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As Italy and Spain issue dark warnings, the prospect of Covid-19 delivering a mortal blow to the EU is growing by the day

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
As Italy and Spain issue dark warnings, the prospect of Covid-19 delivering a mortal blow to the EU is growing by the day
What was once idle speculation in the bars of Brussels is now mainstream – even leading Europhiles like Jacques Delors are talking openly about how the bloc’s growing divisions may lead to a dramatic break-up.

Speculation about the end of the European Union project perpetually circulates the normally-packed bars of Brussels’ elegant Place du Luxembourg, frequented as they are by politicians, civil servants and journalists, but until now it was always just idle gossip swapped over glasses of pricey French wine.

Suddenly, however, that speculation has legs. Those bars and restaurants might now lay empty, but the rumours have spread like, dare I say, a virus.

Senior European figures, the architects and cheerleaders of the entire EU project – not the easily-ignored usual bunch of Eurosceptics and rogues – are now repeatedly talking openly about the very real prospect of the bloc’s collapse.

Also on rt.com EU misses another chance to lead as countries take different paths to lifting lockdowns, threatening a new spike in Covid-19 cases

We have national leaders, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and his counterparts from Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and Portugal, António Costa ,sounding dire warnings about the future of the EU over coronavirus and the financial measures being taken to help those countries whose economies have been laid waste by it.

The Italian prime minister told the BBC that he had warned European leaders that they were “facing an appointment with history” that they could not miss.

“If we do not seize the opportunity to put new life into the European project, the risk of failure is real.”

European. Failure.

Not words that would have been contemplated by Rome in the same sentence just seven weeks ago, before the killer wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit Lombardy in northern Italy.

Meanwhile, the Spanish PM was just as gloomy in his outlook. “Solidarity between Europeans is a key principle of the EU treaties. And it is shown at times like this,” he said.

“Without solidarity there can be no cohesion, without cohesion there will be disaffection and the credibility of the European project will be severely damaged.”

This is not what Brussels wants to hear from Madrid.

Just next door, Portugal’s PM had already lost his cool, reacting to suggestions from Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra that Spain – Portugal’s neighbour – might be unable to cope unaided with the financial hit from Covid-19.

He said Hoekstra’s claim “utterly undermines the spirit of the EU and is a threat to the EU’s future.”

Those unsettling words, again: Failure. Damage. Threat.

And if the squabbles among current political figures from the north and south were not enough, we have one of the most influential figures in the history of the project, former European Commission President Jacques Delors, warning that the lack of solidarity among nations is “a mortal danger to the European Union.”

Blimey!

Of course, the very real threat from the pandemic to the EU should have been anticipated.

It is widely recognised that Covid-19 proves most fatal to those suffering underlying health issues, and the EU itself is one of those with severe underlying issues.

Fans of ever-closer union in Europe were disappointed with the relatively weak results returned by the major political groupings in the European elections last year. Eurosceptics and troublemakers won far too many seats for their liking, which had the knock-on effect of seeing problematic officials taking up key seats.

That was the beginning of a growing malaise.

We had the slow take-off of the new commission under Ursula von der Leyen as commissioner hearings proved unexpectedly difficult, the shambolic Brexit and its fallout, and the recent rumblings from Hungary and Poland that have all left the EU exhausted and weakened.

Not the sort of condition you need to be in when facing an invisible and deadly enemy.

So while loose talk in the Place du Lux about the demise of the EU once explored the options – would it be unstoppable migration from war-torn zones to the east that would call time, or arguments over expansion, or a European army, or aid, or internationalism? – the end of the European project could all come down to something intangible and invisible to the naked human eye – the coronavirus.

Absolutely nobody saw that coming.

Also on rt.com Covid-19 has exposed ugliness of GLOBALISM & OPEN BORDERS – and given nations incentive to regain INDEPENDENCE

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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