Is the EU failing on crisis management?

European leaders agreed on Tuesday to close the EU's external borders so as to contain Covid-19. The entry ban will initially apply for 30 days. In addition, EU Council President Charles Michel assured European businesses that "whatever it takes" would be done to cushion the impact of the crisis. Commentators are unanimous that so far the EU hasn't cut a good figure in its efforts to fight the pandemic.

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Badische Zeitung (DE) /

Europe just an extra

The Badische Zeitung complains that each country is muddling along on its own in the crisis:

“In Alsace, the French health system may already be unable to provide the best possible care for the rapidly increasing number of Covid-19 patients. And what are we doing, apart from closing the border? Are we offering to treat some of our neighbour's patients in South Baden? To free up beds in Alsace for those in whose lungs the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen is raging? Are we sending in doctors and medical personnel, as China did with Wuhan? It's hard to ignore that in the crisis management of recent days Europe has taken a back seat; that the European idea is at best playing a secondary role in containing the pandemic, if at all.”

Dnevnik (SI) /

Brussels making one mistake after the next

"European solidarity" is clearly just an empty phrase in Brussels, sociologist Tomaž Mastnak complains in his column for Dnevnik:

“The neoliberal EU has been discredited. The Brussels Eurocrats' headquarters has proved unable to come up with a coherent policy in the health crisis. What's more, in the name of the free movement of capital it has obstructed the member states that have tried to protect their own people. When Italy asked for help it received no response. Then the Germans and French banned the export of medical equipment to Italy. 'European solidarity' only applies when it is directed against Russia or Venezuela. ... Then it was the Chinese who had to come to the Italians' aid. ... More than ever now it's clear that this cannot continue.”

Falter (AT) /

National thinking getting the upper hand

The lack of solidarity in this crisis could have long-term negative consequences for Europe, Der Falter worries:

“Germany imposed an export ban on masks and ventilators, which was only lifted under pressure from the EU Commission. Austria introduced health checks at the [Italian] border without even consulting its partner government in Rome. ... The epidemic shows how national thinking is rapidly getting the upper hand over community-based thinking in the EU. Although the Commission president has promised solidarity, the member states are using the exceptional situation to assert themselves as nation states. This could become the most lasting consequence of the epidemic.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Hostage to the virus

The EU may well be experiencing its biggest challenge, La Repubblica notes:

“The EU transformed into a 'red zone' to protect itself from global contagion is something we never imagined we'd see or experience. ... But this is precisely the decision taken by the heads of state and government in the most dramatic conference call the EU has ever seen. The Europe of the Enlightenment and of the founding fathers of Ventotene, just, free and filled with the spirit of solidarity, is being defeated by an invisible and elusive enemy. The Europe of the free exchange of ideas, people and goods is being forced to arm itself against a disease that robs us of our breath and takes us hostage.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

Egoism is rampant

National self-interest is determining policy in this crisis as well, Petre M. Iancu complains on the Romanian service of Deutsche Welle:

“The Italians, who are affected by a mortality rate that is higher than elsewhere, have waited in vain for help and solidarity from the EU states and the countries of highly developed northern Europe. ... In addition to fever and a dry cough, the pandemic has symptoms that have barely been investigated. ... One of them is the epidemic of panic and an increasingly cruel national egoism that is completely blind to the obvious: that the killer is too small to need a passport and too strong to be eradicated by national measures alone.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Only Europe can protect people's health

The Frankfurter Rundschau is also less than impressed with the EU's crisis management:

“Despite the summit routines that have been practiced year in, year out and the transnational networking of its leaders, the members are not good at exchanging information among themselves. Yet it's hard to imagine a crisis that requires as much international coordination as the limitless spread of a deadly virus. ... Effective control of the corona pandemic exceeds the capabilities of the nation state. Only in conjunction with other states can the latter fulfil its responsibilities to its citizens . ... In order to better protect the health of its citizens we need more rather than less Europe.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Nation states to blame for EU's shortcomings

By contrast Hospodářské noviny argues that the EU is being unfairly criticised in the current crisis:

“All those who lambaste the EU for its inaction in the current crisis must be reminded that the bloc only has the powers that the member states give it. There is no point in accusing the EU of being responsible for the shortage of breathing masks, for example. ... But there is also a danger lurking here: once the whole crisis is over many will say that there is no need for an EU like this. But that would just be another mistake. ... Nevertheless things will be very awkward for politicians who, after the coronavirus, try to uphold the ethos of European cooperation.”