Europe cannot afford to be weakened by the gap between the south and the north


Euroopan Unioni

History has shown that in times of crisis, people seek protection from strong leaders, and that is when the nation’s consensus is also sought. Confidence in the political system and political leadership grows.

This has also happened during the corona crisis. Citizens of different countries, as well as we here in Finland, are grouped together behind the national government to support the chosen policy – regardless of what it is in each country. The role of nation states is emphasized in crisis situations, as they are closest to solving problems close to the people.

With the crisis, democratic rights have been curtailed in almost all EU countries. Restrictions on movement, assembly and conduct of business have been widely accepted. In many countries, the tracing of those exposed to the epidemic through technology-enabled applications has also been accepted, as surveillance has sought to protect people – that is, to secure health and care and to curb the spread of the pandemic.

There are also countries, such as Poland and Hungary, where the ruling party and the president, under the guise of the crisis, have taken the opportunity to reduce democracy and human rights, either permanently or for as long as possible. The EU has long been concerned about the state of democracy and the rule of law in these countries.

We are in a situation which is the first of its kind in the history of the EU. External and internal borders have been closed and the common economic area is almost paralyzed.

At this stage in the spring, it should be clear to everyone that the corona crisis will cause significant health, social and economic problems. By curbing their effects, states will become indebted at an unprecedented rate. We do not know what the duration of the crisis will be, but the uncertainty and fears it causes will, in any case,  be poison for economic development.  We are in a situation which is the first of its kind in the history of the EU. External and internal borders have been closed and the common economic area is almost paralyzed.

Neither the coronavirus nor the economic crisis it causes is anyone’s fault. The crisis is not the result of poor economic management and it should not be treated with extreme economic measures. We must now make every effort to avoid the mistakes we made in Finland during the recession of the 1990s and in Europe in dealing with the financial crisis.

We must now make every effort to avoid the mistakes we made in Finland during the recession of the 1990s and in Europe in dealing with the financial crisis.

This time, we must act in a socially and economically just way, because mass unemployment and an increase in poverty due to saving and cutting public finances are too expensive a price to pay. In the aftermath of the crisis, we must not forget the people this time, but nurture hope and confidence in the future and fair solutions. What is needed now is the strengthening of a common set of values and ecologically and socially sustainable investments in employment, skills, infrastructure and product development.

What is needed now is the strengthening of a common set of values and ecologically and socially sustainable investments in employment, skills, infrastructure and product development.

No EU country has a realistic chance of surviving the corona crisis alone. The economy has always been the glue that holds the Union together, and closer cooperation is also needed now. If each Member State seeks to resolve the crisis for its part with the measures it considers best, it will inevitably be borne by taxpayers and, above all, by future generations.

Closer international cooperation is the only way to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. As a Nordic welfare state and an open economy dependent on exports, Finland can act as a solution-seeking bridge builder.

The membership in the European Union and the Eurogroup can give Finland the room to manoeuver we did not have in the recession of the 1990s. Market confidence in Finland’s debt service capacity is still high, but will only remain as such if the whole of Europe finds a common solution to the crisis. We cannot afford to weaken the European economy by the gap between the south and the north.

We cannot afford to weaken the European economy by the gap between the south and the north.

Politics is the search for and creation of common solutions; it is value judgments. The rules of economic policy are created by people and can also be changed by people when traditional problem-solving methods are no longer valid. Europe is one of the richest and most influential regions in the world, and many other countries around the world also rely on its support and capabilities.

There are plenty of solutions. We can shovel in more euros and mint emergency coins. Debts can be written down, changed to perpetual loans, cancelled and forgiven. The most important thing is that, after the crisis, we are able to stand collectively behind the decisions that have been taken and say that they were necessary, fair, equal and supportive of human well-being with respect for democracy and human rights.

Now is not the time to withdraw into ourselves, even though we live in isolation.

Antti Palola

The author is the chairman of STTK