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Andreas Kluth

Can the European Union Survive the Coronavirus?

One side effect of Covid-19 is to strengthen the trend toward nationalism. That undermines the “supranational” EU.

National, not European.

National, not European.

Photographer: Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images

Covid-19 is especially life-threatening for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. That description also fits the European Union, which is sexagenarian and has for over a decade been reeling from one crisis to the next. Institutionally, if not epidemiologically, the EU is more vulnerable to the virus than most nation states.

Since its founding in the 1950s, the European club has by definition been a post-national project, or “supranational” in Brussels civil-servant jargon. Member states pledged to entwine their destinies in mutual solidarity. They even agreed to gradually surrender their national sovereignty for a shared identity in a United States of Europe. That’s the meaning of the “ever closer union” envisioned in the founding treaties.