What has the EU ever done for us? – The EU’s role in and response to the coronavirus pandemic

What has the EU ever done for us? – The EU’s role in and response to the coronavirus pandemic
2020-05-29 KKI1
Record of a webinar organized by the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade on the 14th of May.

Participants of the webinar:

Ms Eleonora Poli
Researcher, Istituto Affari Internazionali

Mr Rem Korteweg
Senior Research Fellow, Netherlands Institute of International Relations

Mr Tamás Levente Molnár
Research Fellow, Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade


Mr Gergely Varga
Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade

The objective of the webinar was to evaluate the state of the European Union in light of the pandemic and the economic crisis. With an Italian and a Dutch expert alongside IFAT expert Tamás Molnár at the virtual table, the discussion brought in perspectives from countries at the centre of the debate about economic solidarity, the future course of the European integration process, and China’s influence in the EU.

The panelists highlighted, that at the beginning of the crisis the EU did not function well, lacking leadership and resolve. It was only after a couple of weeks that the EU began to form a comprehensive response, especially in the form of immediate economic measures which facilitated the member states to do what was necessary to keep their economies afloat. In the third phase of the crisis, as countries managed to take the pandemic under control and a gradual easing of the restrictive measure has begun, the EU institutions and member states have begun to do the hard work of finding a long-term solution to the huge economic crisis the EU is facing.

Eleonora Poli, researcher of IAI of Italy, emphasized that on one side of the European political spectrum, there are the Italians who have suffered the most from the pandemic, received very little help from the EU when it was most needed, and anti-EU sentiments were already strong in the public. Thus, the Italians now demand strong and visible solidarity from the EU in their economic recovery, or much of the public will lose its remaining confidence in the Union. Rem Korteweg, senior research fellow of Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands, pointed out that on the other side of the spectrum is the Netherlands, the leading member of the “frugal four”, fiscally disciplined rich EU members strongly opposing any kind of common debt in the EU.  At present, domestic politics, including a fragile coalition government and elections next year, further complicate the debate in Dutch politics about the common European bonds and the limits of European solidarity. It will be a huge challenge to find a compromise among the member states on the recovery plan, with the EU again most likely to “muddle through” the current crisis instead of a great leap forward.

For the full recording please click on the link below or visit our YouTube channel!