Could the European Union be on the brink of collapse because of coronavirus?

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

There are concerns that The European Union may be in trouble as coronavirus continues to spread across the globe.

A poll conducted on 12-13 March found that 88% of Italians felt Europe was failing to support Italy, while 67% saw EU membership as a disadvantage - a remarkable result for a founding member state, where the EU once basked in high levels of support.

Jacques Delors, the former European commission president last weekend warned that a lack of solidarity posed “a mortal danger to the European Union”.

Europe has moved on from an initial me-first response, where some countries imposed export bans on vital medical kit, or put up border controls that left other European citizens stranded.

While European leaders have, in part, come together in response to the public health crisis - a pledge to revamp the EU crisis management system, funding for vaccine research and medical kit - countries remain divided over how to help the economy weather the storm.

In the early phase of the crisis, Russia and China sent medical supplies to Italy, while its nearest neighbours failed to immediately respond to Rome’s calls for help. As a result, this pandemic has reopened the wounds of the eurozone crisis, resurrecting stereotypes about “profligate” southern Europeans and “hard-hearted” northerners.

Heather Grabbe, a former adviser to the EU enlargement commissioner said: “Each crisis has reduced trust between member states and within the whole system and this is a real problem.”

Enrico Letta, a former prime minister of Italy, has said the EU faces a “deadly risk” from the global pandemic adding that the ‘divide’ was different from previous crises.

He said the communitarian spirit of Europe is weaker today than 10 years ago and that the biggest danger for the EU was “the Trump virus”. Adding that if every country took the “me first” approach then it (EU) will sink.

“This is definitely a make-it-or-break-it moment for the European project,” said Nathalie Tocci, a former adviser to the EU foreign policy chief.

She said that if it goes badly it really risks being the end of the union and fuels all the nationalist-populism.

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