Covid-19 did not come out of the blue but the EU still had trouble uniting its members, Austria’s retired chief diplomat told RT, adding that there’s no certainty the bloc will perform better if the deadly virus makes a comeback.
“That there will be pandemics, everybody knew it, and plans had been there,” Karin Kneissl, the former Austrian foreign minister, told RT.
Ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, every EU member state had had both a national crisis strategy and a plan for tackling it on a coordinated EU level, she explained.
Given such plans “do exist,” she said it was puzzling “why there was not more cooperation on a civil servant level and on a political level as well.”
The coronavirus still has a grip on major EU nations, with Spain, Italy and France affected the most. While governments have cautiously said the curve is flattening, global health officials warn that rejoicing is premature because Covid-19 could return.
The World Health Organization said last month the second wave “may be very destructive,” albeit not inevitable. The virus could make a comeback sometime in autumn or winter.
Virology seems like the new form of theology – we have so many schools of thought.
“We have different voices, we have virologists who say ‘no, there won’t be any [second wave],’ you have politicians who join the warning and say ‘be aware, we might see a second lockdown,'” Kneissl said.
She doesn’t know whether the EU – criticized for being slow and inefficient at responding to the epidemic – would be any better prepared to face the new wave.
I don’t know whether we will improve our action or coordination to such an extent that by October or November – in case something new shows up – we will handle it better then.
The retired diplomat spoke just as countries across Europe haphazardly work their way out of weeks-long lockdowns, rolling out plans for re-opening borders, restarting tourism, and allowing people as well as businesses to return to normal life.
Each and every country is doing this alone, as Brussels failed to take the lead in the process, Kneissl noted. That “only illustrates the fact that this is not the coordination that should be there, that people are asking [for].”
Consequently, there is “apparently very little stimulus among national governments” to work together in a more efficient way.
On the positive side, the EU put forward a proposal to create a €750 billion ($847 billion) aid scheme last month, with the mammoth fund aimed at helping countries to recover from the lockdowns. Two-thirds of the funds will come in the form of grants, while the rest will be repayable loans.
But as Kneissl herself suggested earlier this month, the scheme is “fraught with danger and far from certain to work.” Brussels will effectively “tax itself,” while bitter divides between countries in the north and south will only deepen “between growing mountains of debt,” she said.