24 Mar, 2020

Response to COVID-19: More Europe, less China

The on-going coronavirus outbreak has put the world’s societies in lockdown and the world’s economy in shutdown. But how affordable is a shutdown economically and how permissible is the lockdown socially to safeguard civil liberties while protecting human lives?

As Europe has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 crisis, the past weeks have shown a lack of solidarity and cooperation not just within the European Union but also across countries around the world. It is now a bitter irony of this truly global crisis that China is now portraying itself as the global leader of support and coordination. The country that at first adopted a “quick and efficient” response based on the authoritarian and coercive rules, censorship and massive disinformation campaigns that include covering up the outbreak of the virus is now leading the propaganda car and delivering critical medical supplies

Fortunately, the EU Member States have now started to show greater solidarity by supplying medical equipment and treating coronavirus patients across national borders. Earlier this week, Germany offered help to the region of Alsace in France, struggling to cope with the increasing number of cases, by treating critically ill patients. Luxembourg has also joined this action.

However, let’s not forget that the initial reactions were border closures, preventing other EU citizens to return to their home countries and setting up export stops of medical equipment on grounds of a ‘national emergency’ as if this wasn’t a European crisis.

Europe must not allow China or Russia to fill the void in the absence of American leadership on the global stage. The EU has all it takes to lead by example: on the world stage, as a Union of liberal democratic countries tackling the crisis in both a transparent and efficient manner, and within the Union by practising true solidarity. We should not forget that today’s one sick citizen is tomorrow’s other citizen.

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