The coronavirus pandemic has put European cooperation under strain, but this week it looked like the bloc is out of woods, for now.
Finance ministers for Eurozone countries managed to clinch a compromise over how to finance the economic recovery.
The videoconference ended in a round of applause. For Europe the stakes were high.
“We can all remember the response to the financial crisis of the last decade, when Europe did too little too late. This time around is different,” said Mario Centeno, president of the Eurogroup.
The plan is worth 500 billion euros.
Most of Europe has been on lockdown for three or more weeks, and thoughts are already turning to when we can emerge from our homes.
“Life in Europe will go back to normality gradually. We’re already working on, as a European Commission, on possible exit strategies to recommend to member states based on scientific evidence,” the EU’s Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told us.
The Commission was supposed to launch its recommendation for the gradual lifting of emergency measures this week, but it was postponed until after the Easter break.
From suits to scrubs
The Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar was one of the most high profile politicians to turn back to medicine to help battle the virus outbreak this week.
Several MEPs with medical training have also returned to their old practices. French MEP Chrysoula Zacharopoulou admitted the EU response was not perfect: “In the face of such a huge health crisis, it’s normal that we didn’t have the right answer at the start. But now, I think, the Commission, the institutions, using modern technology, have stepped up to the plate. I think that we do see European solidarity.”
EU politics has largely gone online, leaving empty buildings in Brussels. European Parliament President David Sassoli wants to put them to good use, making them available to homeless people.
In the French city of Strasbourg, another European Parliament building will accept patients, but thoughts are already turning to exit strategies.
“In the coming weeks, there will be a detection centre,” explains parliament’s spokesperson Jaume Duch, “because everybody has understood that the exit phase of this pandemic will mainly about the ability test to a lot of people and deciding to isolate those that have the illness even without any symptoms.”
“’Web of lies’
While doctors and nurses are fighting the virus, cyber security experts and debunkers are hard at work to ensure information online is kept free from contagion.
The European Commission has a unit dedicated to identifying disinformation, while EU commissioners have been leaning on tech giants like Twitter and Facebook to step up their efforts.
One of the architects of coronavirus disinformation? Pro-Kremlin sources, according to EU reports.
Europe’s dancers, opera singers and orchestras have been keeping busy despite the lockdown. Some inspiration for your Easter weekend. #Stayhome
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