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EU solidarity is crucial to avoid lockdown returning

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The commission and the EU as an entity has a wider brief than being the bearer of bad news. It needs to take a lead role in recovery. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS

The commission and the EU as an entity has a wider brief than being the bearer of bad news. It needs to take a lead role in recovery. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS

REUTERS

The commission and the EU as an entity has a wider brief than being the bearer of bad news. It needs to take a lead role in recovery. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via REUTERS

The past few months seem an endless series of subtractions, one takeaway followed by another.

We are again assailed by a storm of petrifying statistics.

From any vantage point, it is diminishing to see there are now 1.23 million private sector workers looking to the State for their income.

Too many of these are young people who have borne a disproportionate price in the pandemic, a fact which is not always recognised.

They are least likely to suffer serious illness yet are making big sacrifices as their employment horizons fade.

Those younger still, preparing to sit the Leaving Cert, also deserve consideration. The uncertainty about when, how or if it will be held has gone on way too long. They deserve clarity one way or another.

And looking further ahead: the European Commission hardly lightened the mood with its assessment that our economy will shrink by about 8pc this year.

It offered some hope, however, by suggesting it could rebound by about 6pc next year.

The suspended animation we have had to endure is unique in economic history.

As the commission notes, the great shutdown has "severely" weakened the global environment devastating investment, private consumption, and external trade.

But there are other faint glimpses of light. While the unemployment rate is predicted to rise to 7.5pc due to the collapse in consumption and exports, it may return to pre-crisis levels by the end of next year. The remarkable growth in manufacturing recorded last month will also be seized on.

But the commission and the EU as an entity has a wider brief than being the bearer of bad news. It needs to take a lead role in recovery.

As Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil, its response to the Covid-19 crisis is not enough. He also noted its failure to agree a radical package was a "grave concern".

He rightly highlighted the need to break away from the divisive debate among member states about "who gets our money".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also went on record to say when the crisis started the level of co-ordination across the European Union was poor.

He said member states did their own thing because they were responding to a pandemic that was happening at a different pace in different countries. But the future of all is now on the line.

It is high time for the bloc to recognise we have been brought to a place where not to take a risk means to risk losing even more.

And as we all desperately try to wring answers from the unknown, minds turn to how we emerge from lockdown.

But arguably more important still is how we avoid re-entering it. We must therefore move together. If the evolution of the union is to continue, it cannot surrender to individual fears.

It must trust instead in collective strengths. Solidarity has never been more important.

Irish Independent