European Commission to propose new EU budget “To face the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic”, announced its president, Ursula Van der Leyen, Saturday, March 28. Is it to make people forget the failure of European leaders, Thursday, March 26, to agree on a strong economic response to the health crisis?
This summit saw the re-emergence of divisions between northern and southern Europeans, as during the Greek debt crisis from 2009. Nine countries, including France, had asked for the creation of a common debt instrument – alias ” coronabonds ”- to finance emergency and long-term measures. But they were met with refusal from Germany and the Netherlands in particular, still suspicious of countries deemed lax in budgetary terms. The 27 have only decided to refer the matter to the European finance ministers within ten days.
Suddenly, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa denounced the “Recurring meanness” of the Netherlands, and the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Luigi di Maio assured “Wait for Europe to do its part, because we don’t know what to do with fine words”. And French President Emmanuel Macron to appeal to European budgetary solidarity on Friday March 27 in an interview with the Italian press.
Here again is the EU facing the challenge of unity and solidarity between its members. It is true that the Commission claims that Germany receives patients from France and Italy in its hospitals, and that Berlin, Paris and Vienna send masks to Italy.
“But as soon as we talk about budget, it gets stuck, observes economist Philippe Waechter at Ostrum AM. It is, however, a collective shock, for which no one is responsible and which will spare no country. In addition, Spain and Portugal have made great efforts since the debt crisis to improve their accounts and their economy. ” The idea of coronabonds “Has the advantage for” rigorists “to be an instrument limited to the coronavirus. We are not talking about permanent financial transfers between the North and the South ”.
Could these doubts about intra-European solidarity cause an increased financial crisis in Europe? While the markets are nervous, “It wouldn’t take much more for the situation to get worse “, Believes Philippe Waechter. Thierry Chopin, professor at the Catholic University of Lille, points to the other danger, the “National, even nationalist withdrawal”.
As for Jacques Delors, he underlines in a press release that the lack of solidarity “ puts the EU in mortal danger (…). The microbe is back “