When European Union leaders met on Thursday 26 March via a videoconference to discuss their common response to the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, the pressure was on to show that the EU could act in unison to manage this unprecedented crisis. During the previous two calamities – the 2010 European debt crisis and the 2015 migration crisis – EU member states vowed to work together and make sure that the Union emerges stronger. But in reality they gradually drifted further apart by the rise of nationalism and populism that followed.
Similarly, these days national governments and EU institutions are pledging to do “whatever it takes”, while both their initial and later actions did not show much solidarity towards one another. On top of that, various EU senior officials issued dire warnings that “the germ of division”1 or “the lack of ‘all for one spirit’”2 threaten the existence of the European project itself.
To the outside, these statements portray an unsettling image of disarray. Although most attention has so far been paid to the public health and economic havoc wrought by COVID-19, it also poses threats to the social cohesion and security of the EU itself.