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The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic keeps testing out the planet. And subject to this endurance test are not only the governments of individual states, but also integration structures, particularly the European Union. Even today it is obvious that the coronavirus situation undermines the unity of the EU and highlights the lack of solidarity within its framework.
The coronavirus-caused crisis has revealed all the weaknesses of the European Union and once again confirmed its being more of a club of friends and associates at the most. Perhaps not the worst club in the world, but by no means a heavy hitter on the present-day global stage with its strong regional unions and associations. At least, the level of integration within the EU between national states is clearly not really high today. And the level of bureaucracy and sluggishness of the entire EU structure has long become proverbial.
Brussels officials might learn something new thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. It is entirely possible that the Union will digest this sorry lesson and move forward. But if this does not happen in the present situation, this won't probably happen ever. So far, there have been no positive shifts long this track. To a certain extent this was demonstrated by European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen's recent speech when presenting an investment initiative to get tough with the coronavirus.
Under this initiative, EU countries will get €37 billion to fight the pandemic and maintain economic stability undermined by Covid-19. Oddly enough, Poland will receive the largest amount – nearly €7.5 billion – for some reason. As for Italy, which is literally soliciting Brussels for help, the European bureaucrats suggest allocating three times less – just €2.3 billion. Hungary will also get an unreasonable amount of €5.6 billion, although this country does not face a threatening epidemic scale – the first fatality was not registered here until the European investment initiative was presented. Romania and Slovakia are also not going to come off losers with €3 and €2.5 billion respectively.
The point to be emphasized here is that while in China the coronavirus sick rate is on the decline, Europe has become the main pest spot. Today, the Old World is literally flooded with infection. The Covid-19 pandemic has resolutely penetrated Italy and Spain. Other nations are waiting for an infection outbreak in the nearest future, hopeful to stop its spread. Experts believe the coronavirus will affect many Europeans and may even kill the European Union.
As the Covid-19 situation shows, the liberal model imposed by the West on the world as a showpiece copes with the pandemic good deal worse than autocracies. And if you carefully study the Brussels-proposed Investment initiative of dealing with the coronavirus, it does not really help the EU member-states in the fight against Covid-19.
Given the damage different countries suffer from the coronavirus, the appropriation of funds under the new investment program looks fine and irrational. Italy, for instance, is offered to fight the epidemic by means of its own funds it has kept in the catch-all envelope of EU 2014-2020 budget funding. However, a short while ago, Ursula von der Leyen promised Italy anything it would ask for. But the parameters of the European Investment initiative raise doubts. And Poland will apparently be the one to get all that one can wish for (and even more).
Thus, at the end of the day it turns out that the European Commission's "assistance" to the same Italy is limited to a Brussels request "not to introduce national measures" that exacerbate that country's enough already dire state. That's about it. It can be suggested that the European Commission's Investment initiative is no more than a European bureaucrats' reply with no real answer to assistance requests coming from EU member states to Brussels as regards combating the coronavirus. Beyond a shadow of doubt, the new EU initiative is another vibrant touch to the picture of its fatal helplessness amid the coronavirus crisis.
Rome seems to have been first to understand this. It is for this reason that Italy has sought assistance with Russia and China (both considered autocracies in the West) for help in their fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. But as practice shows, it is Moscow and Beijing that are most successfully fighting the virus today. The experience of Russia and China will hopefully help Italy overcome the pandemic-induced severe crisis. By the way, Beijing has already sent a plane to Rome with 31 tons of expendables and a team of doctors.
It should be noted that Italy was refused aid not only by the Brussels-based EU central authorities, but also by the neighboring countries whom it turned for help to. The Italians suddenly found that all the European phone lines were engaged. No one offered help to Rome; Austria, for one, closed its borders to residents of Italy who failed to prove being coronavirus-free. Germany, in its turn, banned the export of protective equipment, in particular medical face masks that are so needed in Italy today.
But it seems that sooner or later the Italians will pay the European Union back for this slap in the face, when official Brussels and other EU countries actually left them one-on-one against Covid-19. And it is entirely possible that the UK's exit from the European Union (Brexit) will be followed by Italexit after such a European solidarity betrayal of Rome. Which may cause a chain reaction and entail an ultimate collapse of the European Union.