Never before, even during the worst days of the eurozone crisis, have we seen such a variety of petitions, appeals and open letters addressed to European institutions and leaders, demanding that they take collective action against the threat posed by COVID-19 to all of Europe.
More than any other crisis, the COVID-19 epidemic demonstrates that borders offer little protection against global phenomena, and that Europeans (as if we even need to be reminded) share a common destiny. This is why so many Europeans are demanding common solutions, coordinated, where possible, by the European Union.
While it was rightly criticised for being so slow to take up the gauntlet, solutions are finally being proposed, and the EU evetually looks ready for action. It has brandished what has, up to now, been its most effective weapon: its wallet. This point has not been reached without first provoking tension amongst the member states (it is they who have the last word, after all). Certain member states get nervous at the thought of reaching into their pockets in the name of European solidarity. The EU has taken serious risks: given the initially reticent response from Brussels, Europeans began to question the purpose of the EU, and europhobic elements were quick to stress its inability to protect its citizens.
At the same time, economists, researchers, lawyers, academics, experts, professionals and citizens have rallied – without much coordination – throughout Europe. Despite a lack of cohesion, there is unity of purpose: a demand that the EU demonstrate why it exists, beyond being an alliance for economic interests and free trade. Conscious of our mission to report the tensions and passions driving European civil society, we have tried our best to track, compile, and – in some cases – promote these initiatives. In the all too likely event that we neglect to mention some relevant initiatives, please let us know, and we’ll do our best to highlight them.
In these times of crisis and uncertainty, it is at least reassuring to see citizens turning towards Europe seeking protection and security. Expectations are high – commensurate with the danger posed by this unprecedented epidemic. The time is now to show that the Union is our strength, and that it’s only together that Europeans can deal with the challenges faced by all. Let’s make sure this opportunity doesn’t go to waste.