Dominic Green suggests at Spectator USA that the coronavirus could be the end of the already troubled EU. He writes (abridged):
The familiar should be a consolation amid the terrible novelties of COVID-19, but the pandemic’s effects on the European Union threaten to turn familiar fiasco into dangerous novelty. As a weakened Angela Merkel faces Germany’s crisis of economic responsibility, and France floats the idea of issuing its own ‘corona bond’, the EU and its currency face what Emmanuel Macron would probably not want to call its Waterloo.
Henry Kissinger’s remark — ‘Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?’ — has never seemed more true. Britain is leaving. France and Germany are at odds, with France emerging as the patron of the debt-stricken southern states and Germany, the dominant eurozone economy, wanting all the profit and none of the responsibility.
As the eurozone went off a cliff, the only unified European response to the outbreak of coronavirus was to ignore Italy’s call for help. In mid-March, Italy, its medical supplies exhausted, triggered the EU’s civil protection mechanism. Olaf Scholz, Germany’s finance minister, dismissed pan-EU action as ‘premature’. Not one of its euro-friends came to Italy’s assistance.
The alliance of France and Germany is supposed to be the cornerstone of the Union. But when Emmanuel Macron calls for issuing a common eurozone ‘coronabond’, Angela Merkel refuses.
Macron seeks to use this crisis to force the final, perennially deferred stage of European union: turning the European Central Bank into something along the lines of the Federal Reserve after 1910, firing up the economies of southern Europe through debt mutualization and — crucially — printing money as the US is doing.
This would allow France a hand in spending Germany’s profits from its trade with the southern states. But Germany has painful historical memories about the political effects of debt — admittedly, less painful than the rest of Europe’s memories.
Dominic Green is Life & Arts editor of Spectator USA.