Europe Day 2020
On 9 May the EU celebrates peace and unity in Europe. It marks the anniversary of the day in 1950, when Robert Schuman, the then French foreign minister and former German soldier, set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe's nations unthinkable. The speech led to the European Coal and Steel Community that would be the first step towards what is now the European Union. Seventy years later, a fourth Franco-German war is truly unimaginable.
The seventieth anniversary in 2020 should have been a time of hope as the traumas of the 2010s (Brexit, the Greek debt crisis and conflicts over immigration) faded. The new EU Commission took office under Ursula von der Leyen offering a forward-looking Green Deal that would see Europe carbon-neutral by 2050. A new head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, reinforced the idea of a new dawn.
However, since February the EU has been shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic. Initial responses appeared to emphasize national rather than European interests. Cooperation became more evident after Ursula von der Leyen’s siamo tutti Italiani (we are all Italians) video address on March 11 and EU summits in March and April. Christine Lagarde launched an emergency €750 billion package to ease the impact of the pandemic, tweeting "there are no limits" to the ECB’s commitment to the eurozone members.
On Europe Day, a preliminary assessment is that the EU has emerged stronger from the crisis and there is light at the end of the COVID tunnel. However the toll has been high; over half of the world’s 263,841 confirmed deaths from COVID as of 7 May have been in the EU.
Richard Pomfret, Professor of Economics & Jean Monnet Chair in the Economics of European Integration - The University of Adelaide
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