“Yesterday’s EU summit meeting was not equal to the occasion. Europe is up against the greatest crisis since World War II. I am not referring only to the unspeakable human tragedy where developed countries are forced to choose who will live and who will die. I am also speaking of the economic tragedy caused by the paralysis of economic activity,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote in a Facebook post on Friday
“Europe united can do a great deal more,” he said.
Mitsotakis was referring to the inability of European Union leaders to build a unified response to the coronavirus pandemic after a video conference meeting on Thursday, as hardest-hit Italy and Spain objected that a draft economic plan was too weak.
But northern European countries, led by Germany and the Netherlands, are resisting.
Steven Erlanger, the chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe for The New York Times, aptly wrote that “The whole concept of European ‘solidarity’ is being challenged.”
Mitsotakis noted that each country was responsible for the public health of its citizens and took the measures that it considered most appropriate.
“[Greece] did not hesitate to take difficult decisions to restrict movement, earlier than almost all the other European countries,” the prime minister said. “Until now, we have been vindicated in our choice. But the measures must remain in force until we are certain that the difficult times are over.”
Mitsotakis stressed that more funds will be needed to keep workers from losing jobs and to support struggling businesses in such a stagnant economic environment.
“Inevitably, Europe will have to borrow more in order to spend more,” he said.
“With another eight of my colleagues, the day before yesterday we signed a letter asking that we consider a proposal for the issue of a special Eurobond to deal with this unprecedented crisis,” Mitsotakis said. “The argument is simple: the coronavirus constitutes a symmetric shock for everyone. Therefore, it demands a common response that will allow the EU to borrow, cheaply, large sums on behalf of all the member-states.”
The Greek premier noted that there were no “good guys” or “bad guys” in the present crisis, no “responsible” and “irresponsible” countries and that, unlike in 2010, “we are all facing the same threat.”
“Unfortunately, some countries insist on handling today with the tools of yesterday. These are not enough,” he said. “The European Central Bank cannot do everything and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was not designed to cope with such unprecedented crises.”
A discussion on a special-purpose EU “corona bond” would inevitably begin sooner or later, Mitsotakis added. But Europe had to make sure it did not end up lagging behind developments, when statements about community solidarity would sound hollow and meaningless, “whereas our inertia will offer ground to all kinds of enemies of the European idea.”
Instead, the current ordeal could breathe new life into the idea of Europe, the prime minister added, giving it new momentum after the pandemic ends.
“My words are not just the words of the prime minister of Greece, which withstood and defeated a 10-year economic ordeal,” Mitsotakis said. “They are the thoughts of a citizen of Europe, who cares about its future. This is a time for mutual understanding, for joint action and immediate initiatives. A time of great responsibility focusing on people. Great crises also demand brave decisions. Let us take them!”
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