It is springtime in Brussels and the European Union has a spring in its step. Its leaders and establishments have been galvanised by the struggle in Ukraine. ‘The struggle has reminded us what Europe is de facto about,’ folks stored telling me on a latest go to to the EU’s capital.
There is a common idea that claims European integration advances by means of crises. The reality is that generally it does and generally it does not. You’d must be a starry-eyed Euro-optimist, for instance, to assert that European unity was actually superior by the 2015/16 refugee disaster.
However in its final two large ones, the Covid pandemic and the struggle in Ukraine, we have now seen the ‘problem and response’ mechanism that the historian Arnold Toynbee recognized as one of many patterns of historical past.
After a sluggish begin, and an preliminary sharp reversion to unilateral nationwide actions, the EU responded to the financial penalties of the Covid pandemic with a daring leap ahead: greater than €750 billion of restoration funding for member states, branded NextGenerationEU. Two long-standing north European taboos have been felled without delay.
There was now shared European debt and far of the cash could be distributed within the type of grants, not simply loans, to hard-hit international locations equivalent to Italy. European leaders lastly did what they need to have executed a decade earlier than, reacting to the Eurozone disaster that first grew to become acute in 2010.
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Much more outstanding has been the response to the struggle in Ukraine. Regardless of the very best efforts of rogue nationalists equivalent to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, European solidarity has been maintained by means of ten rounds of tightening financial sanctions on Russia. Ukrainian refugees have been made welcome throughout the bloc, placing to disgrace Britain’s niggardly, obstructionist visa procedures. After one other sluggish begin – sluggish begins are what you get with a nonetheless considerably intergovernmental group of 27 completely different states – the EU is giving €18 billion of financial assist to Ukraine this 12 months.
Not solely have many particular person member states supplied spectacular ranges of navy assist to Ukraine. In a transfer that might have been unthinkable earlier than Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, one thing referred to as the European Peace Facility is now getting used to fee large-scale purchases of arms and ammunition for the Ukrainian armed forces, whose main counteroffensive is to be anticipated within the subsequent few weeks. […]
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