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06/08/2020
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The European Union is having a bad crisis

By failing to face up to its difficulties, the European Union makes them only worse.

European Union state members May 14.– Seventy years ago this month Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, proposed a European “coal and steel community”. With that humble agreement governing two commodities, six war-ravaged countries created a common market that evolved into the European Union.

The journey towards integration since then has been bumpy, but it has had a sense of direction. National leaders came and went, the Berlin Wall rose and fell, economic hurricanes struck and blew themselves out. Somehow, the eu muddled through. It deepened, building the world’s largest single market, letting its people move freely across borders and creating a common currency. It broadened, as 22 states joined the original six, including 11 that had suffered for decades under communism. It cemented peace and spread prosperity. Today, Europe is a beacon of liberal values and an exemplar of a gentler type of capitalism.

Yet the EU has also lost its way. The pandemic in Europe is not just an economic crisis, as elsewhere in the world, but is fast becoming a political and constitutional crisis, too. This is solvable in principle, but the eu’s members cannot agree on what is needed to make their union more resilient, nor on how to bring about reform. Now of all times, when America and China are at loggerheads, that is a tragic missed opportunity.

Belonging to the eu is supposed to bring countries safety in a dangerous world. Instead the pandemic is testing the bonds of membership, just as the financial crisis of 2007-09 did (see Briefing). One example is the single market ...

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