Keeping our faith in Europe is important, but not always easy.
When the European Union came into being, it was regrettably designed neither for pandemics nor for debt crises. Solutions to the problems that arise are always found in the end, but they take time and usually emerge through lengthy and, occasionally, chaotic procedures. We saw it happening during Greece’s economic crisis and we are seeing it once again with Europe’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, we have learned one more thing. Europe is very much influenced by political developments in Germany. During the Greek crisis, analysts here often attributed Berlin’s hardline stance toward the debt-hit nation to some election in one of the federal states. Chancellor Angerla Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble, her finance minister at the time, were seen as calculating the political cost of their each and every move.
German political leaders are now kicking the EU. They believe they have an interest in doing so in light of Merkel’s departure. Skepticism about a specific vaccine has, in part, became a political instrument.
This is an incredibly shortsighted policy because it undermines the public’s confidence in the vaccination process. Politicians are effectively pouring oil onto the flames of anti-systemic protests. That said, the dependence of the bloc’s course on domestic developments in Germany will not stop.
Strong leaders are in short supply these days. It is still too early to have a clear idea of what the Continent will look like without Merkel – who may not have been solid as a leader, but was nevertheless prudent and responsible. Merkel became a point of reference at a time of rapid developments and growing irrationality worldwide.
With or without Merkel, it is certainly safer for a small country like Greece to be inside the EU rather than outside of it. Greek citizens have some good reasons to be frustrated but, at the same time, they know that many of the things that we now take for granted in this land are thanks to the fact that the country belongs to the Union’s hard core.
Maybe it’s because we realize that this is what keeps us safely on track when our “bad self” appears to take control whenever we are infected with the virus of irrational division or we are too scared to make the changes we need to survive.