In the International System the First Victim of the Coronavirus Is the Disintegrating European Union

“The coronavirus has exposed hypocrisy. This is the true face of Europe” – under this headline, the Italian newspaper “Giornale” published an article on its front page on March 14th, reproaching the European Union for treachery for the fact that the EU did not help Italy, which has become a victim of the epidemic.

“The real enemy of the European Union,” the newspaper writes, “appeared to be the European Union itself, which within a few days collapsed as if it had never existed. We have been told for years that a united Europe is our real goal, that Brexit is a symbol of betrayal, that our shining future is Brussels, that the real European leaders are those who sit in Paris and Berlin and know how to move a United Europe towards a shining future. However, it took only a few days of anxiety for the most ardent supporters of the European construction to lose all confidence in themselves. No one in the European Union responded to desperate requests for the transfer of new equipment for lung ventilation, no one sent medics and paramedics to help, no one thought to order their “investors” to stop speculating on the stock exchange, which collapsed, striking a blow to Italy’s strategic reserves. Closed borders, stopped factories, phone inquiries without responses…”

It is not just globalisation that is collapsing, “Giornale” notes. “The infection struck a blow to the confidence of unrestrained liberalism in the market, all the victories of which were erased in an instant. Wall Street is gripped by an unprecedented crisis, hundreds of billions of Euros evaporated in just one day of the exchange’s work. Faith in finance has faded… in these few weeks, Europe has disappeared, turning its back on those who need help.”

Italy became the main victim of the outbreak of the pandemic in Europe. The number of infected is already about 18,000, 1266 people died of coronavirus in the Apennines, according to the latest data, and 250 of them – only in the last few days.

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Today, the production of masks needed to fight the pandemic is concentrated in China (up to 90%), and it turned out that in Europe there is a severe lack of protective equipment. According to Alberto Spashani, a representative of a company that produces gas masks and protective glasses for the Italian army, the government should immediately convene manufacturers of protective materials to organise the production of masks at affordable prices, to provide entrepreneurs with economic assistance. However, nothing was done. As a result, speculators began to inflate the price of masks. The government has announced its intention to purchase 34 million masks, but they are not currently available on the market.

The Italian national health service is also not ready to fight the virus. According to the weekly “Espresso“, “our publication asked this question to doctors… economists, scientists, experts, members of municipalities. The unanimous answer is no. We are not ready!”

According to the minimum calculations, to compare with other European countries, according to “Espresso”, Italy lacks an investment of €10 billion. Italy needs another 47,000 employees, most of them junior medical staff, as well as doctors and technical staff – just to ensure the provision of basic services. The shortage of people is so serious that in order to avoid the collapse of the Italian health system, Minister Walter Ricciardi insists on immediately introducing an emergency plan for hiring doctors and medical staff.

The EU and the Italian government have also blamed the lack of proper assistance from “united Europe”, although so far in a cautious form. For example, Italian Ambassador to the European Union Maurizio Massari said that Brussels needs to “go beyond interaction and consultation” and develop “urgent, concrete, effective actions”. The Italian authorities were particularly outraged that EU member states did not respond to Italy’s call for additional supplies of medical equipment, including medical masks. Germany and France are among the EU countries that have imposed restrictions on the export of medical equipment, while China has offered to sell Italy 1,000 ventilators, 2 million masks, 20,000 protective suits, and 50,000 tests for coronavirus.

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“Italy asked to activate the civil protection mechanism in the European Union for the supply of medical equipment… Unfortunately, no EU country has responded to the call,” says Maurizio Massari.

The EU is still getting off with promises. During a recent two-hour “e-summit”, EU leaders promised to increase coordination and release funds up to €25 billion. However, in Italy, the number of victims is already in the hundreds, and nothing concrete has yet been done by the EU. Moreover, Brussels could not even agree on coordinated financial incentives to support national health systems and the economy.

Italians, locked up in their homes because of the epidemic, react to the trouble in a peculiar way. According to “Corriere della sera“, it started with a musical flashmob, which was launched by the Roman street orchestra “Fanfaroma”, who posted a video online, which quickly became popular. “Let’s open the windows, go out on the balconies and start playing music so that our whole country turns into a giant free concert,” the musicians called. They were supported by the mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi: “Let’s all sing together, let everyone hear that we are a society, even though we can’t even touch each other.” Many followed the call. The newspaper says that a girl went out on her balcony and performed the Italian national anthem on the clarinet; a woman played a harp on a terrace; in Bologna, the head of the quarter went out on their balcony with a guitar and sang the folk song “The Fisherman”; in Naples, in the Spagnoli quarter, two elderly signors started to wave sheets, greeting their neighbours; in Turin, in the absence of musical instruments, enthusiasts beat on pans or pot lids. And some hang national flags on their balconies as a sign of the upcoming victory over the virus…

However, patriotic songs and beating pots will not defeat the virus. Italy is experiencing a traumatic discovery – European solidarity at the time of a test turned into a farce.

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Vladimir Malyshev

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