Episode 172: We're back, the world's ending!


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This week we discuss the EU's corona response in our wonderful reoccurring section, this is not it chief!

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Also, have you considered Matteo Renzi?

That is not it chief

Isn't this exactly what the EU should be for?

Well.. yeah probably, but it's the exact kind of thing some members would resist. Healthcare is weirdly absent and explicitly down to the member states. It's basically optional:

"Union action, which shall complement national policies, shall be directed towards improving public health, preventing physical and mental illness and diseases, and obviating sources of danger to physical and mental health. Such action shall cover the fight against the major health scourges, by promoting research into their causes, their transmission and their prevention, as well as health information and education, and monitoring, early warning of and combating serious cross-border threats to health"

Cool good start...

"The Union shall encourage cooperation between the Member States in the areas referred to in this Article"

Oh... so... not really their main jam

The EU has a centre for disease prevention and control (https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en), but it's pretty small and exists more to provide training/support to countries with perceived emergency plans.

Ursula said it's fine now though?

Yeah... and it totally could have done this earlier. This is exactly the kind of positive thing the EU could be doing all the time but squabbling and money would prevent it. You'd easily find commission staff who would have loved to do this every commission cycle.

They've started a EU stockpike of ventilators, masks etc for pandemics (but only since March 19(

Joint procurement for ventilators got a lot of press in the UK for them "missing an email" or something... but why wasn't the mechanism for this already in place? (https://euobserver.com/tickers/147981). This is a wake up call for emergency procurement powers that aren't made up or renewed ad hoc requiring country level export bans (https://www.eurotopics.net/en/238112/coronavirus-how-can-europe-secure-more-face-masks)

France and Germany are taking Italian patients.. but only after there was already a huge problem. Again there should have been a plan in place for this already, there are on national levels, why not EU?

You could of had emergency bonds mechanisms in place so Mark Rutte couldn't have this opportunity to be a shitbag during a crisis (https://www.politico.eu/article/dutch-no-on-corona-bonds-undermines-european-project/). Or better yet pre-agree a bailout system of another sort...

Rethinking European Solidarity

Macron, von der Leyen, umm.. basically everyone who's not Merkel or Weber, talk a big game of EU reform. An EU that works for the people or something... Well you could actually do that. 2008 and the Eurocrisis was the time for this. Rethinking the way EU solidarity in a crisis worked. They tried giant loans and fiscal rules, everyone hated them. Why isn't there a mechanism in place to deal with the next crisis? Because it was a hard discussion and they were busy giving vague statements or writing open letters.

Daniel Gros (of Centre for European Policy Studies) argues you could exempt the badly hit countries from paying into the EU budget... which could be a repeatable mechanism. It's much easier than loans and doesn't cripple the countries its supposed to benefit. "Corona solidarity" in less badly hit countries, or those who could better recover using their own coffers (see Germany - https://www.politico.eu/article/germany-to-ditch-balanced-budget-commitment-to-prevent-coronavirus-slump/)


189 episodes