Coronavirus shows Brussels’ true colours as ‘very weak EU institutions’ crushed by crisis

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus has surpassed 10,000 in Italy, more than anywhere else in the world bar China where the outbreak began. Diplomatic spats have broken out between Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy as leaders attempt to do all that they can to stop the fatal disease spreading in their country. Director of the Hugo Observatory Francois Gemenne told France24 that the response of EU leaders to the deadly virus outbreak is reminiscent of that to the migration crisis in 2015. 

He said: “This lack of solidarity among European nations is very reminiscent of the refugee crisis when we also had the same lack of solidarity, also with Italy and Greece.

“And we saw that this refugee crisis really questioned the real identity of the project of the EU.

“And I’m afraid we’re going to see pretty much the same here.

“In the face of a sanitary crisis, we would have expected some kind of European unity and a kind of coordination across measures in different European countries.

“We are not seeing that right now.”

He added: “I think this is the fault of the EU governance in the first place, and also of the Commission and the Council.

“These are weak institutions in the face of governance and we need to realise once again that the European institutions are very weak when compared to national governments.”

It comes as Austria made the unprecedented decision to close its borders to coronavirus-hit Italy, which is currently on lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Italians will only be able to enter Austria if they have a medical certificate proving they are free of the coronavirus.

All flights and trains from Italy will also be stopped from entering Austria.

Mr Kurz also revealed Austrians returning from Italy would have to self-isolate for two weeks.

He said: “Regarding Austrians in Italy, we are currently organising repatriation of these Austrians.”

Switzerland is also said to be planning to close its borders with Italy. 

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Meanwhile, Germany and Switzerland are locked in a dispute over Bern’s access to face mask in the fight against coronavirus.

French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that the restrictions imposed by Austria and the decision of Slovenia to close its border with Italy, the European country most affected by the coronavirus epidemic, was “a bad decision”.

In Italy, many of Italy’s 62 million people have been encouraged to stay home and police across the country have patrolled cafes to ensure owners kept customers one metre apart during daylight hours and then enforced a strict 6pm closure order.

“It’s bad. People are terrorised,” said Massimo Leonardo, who runs a market stall. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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