Intellectuals warn of ‘chaos’ if EU can’t find solidarity

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — More than 200 European intellectuals, artists and politicians have signed an open letter to European Union leaders urging them to take swift action to ease the economic pain of the pandemic crisis, warning that failure could trigger “chaos and authoritarianism.”

“It is not only thousands of Europeans infected with the coronavirus that need to be saved today. There is another patient at risk of death — European values,” the letter says.

The appeal titled “Europe, a Patient” was written by a group of Polish economists and other academics, and has been signed by Nobel-winning author Olga Tokarczuk and director Agnieszka Holland. Other signatories include Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg, Spanish writer Fernando Savater and Dutch cultural theorist Mieke Bal. U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs has endorsed it, writing a message of support.

By Wednesday, over 220 prominent intellectuals and politicians had signed the document addressed to David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, Charles Michel, president of the European Council and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.

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The letter said the sheer magnitude of the coronavirus crisis means that “the solutions adopted to combat it will determine the future of liberal democracy, the economy and European integration.”

The letter argued that the EU’s response to the 2008 financial crisis was unsatisfactory, and called that “a mistake whose grave consequences we are still suffering.”

It urged the EU to transfer money to EU citizens and provide subsidies for businesses, especially for more vulnerable small and medium-sized businesses.

It also called for the issuance of European bonds to fund public health as a mechanism that would build solidarity, and greater funding for research on COVID-19 and the search for a vaccine.

Some nations have so far resisted the idea of shared borrowing to cover the heavy cost of managing the crisis, suggesting that even now there are limits to solidarity.

“Crisis is a time for making choices. On the one hand, it may lead us to the fall of the European Union and a slipping into chaos and authoritarianism,” the letter said. “On the other, however, it can be a chance to renew the social agreement between Europe and its citizens.”

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