The long-term consequences of the global COVID-19 pandemic could cause the European Union to collapse unless an economic support program akin to the Marshall Plan is created, former German foreign ministers Joschka Fischer and Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday in an op-ed in the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.
“The coronavirus disease could potentially accelerate two opposing processes. It could either deepen the cracks that already exist in Europe, so much so that the union could collapse. Or the European Union and its member countries will be able to unite to combat the virus and its consequences,” the two ministers wrote.
According to Fischer and Gabriel, the amount of support given by the European Union to Spain and Italy, the two EU countries most heavily impacted by COVID-19, has been insufficient and more will be required.
“Countries like Italy and Spain will not forget Europe, and especially us Germans, for 100 years if we leave them to their fate,” the two former ministers wrote.
Fischer and Gabriel noted that Germany’s economic success after World War II would not have been possible without European solidarity. Consequently, Berlin has a particular responsibility to aid other countries in the current crisis.
“That is why it [Germany] must show its readiness to lead Europe, preferably alongside France. Europe needs two things: cooperation to provide aid during the crisis, and a joint reconstruction program after the crisis,” they wrote, drawing an analogy with the Marshall Plan, established by the US in 1948 to aid Europe’s post-war reconstruction.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also referred to the Marshall Plan in a column on Sunday for the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Sunday, more than 550,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the EU, countries of the European Economic Area and the UK since the start of the outbreak. Italy and Spain account for over 40 percent of cases confirmed in Europe.