institutions it could be a litmus test.