A lack of solidarity during the coronavirus crisis could be the “fatal wound” to the European Union project, one of the continent’s top cardinals has warned.
– “The EU seems paralysed” over COVID-19
Jean Claude Hollerich, the Archbishop of Luxembourg and President of COMECE, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, issued the warning to the EU and the world in an article in semi-official Vatican journal La Civilta Cattolica, to be printed in English April 18 but already online in Italian.
“The largest solidarity network we can imagine is the European Union. Yet the EU seems paralysed” over COVID-19, Hollerich denounced.
The cardinal deplored that, in the time of coronavirus, “the return to national interests seems obvious to most [EU] member countries”.
On the anniversary of the Schengen agreement – the 1985 treaty that largely abolished border controls in Europe – the cardinal lamented that because of the coronavirus “we see our borders closed, without the possibility of real dialogue, without mutual agreement”.
“The crisis seems to favor the individualism of nations”, Hollerich bemoaned.
Insisting that “Europe cannot be built without an idea of Europe, without ideals”, Cardinal Hollerich decried the fact that the EU’s closing-off to refugees – as evidenced by “the images of the overcrowded refugee camp of Moria on the island of Lesvos [and] the thousands of shipwrecked in the Mediterranean” – has inflicted “deep wounds” on the dream of a united Europe.
“Lack of solidarity during the coronavirus crisis can become the fatal wound” for the EU, the cardinal alerted.
“It is true that we know of a number of Italian and French patients being treated in Germany, for example, or others in Luxembourg.
“But we see in evidence the difficulty of European solidarity. I fear that for many this will be their disenchantment with the European project”.
– EU’s “last chance”
Comparing the looming reconstruction of European countries after coronavirus to the reconstruction of the continent after World War II, Hollerich said that the “risk”, after COVID-19, “is that without economic and financial aid poor countries will become poorer”.
“This is the last chanche [chance] given to the European project”, the cardinal alerted.
“I wholeheartedly hope that the countries of the North will undertake a project of solidarity with the countries of Southern Europe, not under blackmail, but making every effort possible, in a great gesture of European solidarity”, Hollerich urged.
“Otherwise, it is not only the European idea that is at risk. It is the world map that will change after this crisis. Europe could emerge weaker, and the return to nationalism could weaken the nation-states themselves”, he alerted.
– IMF tips EU economic growth to fall to -7.5% in 2020 thanks to ‘Great Lockdown’
Debate continues to rage over what should be the EU’s common response to the coronavirus economic recession the International Monetary Fund is now calling the ‘Great Lockdown’.
That body is predicting that the COVID-19 crash could bring with it a contraction in Euro area economic growth of as much as -7.5% in 2020, with that figure rising to -9.1% and -8% in hardest-hit Italy and Spain, respectively.
Countries led by the governments in Rome and Madrid are continuing to push for the mutualisation of debt to cover healthcare and economic stimulus costs, but save the half-a-trillion euro rescue package Eurogroup finance ministers agreed to last week, financially conservative countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Austria continue to hold out on the prospect of EU ‘coronabonds’.