EEurope has not faced such a threat as it has today since the Second World War: hundreds of thousands of people are infected with the corona virus, in Italy, Spain, Germany and elsewhere. There are already fears that the pandemic will endanger the European Monetary Union because the virus financially overwhelms some already weakened patients in the euro zone. Even more: the European single market, the EU’s most important achievement and staple, no longer works. The export ban for respiratory masks temporarily imposed by Germany has become a symbol of this. This caused outrage especially south of the Alps. “When Europe really had to be there for one another, too many initially thought only of themselves,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday in the European Parliament.
Will highly indebted Italy, which has had the most corona cases in Europe to date, be able to cope with the enormous costs alone? If not, will the other member states of the monetary union throw a lifebuoy on Italy, the third largest economy in the eurozone? And will Spain, which has also been hit hard by Corona, come into similar distress? Even Ireland, which is heavily dependent on the global economy, is calling for more financial solidarity in the eurozone.
It is Friday noon. Mario Monti answers the phone. A week and a half ago, the Italian turned 77. The economics professor and politician was EU Commissioner for many years, but above all, as head of an expert government, he steered his country through the storms of the euro crisis between 2011 and 2013. During this time, Monti pushed through tough reforms. In his home country he is called “the most German of all Italian economists”, he jokes.
Invisible dividing lines across Europe
In Europe, the old behavior patterns of the euro crisis have returned through Corona, says Monti, although everything is very different today. The invisible dividing lines across Europe – they ran exactly as they did eight years ago, at the height of the first drama about the euro. “North against south,” says Monti. Some demand financial “loyalty” in Europe, others want to prevent a “transfer union”. On the one hand are the southern countries, Italy, Spain, Greece, France and other countries. On the other side of the north: Germany, the Netherlands, Austria. Just like before. “But that really doesn’t make any sense,” says Monti. “We have a completely different situation today than we did then.” In 2012, the wobbly candidates in the euro zone were in need of their own mistakes. Today, on the other hand, all member states of the eurozone plunged into the corona recession almost without fault.
It is not a question of the north continuing to finance a “dolce vita” to the south, says Monti, changing briefly from English to Italian. It is now about “la vita” – and he means: survival. “The economic cost will be huge for most European countries,” says Monti. Therefore, they should now be shouldered together.