“We modern civilizations, we too know that we are mortal.

We had heard tell of whole worlds vanished, of empires foundered with all their men and all their engines. (…). Edam, Nineveh, Babylon were vague and splendid names; the total ruin of these worlds, for us, meant as little as did their existence. But France, England, Russia… these too would be splendid names. (….) We are aware that a civilization has the same fragility as a life. The circumstances that could send the works of Keats and Baudelaire to join the works of Menander are no longer inconceivable; they are in the newspapers.”

(Paul Valéry, The Crisis of the Spirit), 1919)

The COVID-19 pandemic, as with each crisis affecting Europe, comes with its array of articles, podcasts and op-eds concerned with the same question: will it finally break the EU?

The current crisis is certainly a real test for Europe. It plays against the backdrop of existing tensions – uncertainty about European solidarity, East-West divide or the rise of populism to name a few – which it heightens. It provides an opportunity for authoritarians, as in Hungary, and reopens unresolved fundamental debates about fiscal solidarity, notably embodied by the much-needed “coronabonds.” It sees increased Chinese activism and disinformation prying apart Europeans while Americans – once “the best Europeans” as Konrad Adenauer remarked to Dean Acheson – are looking inward.

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