Europe returns to unite in the face of the challenges of the crisis – Pierre Haski


After failing at the start of the covid-19 pandemic, the European Union is trying not to miss the appointment with the restart, and it does so with unexpected boldness. The time for decisions has not yet come and several negotiations remain to be carried out before reaching an agreement of the 27, but it is clear that the current crisis could break several taboos.

On 27 May the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen presented her recovery plan. It is not so much the amount that amazes – 750 billion euros, yet another astronomical figure to jump out in this period – but the method adopted, absolutely new.

If there is an agreement on the plan, the sum will in fact be divided between 500 billion grants to the sectors and regions most affected by the pandemic, as recently proposed by Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, and 250 billion in loans. The crucial aspect is that the money will be returned collectively from Europe. This is the first revolution.

A new process
The second is the creation of own resources for the European Commission, including a digital tax (which will probably produce some tension with the US giants) and a fossil fuel tax that will affect imports from countries with weak environmental standards. This too is new.

The opposition of the “frugal” countries (Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden), which are a fundamental part of the mechanism of this system, remains to be overcome. However, some of them have already overcome opposition to the idea of ​​a common loan, which was unthinkable until a few weeks ago, a bit like Angela Merkel’s conversion.

Since the Franco-German couple found an agreement, a new process has been set in motion on 18 May, and the Commission has built its proposal taking this framework into account.

The most solid argument in favor of solidarity with the most affected countries such as Italy and Spain (which will be the main beneficiaries of the plan, even if not the only ones) is that of common prosperity. The Netherlands or Denmark, in fact, owe part of their wealth to the single market, therefore they have every interest in promoting the economic recovery of countries in difficulty.

Once again, Europe seems to be making progress thanks to a crisis of force majeure. Today specialists are wondering if the Union is not experiencing a “Hamiltonian” moment, with reference to Alexander Hamilton, who in 1790 had convinced the United States of America to create a common debt, thus laying the foundations of American federalism.

We have not yet gone so far, and today it is not said that the European peoples have a great desire for federalism, especially considering the recent return of borders into vogue.

But if we really have the de facto federalism implied in the proposal for a collective loan, we will be able to strengthen the idea of ​​a common destiny for the Europeans, the same that had been proposed by the founding fathers. Apparently this fate is fulfilled only in moments of suffering.

(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)

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