Every crisis can be tolerated, at least if general solidarity exists and politicians can foresee it as a priority. It is exactly during times of crises that politicians have fallen short in recent years, and that the European Union has struggled to enact the values that it usually preaches around the globe.
The coronavirus now holds a disturbing mirror up to all of us. It is quietly observing whether human beings respond from a place of fear and individualism, or courage and solidarity with others, and whether ‘European solidarity’ is truly showcased by nation states in the Eurozone.
Solidarity is suddenly only for others to show. People are hoarding en masse, young people are throwing lockdown parties and insisting on living out their ‘spring breaks’, and the Yellow Vests are continuing their demonstrations.
Contradictory measures are being implemented by politicians, leading to increased fear and confusion in the population. In France, Macron has decided to enact a complete lockdown, but has still let municipal elections go ahead. In the United States, Bernie Sanders has turned part of his campaign efforts towards raising funds to address the socio-economic crisis that COVID-19 has created, whilst “where is Joe Biden?” trends on Twitter and the elections still take place in crowded rooms. In Belgium, citizens cross the border en masse to continue shopping and stockpiling.
At the European level, there is a clear lack of coordination regarding the coronavirus. While Médecins Sans Frontières calls for the evacuation of refugee and migrant camps in Greece, silence persists at the European headquarters. The crisis is also being used to further previous political agendas in Europe. Rather than being offered medical aid, refugees on the border with Greece are being brutally stopped, and there remains a total lack regarding the coordination of refugees across Europe. Open borders within the Schengen area are disappearing and Europe’s ‘humanitarian values’ are being thrown out with the bathwater.
In the midst of the pandemic, ‘European values’ have become questioned — the fabric of the Union is now at stake. Each nation in Europe has decided to deal with this crisis separately, closing down their borders and failing to offer support in regards to the supply of masks and other medicinal and pharmaceutical resources.
The Serbian president notably called European solidarity a “fairytale” amidst increasing tension about the lack of mutual aid. China appears now as the most useful ally as it extends help to European nations such as Italy. Most recently, however, relations are breaking down as the Czech republic has intercepted the supply of masks sent by China, which were en route to Italy. Similar tactics are being used by the Polish government, as they are accused of seizing 23,000 masks at customs. Furthermore, Germany and France have been condemned by smaller nations due to their recent blocks on medical supply exports.
All that we hear from our politicians is that they’re going to ‘save the economy’ — lieutenant governor Dan Patrick in the US is an extreme example. But, haven’t we heard this before, during the Greek crisis? We all know how this ended; with harsh austerity measures, a huge amount of bankruptcies, and people falling into poverty. It appears that even under the coronavirus crisis, it will be banks, rather than people, who will be bailed out. The richest people will be able to protect themselves from the biggest ramifications of COVID-19, whilst the poor continue to be pushed into more dangerous and volatile circumstances.
More than ever, the results of past decisions related to austerity measures are having disastrous consequences on our healthcare systems. Such measures have also deeply affected care staff. Solidarity should be a priority this time, and it should be requested from everyone. The coronavirus and big money have two things in common: both cross the border invisibly, and are harmful to our society. One attacks man directly, the other indirectly, but the weakest are their victims.
Will this crisis weaken us all? Tax evasion will have to be banned, and loopholes eradicated, in order to confront it; criminal behaviour conducted by elites will have to be treated just as harshly as the criminal behaviour of others within our society. The call “Billionaire, pay your share!” must sound louder than ever before… It is time for them to behave like everyone else and contribute to our society.
Where are we going to run to? This is a global crisis, and we must realize that there is nowhere to run to anymore! We cannot flee from the coronavirus — instead, it calls us to stay put, become accountable to our social responsibility, and reevaluate our priorities as a society. The coronavirus is showing us what we have been unable, or unwilling to see until now: the suffering of those on the outskirts of society, and the way in which the wellbeing of others interlinked with our own. The only sane response is global solidarity.
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