Europe stumbled upon the coronavirus at first. Can you handle the pandemic now?

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<pre><pre>Europe stumbled upon the coronavirus at first. Can you handle the pandemic now?
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BRUSSELS – With the rapid spread of the new coronavirus, the flattened world has developed some speed bumps. With trade disrupted and economies paralyzed, some consider the nation-state has returned, as if it had ever disappeared.

For countries like the United States, China and Russia, that is normal. But for the European Union, this ongoing experiment in shared sovereignty, borderless trade and freedom of movement, the virus has been a serious systemic shock. Some have even wondered if the block could break under pressure.

But after a clumsy start, the European Union and its institutions, including the European Central Bank, have begun to better face Europe's new challenge as the epicenter of the virus.

However, there are still big problems to solve. The whole concept of European "solidarity,quot; is being questioned.

But despite the fact that some borders have been kept closed to combat the spread of the virus, that initial setback is constantly giving way to pressure from the big states, like France, Italy and Spain, joined by six others, to do more collectively, especially financially, to issue a "common debt instrument,quot;, a kind of eurobonds for the virus to help affected countries.

For now, the most frugal northern states like the Netherlands and Germany are opposed to that idea, who think there are other ways to help Italy and Spain, but it will surely be discussed on Thursday night, when European leaders meet in a teleconference summit.

The meeting is part of the deepening coordination effort in Europe, after a tentative start.

"We need to be quite honest and say that the E.U. Initial the response was chaotic and belated, ”said Agata Gostynska-Jakubowska of the Center for European Reform in Brussels.

At the end of last year, it was obvious that the virus would reach Europe, he said, but even after it developed in Italy, "member states took center stage while the commission," the bloc's executive arm, "and Other US institutions were quite absent, and the damage had already been done, playing in the hands of the Eurosceptics. "

As Europe faltered, states recreated internal borders, damaging the single market. Germany in particular has been criticized for initially banning the export of supplies such as masks, protective equipment and medical equipment.

Once the commission proposed an export restriction across the European Union, Germany lifted its restriction, but that took some time. Since then, he has shown more solidarity in accepting some coronavirus patients from Italy and France.

"There is still a great risk for the union," said Daniela Schwarzer, director of the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. "All disintegrating trends can accelerate."

"We do not know if Europe will strengthen, since we are only at the beginning of this pandemic whose course we do not yet know," said François Heisbourg, a French analyst.

"The United States can be strengthened if it demonstrates measures relevant to the crisis and if it can use its scale to overcome the limitations of purely national policies," he said. But the border fuss is overblown, he added.

"The virus travels with the person, so the borders are relevant," he said. "People talked about how catastrophic it was to have temporary borders between France and Germany, about the fragmentation of Europe," Heisbourg added. "But not everything is geopolitical. You cannot fight this without borders. It's about the logic of taming the epidemic. "

If populists criticize Brussels' performance, the pandemic is also an argument to give Brussels more power over health research, standards and policy coordination, he argued.

Mr. Zuleeg agrees. "When it comes to cross-border issues like this, we need to establish ways to react quickly," he said. “We had to do it in the financial and monetary field with the debt crisis, and now we will have to do it in health. Not because someone wants "a bigger Europe,quot;, but because we have to. We are interdependent across borders. "

Monika Pronczuk contributed to the Brussels investigation.

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