“The Brussels Diary with Yana Toom”: Virus of Disunion


I will not go back over the news or convince anybody to stay at home and maintain social distance of two metres. This is all important; however, I would like to speak about something else. In the past few days, people have kept asking me: ‘What can you personally do to change the situation?’ and ‘What can you actually do anyway?’

My answer to the first question is that I am working. The European Parliament is not assembling in Brussels and work, such as sessions, meetings of groups and committees, has been moved online; in short, the same routine that yields big decisions. Of course, the focus is on the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences.

The European Parliament and the European Commission are developing a plan of recovery for Europe in order to maintain jobs, businesses and healthcare systems. Obviously, we will review the seven-year budget. What is even more obvious is that we have to take a loan whether we want to or not  ̶  everybody will do it. I could give you some numbers, but I do understand that for those who are losing their jobs this all seems like talk in favour of the poor.

Currently, very little is clear. The trouble is that no one knows what has to be done. No one. All governments across the world are currently responding in real time. The battle is going on and we still do not know how big our losses will be. We can take some comfort in the fact that the EU was prepared for the pandemic a little better than America; however, this is not true of all countries of the EU, and it does not excuse our mistakes. By the way, this is true about Estonia – many envy us and not without reason.

However, it is becoming increasingly clear what will have to be done after the virus has been beaten. It would be a much easier task to recover the economy if the EU were one centralised state. Think about it: we would have single social standards, including the minimum wage and unemployment benefits. Single standards in the healthcare system.

If we were a single state, nobody would have had the power to close borders and seize a consignment of masks. Moreover, the masks would have been given according to the needs of regions and not on a first come, first served basis. An example: from Wednesday, Austria is giving out masks at supermarket entrances in order to minimise the risk of contracting the virus. We should do the same, but we are stalling. If the EU were a unified state, we would not stall.

In a unified state, Estonia would not have to resolve the issue of asking Swedish banks to facilitate debtors, as the banks would have to surrender to common regulation. We would have a single taxation system. I could go on and on.

The freedom of people, employees and businessmen means something only in a society restricted by regulations and laws. The single market is a good idea; however, we see that it would help resolve problems so much better if we also had a single social policy. Currently, Europe is also being hit by the virus of disunity. A vaccine against it has been known for a long time.

Yes, we can only dream about unity. When other to think about it than now? If the EU falls apart, what will become of Europe? There will be a bunch of countries that have to dance to someone else’s tune. I do not even want to think about the status of Estonia in this brave new world.

As long as the battle is continuing, decisions are made promptly. However, this battle will come to an end. I truly hope that we will emerge from it a little wiser.

Be healthy. Take care of yourself and others. See you in a week.