Recent years have not been easy for the EU. Examples of strain include the rise of Euroscepticism amongst its Member States, Le Pen’s presidential campaign and the “undemocratic” legal reforms in Poland. Now, with Brexit going ahead, the EU needs to show the remaining 27 Member States their strength and the desirability of maintaining their membership. Yet, during the global pandemic, the EU has been silent. When strength and unity was needed, the EU has not been the leader it should have been.
Why do we value the EU?
Traditionally, the main advantage of being a member of the EU has been economic. However, recently the importance of Europol has been highlighted with the fight on terrorism being led by the organisation. Europol has an impressive security database which is used by the intelligence and police officers in its Member States on a daily basis. In fact, numerous nations hold a third-party status with the EU in order to have limited access to their resources.
The role and responsibilities of the EU are constantly expanding, with hopes to evolve from a confederation into a federation too. Thus, it seems like a missed opportunity to not demonstrate the group’s ability to handle the challenges faced by the unit of member states in their time of need and uncertainty.
Can the European Union redeem itself?
The original and core purpose of the EU, since its European Economic Community (EEC) origins, was to ensure prosperity of its members. For those purposes, the EU Solidarity Fund has expanded to cover health emergencies. During the pandemic, a Pan-European Guarantee Fund was also approved for €25 billion which is aimed at supporting smaller businesses affected by Covid-19. Furthermore, France and Germany are also suggesting another recovery fund which would be targeted at the EU nations worst affected.
Even now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, acts of aggression and possible terrorism have occurred, such as the Nova Scotia shootings or the recent terrorist attack in Reading, UK. As the world attempts to regain a sense of normality, the need for a collective intelligence and security system will return to being of prime importance.
It’s important to note that many issues facing us today require a collective approach. Whether it’s environmental matters, humanitarian intervention or terrorist threats. The outbreak of Covid-19 was unprecedented, affecting every country at a different rate. Based on the numerous approaches undertaken by various nations, it can be assumed that reaching a unanimous decision on the best measure to deal with the crisis would be difficult. Especially in times of emergency when prompt actions are required. Furthermore, a collective decision could be difficult as each nation varies in health care capabilities, border control and economic position.
Also, despite the lack of consensus on the approach to handle the Covid-19 crisis, the EU proved more successful in preventing mass deaths than their recently departed member, the UK. Although there is a noticeable East-West divide in the severity of Covid-19’s impact amongst the member states, this will hopefully allow the nations to support one another during the healing process.
At the end of the day, the EU might not have stepped up during the unprecedented times of the coronavirus outbreak, however, the recovery process is set to last years and so now is the time for the EU to step up and reaffirm their authority.
By Nicole Maka-Sprawa