varoufakis77_Pavlo GoncharSOPA ImagesLightRocket via Getty Images_eu covid vaccine Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A COVID Counterfactual for Europe

Understanding why the European Union will emerge from the pandemic weaker rather than stronger may prove to be a source of gloom. But recognizing what might have been could also serve as a springboard for change.

ATHENS – Imagine that the coronavirus pandemic, rather than undermining confidence in the European Union, had strengthened it. Imagine that COVID-19 had persuaded EU leaders to overcome years of acrimony and fragmentation. Imagine that it had catalyzed the emergence this year of a stronger, more integrated bloc to which the world looked for global leadership.

Imagine. It isn’t hard to do.

At the end of February 2020, two weeks before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, the EU Council had already instructed the European Commission to coordinate Europe’s war against the coronavirus. Within days, the Commission compiled a list of essential gear in short supply across Europe, from protective equipment to intensive care units, and placed orders with manufacturers. It also convened Cov-Comm, a committee of top epidemiologists and representatives of EU public health systems to offer daily guidance. Liberated from the need to procure essential supplies and work out optimal travel and social distancing strategies, national governments concentrated on implementing the emergent EU plan.

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