Europe ‘could have asked for more vaccines’ says Scholz
Brussels struggled to grapple with its vaccination programme failures this week, as well as its humiliating backtracking after it threatened to cut-off vaccine supplies to Britain. The bloc has since attempted to give its position credibility after it lashed out at providers for not being quick enough to distribute coronavirus vaccine doses to member states. A similar charge was made at it by the two European leaders who are largely regarded as sitting atop Brussels’ hierarchy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The pair lashed out at the EU’s “slow” rolling out of its vaccine supplies, largely blamed on Brussels bureaucracy.
It was perhaps the most salient example of the bloc appearing to crumble under the pressure of one its most serious crises – alongside the 2008 financial crash – in living memory.
Many European member states are now seriously angered by their inability to offer citizens a vaccination programme on the scale of the UK’s.
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Political watchers have noted that the mess could be a red flag of things to come, as the EU struggles to work efficiently as a 27-state outfit.
Robert Tombs, the renowned British historian, drew a parallel between the bloc and the way in which the Austro-Hungarian Empire operated, a point that led to its demise.
He told Express.co.uk: “Will there be a crisis which causes a breakup? It’s always possible.
“But it seems to be much more likely that people will just keep on muddling through because nobody knows what to do.
Robert Tombs: The historian compared Brussels to the failed Austro-Hungarian Empire
“It will get more and more dysfunctional, and people will be more and more discontented.
“You see with the vaccine issue, the basic problem is that the EU was very incompetent and if that’s a sign of the EU in the future, it’s going to have complications – how many more bad decisions, and how many more crises will it go through?
“Will there one day be a crisis that it won’t survive? I can’t imagine what that will be, but I also can’t imagine it somehow getting past this and saying, ‘Well, now it all works great and everybody’s happy’.
“A lot of people think of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire before 1914 which was composed of a lot of different countries which didn’t like each other much.
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“One of their chancellors once said his ideal was to keep everyone equally discontented.
“That is how the EU works in a sense: By keeping everyone equally discontented.”
The Austro-Hungarian Empire, formed in 1867, fell in 1918.
It occurred because of myriad reasons, largely a result of the growth of internal social contradictions and the separation of different parts within the empire.
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Brexit, it has been noted, could be the beginning of internal social contradictions within the EU, as more countries come forward and voice their discontent with the bloc, emboldened by the UK’s exit.
One of the strongest anti-EU movements in Europe is perhaps the Italexit Party, led by Gianluigi Paragone.
The eurosceptic outfit has most recently voiced concern over the EU’s coronavirus recovery package, which it says “binds countries to the EU” for the indefinite future.
There are already a handful of members, mostly in southern Europe, who have billions of euros of debt tagged onto them courtesy of the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
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In order to avoid default, Greece, after the 2008 financial crash, was granted €110billion (96.7bn) in loans from the monetary giants.
Germany provided the largest sum, around €22bn (£19bn), with Greece in exchange forced to implement vast austerity measures and tax rises, with hefty interest rates slapped on top of the figure.
This has led to widespread disaffection with Brussels in the country.
Other southern European countries will now be given loans and grants following the economic fallout of the pandemic; countries like Spain and Italy who were among the worst hit.
They will now in effect be tethered to the bloc until the billions of euros are paid back.
‘This Sovereign Isle, published by Allen Lane, is out now.