“Whatever it takes.” That was the motto of the former head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi. Meanwhile, it’s become a standard mantra for all European politicians, though most of them only pay it lip service. In the current crisis, Europe is having trouble being truly united and acting decisively. It’s not the first time this has happened either.

During the euro crisis 10 years ago, Brussels was slow to deploy its rescue backstop, and it only did so when it was almost too late. Even in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of refugees were migrating across the Continent, Brussels failed to provide a coordinated response. Struggling to find the right balance between individual responsibility and solidarity has become not a bug, but a feature of the European confederation.

It’s no different with the current pandemic. “We are mobilizing all means at our disposal to help,” says Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The only problem is: That’s not much. The decisive battles in the war against the coronavirus are being fought in health and financial policy circles, where jurisdiction falls to national and regional governments, not the EU. When it comes to containing an epidemic, the experiences of the last few weeks have shown that Europe’s toolbox is all but empty.



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