by N. Peter Kramer
Commission President Von der Leyen slammed the egoism of the EU member states; failing to coordinate their initial responses to the pandemic -not only economically but in terms of sharing medical supplies- real life or death questions: ‘When Europe really needed to prove that this is not only a fair-weather union, too many refused to share their umbrella’. Remarkable that Von der Leyen told this to the European Parliament and not in the European Council of the EU member states leaders whom she accused!
To the Council Von der Leyen said that the Commission will develop a coordinated ‘exit strategy’ for lifting the lockdown in countries across the EU. ‘We need to coordinate our decisions when, at a certain time, we want to go back to normal’. ‘Back to normal’? Which sensible person expects, that after the crisis (and nobody knows when that would be) the EU and the countries are going simply ‘back to normal’?
In the meantime, EU governments have announced multi-billion-euro rescue packages to support companies, workers and healthcare systems in their countries, with measures estimate to be worth about 2 percent of the gross domestic product. For instance, Germany’s parliament greenlit a fiscal stimulus package of €750billion and agreed to allow the government to borrow more than €150billion of fresh money. President Macron promised pay rises and a ‘massive’ investment in the French hospitals. ‘This is the hour of the member states and not so much of the EU’, Mario Draghi, the former ECB President, acknowledged according to the Financial Times.
Nine member states, including France, Italy and Spain, asked the Council for the insurance of joint European debt by Eurobonds (now called Coronabonds) to finance the fight against the Coronavirus; the Council did not agree to it. A precautionary credit line issued by the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund was refused by Italian PM Conte; an ESM bailout will not be accepted by Italians, he said, it will bring back memories of the humiliating and arrogant way the EU treated Greece in financial crisis.
In the end the Council had no other choice than to decide, as the common statement reads, ‘We invite the Eurogroup to present proposals to us within two weeks’…