European leaders get approval spike during pandemic, once in generation opportunity to transform EU
Contrary to doomsayers, Alena Kudzko and I write in EUobserver that the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for the development of a more cohesive EU. Political leaders throughout Europe are enjoying a boost in approval and are now freer to compromise paving way for major EU projects.
While previous crises (migration and austerity) challenged the popularity of European leaders, this one has created a situation, not seen since post-WWII, where EU governments have simultaneously earned the confidence of populations. A few of the approved rating surges have included:
Italian Prime Minister Conte (71 percent — +27 points)
Austrian Chancellor Kurz (77 percent — +33 points)
Dutch Prime Minister Rutte (75 percent — +30 points)
Danish Prime Minister Frederiksen (79 percent — +40 points)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (79 percent — +11 points)
French President Emmanuel Macron (51 percent — +15 points)
Since the article was written, the European Union indeed reached agreement on a 540 billion euro rescue plan that includes funding for a jobs support scheme, loans to EU businesses through the European Investment Bank, and credit, through the European Stability Mechanism, to governments to cover health care expenses related to COVID-19.
There are now further EU discussions on a comprehensive stimulus recovery plan that could take the form of a Green Deal. These moves have been bolstered by a joint letter of seventeen environmental and climate change ministers calling for such a climate-oriented initiative and affirmation from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.
A poll in Germany also shows two-thirds of constituents in that country on board with EU financial aid for the countries worst impacted by COVID-19.
There are certainly many risks, pointed out in the article, regarding the appeal of populism and the far-right but this unmistakable opportunity to take the EU project towards its next major step should also be recognized.