Covid-19 pandemic lays bare simmering tensions within EU, US

Abdullah Muradoglu

While humanity fights for its survival against a vicious pandemic, the power struggle between the US and China continues to rage on. The Beijing Government, which had poorly responded to outbreak warnings initially, later grasped the gravity of the situation and took effective measures.

China, which played a role in the globalization of the epidemic, now supports other countries, especially Italy and Spain. However, this support is not welcomed by the US. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during a phone call with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, sent out a message of support, however, he did not neglect to give a dire warning about Rome’s relationship with Beijing. There is no serious US support for Italy, which has suffered great losses in the outbreak. Compared to the support they received from China, Russia and Cuba, US support makes up only a very small fraction.

It should be noted that in 2019, Italy was the first G7 member to sign a memorandum of understanding that included an economic partnership with Beijing. I must say that China devoting such special attention to Italy, Spain and Greece, three of the EU member countries hardest hit by the epidemic, is being closely monitored in Washington.

Trump, who won the elections using the slogan “America First,” is withdrawing the US from multilateral trade agreements and instead trying to replace them with bilateral ones. In this context, the US has also butted heads with the EU.

However, what the Trump administration sees fit for itself does not apply to other countries. So much so that not only EU states, but other “allied” countries are being pressured with regards to their ties with China. There is a violent propaganda war between China and the US, even when it comes to a serious global issue such as a pandemic. So much so that the Chinese even made statements that the novel coronavirus might have originated in the US The Trump administration’s labeling of the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” annoys the Chinese Government.

Meanwhile, it’s become clear that the pandemic caused serious tensions among EU member states. In the context of the epidemic, Italy, Spain and Greece are the EU’s weakest links. Alliances are being tested by the crisis, and it seems that the epidemic has sown serious distrust among EU members. Italy, Spain and Greece spoke up against the EU because they did not get the economic support they expected. Due to the fact that the epidemic has hit the affluent northern region of Italy, economic distress is indeed more keenly felt.

Italians believe they were almost abandoned by EU institutions and left to fend for themselves. EU members are trying to take their own measures independently of the EU. At this point, the legitimacy of European Union institutions is at stake. This crisis will strengthen anti-EU populist movements across the continent.

What we’ve experienced so far also revealed that, in times of global crisis, the nation state is more reliable than supranational institutions. Italians, Spa-niards and Greeks now fe-el more strongly about this than ever. Meanwhile, the “small government” mod-el of capitalism was hit hardest by this pandemic.

The general rule of capitalism was to minimize the role of the state on the economy. However, as in the previous crises, in the economic crisis caused by this pandemic, it is again the state that has jumped to the rescue. Not the greedy, insatiable financial corporations that created the crisis, but average taxpayers and public institutions again footed the entire bill of the 2008 crisis. The epidemic is global, but each country mobilizes its own means as if it were at war. This pandemic also affected countries’ perceptions of what constitutes a national threat.

This public health crisis has once more reaffirmed how risky it is to be dependent on imports when it comes to sectors that are vital to the health and food infrastructure. To summarize, the global epidemic requires a “rethinking of the state.” Public health policies are determined by taking into account the most vulnerable or low income groups of society. Undoubtedly, this approach applies for political and economic systems as well as educational ones.