The European Union has been showing a lack of unity and coordination, something that it fames itself on, in how to handle COVID-19, or more commonly known as the coronavirus, when it started spreading like wildfire across the continent. According to the World Health Organization, over 4,613 people have died and over 126,000 have been infected globally, with about 68,000 victims recovering according to Johns Hopkins University. Coronavirus has been spreading across the European Union, particularly in Spain and France, but most devastatingly in Italy where at least 1,016 have died and at least 15,113 people infected. With such devastation across the world, especially in Italy now, it would be expected that the European Union would have mobilized, organized and coordinated to deal with this virus, but thus far, they have completely failed in containing and dealing with the virus. It seemingly appeared that they were unwilling to make the difficult decisions that China made by closing their borders and imposing strict restrictions and shutting down places that has a mass of people, such as schools and protests.
Maurizio Massari, Italy’s ambassador to the EU, said “The coronavirus crisis is a test of the EU’s cohesiveness and credibility — one that can only be passed through genuine, concrete solidarity. Europe must act according to the principle of mutual defense and help those members whose security is under threat.” With the way that Italy has lost control over containing and controlling the coronavirus, it is fair to say that the European Union has failed in this test. When the Italian authorities began to report coronavirus spreading in Italy, their European partners looked inward and began to worry about only what was happening within their own borders in a naïve expectation that coronavirus would not reach their countries. This was despite the reality of a borderless European Union.
In other countries like Spain, the Italian example caused indifference. For reasons of purely partisan interest, the leftist Spanish government did not cancel the massive feminist demonstration held in the country, arguing that the coronavirus crisis did not make it necessary. A few hours after the event, alarms were raised and members of the government became infected. Naturally, many European politicians accused Spain of being extremely irresponsible, and justifiably so. Not only were political rallies allowed to continue, but sporting and social events were allowed to go on. This is in stark contrast to other countries like China that locked down an entire province, or the U.S. who only yesterday announced the halt of all flights between their country and Europe with the exception of the United Kingdom, a major embarrassment for the European Union.
Brussels, the unofficial capital of the European Union, perhaps “distracted” by the migrant crisis on Greece’s border, did its usual of only talking and making promises but making very little action, just as it is doing with the Greco-Turkish crisis. Brussels has taken no initiative to coordinate European Union wide measures and did very little to support Italy and Spain. As Australia made rapid economic preparation to stimulate the economy, the European Central Bank fumbled even to organize a crisis meeting, a small demonstration on the lacklustre European Union responses to this crisis.
However, even the economic aspect is miniscule compared to that fact that there has not been a meeting between European Union leaders on how best to manage this crisis and how best to coordinate joint measures to fight this pandemic, as the World Health Organization deemed it, continent wide.
What are some of the measures to be urgently taken by the EU in order to contain spreading of the virus?
First of all, to significantly reduce flights to China, South Korea and Iran. Secondly, to temporarily stop granting visas to citizens of these three major coronavirus countries. There is also need to introduce quarantine regulations for certain areas and ban meetings and entertainment events with mass gatherings, make more screenings and prepare more hospitals for coronavirus patients. The European Union’s lacklustre response and decision making on how best to handle the coronavirus is seeing hospitals strained, the death count rise into the thousands and panic increase all across the bloc. As Europe slowly creeps towards summer, where it is believed the coronavirus finds it much more difficult to survive in the hot weather, the European Union needs to start implementing tough measures that will significantly inconvenience society and prove unpopular, but absolutely necessary to contain the spread and effectiveness of the virus.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.