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Europe’s Good Crisis

Summary:
The COVID-19 crisis has shown that the European Union is much more than an assemblage of incessantly bickering small to medium-size countries. The evolution of key economic and epidemiological indicators is remarkably similar across EU countries, owing to a unity of perspectives that is glaringly absent in the United States. BRUSSELS – A few months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the economic and financial crisis it has caused, looked like it might break the European Union. Member states had closed their national borders and rejected all coordination, with some even halting the export of urgently needed medical equipment to their EU partners. Today, however, internal EU borders have been re-opened, medical

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The COVID-19 crisis has shown that the European Union is much more than an assemblage of incessantly bickering small to medium-size countries. The evolution of key economic and epidemiological indicators is remarkably similar across EU countries, owing to a unity of perspectives that is glaringly absent in the United States.

BRUSSELS – A few months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the economic and financial crisis it has caused, looked like it might break the European Union. Member states had closed their national borders and rejected all coordination, with some even halting the export of urgently needed medical equipment to their EU partners. Today, however, internal EU borders have been re-opened, medical equipment is moving freely, and member countries have agreed on unprecedented measures to deal with the pandemic’s economic fallout. What accounts for this remarkable turnaround?

The EU is often depicted as a motley crew of small to medium-size countries that are unable to agree on anything. But the evolution of key economic and epidemiological indicators during the COVID-19 crisis is remarkably similar across countries, suggesting that, when it comes to fundamental policy choices, they aren’t so different, after all.

Begin with the epidemiological data. True, COVID-19 infection and mortality rates vary widely across EU countries, with Germany and most northern and eastern member states doing far better than Italy, Spain, and France (not to mention the United Kingdom). Yet nearly all of them have stabilized their...

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