Discussion – Key Debates, Viewpoints & Interviews
Covid politics – The Pandemic in Europe's Community of Destiny
Stefania Adriana Bevilacqua, La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy.
In these days of struggle against the pandemic, the idea of a Community of destiny returns to the present day.
In 1987 Edgar Morin  described the European consciousness as the consciousness that everything is uncertain, that Threats are threatened, and that the greater the danger, the greater the effort to overcome it. He said that all the problems, uncertainties, risks, and possibilities of the present and the future, were common to all parts, countries, and nations of Europe, which binds them in a common destiny. Therefore, the new European consciousness is the consciousness of a community of destiny.
The core of such community of destiny is the "resistance against barbarism” that, from the ashes of European divisions and conflicts, can enable us to generate fruitful and productive dialogues and diversity.
For this reason, the common identity comes from an awareness of the tragedies of the past, and it was supposed to prepare the Europeans to face together the future global challenges.
However, Morin clarifies that the awareness of the European identity is still underdeveloped if compared to the real stage of the community of destiny.
Well, at the dawn of a challenge as tough as the Covid-19 pandemic, one wonders whether the community of destiny that unites the peoples of Europe has made progress from that embryonic stage.
So far, Covid-19 seems to be a revelation of the absence of communion and the turning point that will lead to European dissolution.
In fact, if you look at solidarity between European states, there is little room to think about the awareness of a community of destinies.
As is well known, the first European outbreaks have emerged in Northern Italy. Given the rapid increase in contagion, the Italian government took restrictive measures before the other European countries.
Italy first closed the town where the virus spread (26th February). Later, because of new outbreaks, all schools were closed (5th March), limitations to mobility, assembly, and economic activities were imposed, and leaving home was prohibited, unless for reasons related to work, necessity or health care (9th March); then the closing of all shops (except those dealing in food and essentials), restaurants, bars etc., as well as non-essential production units was ordered (11th March); finally, a general stop to non-essential production activities was announced (21st March).
In the meantime, the numbers of infected and dead people in Italy went around the world. Nevertheless, no European State decided to apply the same restrictions as Italy in advance to prevent this from happening in their territories, despite the transnationality of trade, family relations and, more generally, the lifestyle of Europeans. So the pandemic spread in all of Europe.
These choices reveal that the consciousness of a common destiny among European states does not exist. With one exception: Greece.
In fact, Greece decided to apply confinement rules similar to those in Italy from the outset, precisely on the basis of the trust that binds the two countries. Well, this choice seems to have spared the Greek people the massive spread of the virus.
One wonders, then, whether the peoples of Europe have followed this same trajectory.
It is not easy to answer this question while the pandemic is still ongoing, but, at first approximation, the reaction to Covid-19 can be analysed through the Covid-19 Community Mobility Reports.
Looking these figures, we can see that European citizens, in general, reduced their movements spontaneously before government intervention. This is all the more evident when the government intervention was late as compared to Italy, or it was absent.
For example, in Germany it is noted that even before the closures on 22nd March, the reduction in travel to recreational places and shops was about 65%, to workplaces about 45%, and to train, bus and metro stations was 68%.
In the UK, where the lockdown was ordered on 24th March, the reduction in mobility occurs well before this date, leading to a spontaneous reduction in mobility to places for recreation and shopping by around 50%, to workplaces by around 35%, and to stations by 70%.
In Sweden, where there has been no closure, 24% of people spontaneously gave up leisure places, 18% did the same for workplaces, and 35% did so for train, bus, and metro stations.
In France, where closures dated back to 17th March, there was a spontaneous reduction in mobility of 40% regarding places of leisure, while a much smaller reduction towards places of work and, consequently, towards places of transit. We can observe the same trend in other European countries.
Therefore, we could say that so far Covid-19 has shown a total absence of common feeling between European governments, but not a total absence of solidarity between the peoples of Europe. This is shown by the delay in the measures to contain the pandemic, and by the preventative behaviour of European citizens.
Of course, this analysis cannot yet be precise and accurate, because the pandemic is still ongoing, and because many points must be analysed later, such as the role of the media in the perception of Covid-19 or the pandemic’s impact on national and transnational relations. But we can begin to bring to light a change on the basis of the theory of the community of destiny mentioned above.
The tragedy that should be at the basis of European identity building is no longer in the past, but in the present. The peoples of Europe today are in a position to build that common identity in the awareness of a common destiny that is before their eyes, and no longer only in their memories. In fact, the ever-increasing number of deaths, the very hard confinement measures taken by European governments, the sudden change in our lives, the loss of jobs, the risk of an unprecedented economic crisis, and the constant reminder of the consequences that all this will have on our future, lead us to compare these events to a state of war.
The European people have the possibility to think of a European identity formed on the ashes of the present just as they are being formed, and no longer on the barbarities of the past.
When the pandemic war will be over, the commonality of destinies will be present in all European consciences, because European citizens will have been touched by a war that has not seen them fight against each other, but being together, and from which they will have to rise consciously together.
Then European identity will no longer be artificially inferred from a common tragedy of the past that saw us as both creators and rivals. It will be inferred from a common effort towards victory against the common enemy and from common consequences.
Then the common destiny will not be the goal to be achieved, but something to start from.
 Morin, E. (1987), Penser L’Europe. Gallimard
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