Joaquim Coll, 30/12/2020
An experimental vaccine against coronavirus /Europa Press
“Europe will not be made all at once or in a joint work: it will be made thanks to concrete achievements, which first of all create a de facto solidarity”, is one of the famous quotes from the speech that Robert Schuman delivered in May 1950, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which he proposed the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. The ECSC was the first of a series of supra-national institutions that have given rise to what is now the European Union. Its history, after for over seventy years, it is full of ups and downs, of moments of overflowing optimism, as happened after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but others of deep depression, close to the collapse of the project. In this sense, the first two decades of this 21st century have been absolutely disastrous in the history of Europeanism, however, this 2020 has marked a change of course that restores optimism.
In 2005, France and the Netherlands rejected the draft Constitution in a referendum, plunging the Union into one of its worst identity crises. In 2008, the bursting of the real estate and financial bubble, which originated in the United States, hit the euro zone countries very hard, especially Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain (the famous Pigs), which faced their debt problems with unsustainable risk premiums. The single currency faltered and the Greek fiscal crisis was about to cause its exit from the Union. The austerity policies imposed by the Troika not only called into question European foundational values such as solidarity, but were the breeding ground for the growth of important national-populist forces in the last decade, whose common denominator is anti-Europeanism. The so-called refugee crisis further strained all the seams. In 2016, the Brexit victory marked the departure for the first time of a member state and opened a dangerous contagion scenario that was strongly planned in both France and Italy. Imagine what would have happened after a Marine Le Pen victory in the 2017 presidential elections or if Matteo Salvini had continued his victorious march to power in 2019. The EU could have gone down the sinkhole of history.
And then came 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic, at a time when the European project was reeling after two black decades. Well, the EU this time has lived up to it and has been able to learn from its past mistakes. Not only has she said goodbye to austerity, but she has given a swift and effective response to the socio-economic catastrophe. The agreement of the 27 to mobilize 750,000 million, mainly in subsidies and aid so that the member states can rebuild and modernize their economies, is an unprecedented success that few believed possible in just a few months and that has overcome the final obstacles of Poland and Hungary. In parallel, the Union has also proven useful in something as concrete and essential right now as vaccines. With the unified purchase of 1,425 million doses, the Union has shown that it is much more than a market. With the millions of doses left over, Europe will also help vaccinate the rest of the world. Finally, the deployment of the vaccination campaign has been a joint effort of all the states in which the values of Europeanism have been put into practice.
The Union began 2020 dragging an existential crisis on its shoulders, unsure of the risk that its complex architecture could run aground forever, besieged by its many internal enemies and fearful of the possibility that Donald Trump would revalidate his presidency. But the year ends stronger and safer. It has found its identity in the fight against the pandemic, it has managed to close the agonizing chapter of Brexit with pain but without major damage, and it will benefit in the coming years from the return of the United States to multilateralism on crucial issues for the planet as a whole health, commerce or the weather. Although we cannot rejoice unreservedly either, there are sufficient reasons for the return of Europeanism.