"The coronavirus outbreak reopened the old wounds of the European Union and rubs salt in them. The split is between the North-South (debtors and creditors) and the West-East," RISS expert Oksana Petrovskaya said. At the same time, there is growing skepticism in the EU's southern countries. People understand that Germany is not going to help Italy by opening additional hospitals or providing the necessary medical equipment.
The Italian Prime Minister in an interview with a German newspaper called the coronavirus "a tsunami that will strike the European economy." A week ago, European leaders discussed the problems caused by the pandemic and suggested to issue "corona bonds" to help debtor countries in a difficult situation. However, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, and Finland, also known as the "Frugal Four" strongly opposed the suggestion.
According to RISS expert, the most difficult problem for Italy and Spain now is the healthcare crisis. She recalled that Italy and Spain had insisted on carrying out national policy in education and health fields refusing to put it under the control of the European Union. "The sad consequences of this national policy are now clearly visible. Spain has 17 separate health systems that differ greatly from district to district. Now the government is trying to take matters into its own hands," she said.
Russia and China are the only countries that provided financial aid to the countries affected by the pandemic. The European Commission (EC) has already made a conclusion that it is necessary to purchase medical equipment and distribute it among countries in need. The EC is also developing mechanisms that would allow to implement these measures swiftly.
There is also a split between the West-East in the EU. Petrovskaya drew attention to the fact that that the EU was concerned about "the possible transition from soft to hard authoritarianism." The analyst recalled Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. His Fidesz party passed a law in parliament granting the PM open-ended extra powers. The EC has already underscored that despite the fact that many countries introduce an emergency regime, "everything has its limits."
"Calls for European solidarity are very frequent today. First of all, we need to make it possible to move patients from one country to another in order to provide them with drugs and medical equipment, as well as exchange information. There are a lot more people now infected with coronavirus than mass media covers," Petrovskaya concluded.