Coronavirus represents a crossroads for the European Union. The choice is either closer integration to better prepare for future events or making the most important decisions in times of need at the national levelby Bruno Maçães , Anu Bradford / June 5, 2020 / Leave a comment
Indeed it could, but not in the way you think. Nations will not turn their backs on the European Union in search of lost national spirit. Quite the contrary. They will turn to the institutions in Brussels with increasingly taxing demands, and that is something the system was not built for. The EU was not designed to take hard decisions between competing interests. It is very bad at making choices. What it does well is to govern by rule, and the more impersonal and automatic the rules, the better.
But suppose that the present difficulties are only the beginning. Deep interconnection between different systems leads one crisis to cascade into the next. Start with debt in the south. Italian debt is expected to surge above 160 per cent of GDP, with France and Spain also at risk. These countries are bound to demand the creation of new EU-wide financing mechanisms; they will be refused because that would fundamentally change the union. At the same time, countries such as Germany will ask for new rules on monetary policy to lock in new safeguards—the recent ruling of its constitutional court against the European Central Bank showed this is an increasingly fraught issue. But again, these requests will be refused because they would undermine the European project.
Many countries will demand clear guidelines on how to deal with China and the US, as the two giants enter a new cold war. Brussels, though it is supposed to have sole competence over trade, will not have an answer.
At some point an impotent EU could pronounce itself incapable of solving problems without a mandate larger than the one it currently enjoys. National leaders would return home, frustrated and angry about an outcome no one really wants, and fearful that a new push for centralisation could turn their electorates against Europe altogether.
There are few outright Leavers on the continent. But with politics stuck, leaders would proceed to address their problems alone or in small coalitions. Those of us who have argued for years that federalism is not an emotional goal but an insurance policy against dangerous paralysis might feel vindicated. But for the EU as we know it, it could…