“The Brussels Diary with Yana Toom”: Coronavirus, Germany, EU Recovery


The quarantine continues, the pandemic is slowing down and the economy is declining. People are getting tired of it all and are losing faith. If we are to believe the reaction on FB, it seems more and more people in Estonia think that coronavirus is a hoax or just an ordinary flu. No, this is not true. According to the Financial Times, a newspaper that does not print false information, the fatality rate of coronavirus could be 60% higher than official state data. The newspaper compared the number of deaths in March and April of this year with the average number of deaths in the same months over a five year period. Currently, the number of deaths is much higher everywhere. This cannot be explained by anything other than coronavirus.

There are people who believe that the Reptilians or the Chinese or the Stonemasons or 5G internet are to blame. There have been many instances of the arson of mobile phone masts in England, the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium and Sweden. I do understand – people are angry and buy into all this rubbish. Please keep a cool head because we all need our common sense.

We could argue who is right: the Germans with their strict measures or the Swedes with their different approach. By the way, the leader of the Swedish Foreign Ministry denies that their approach is special: restrictions are in place, companies are going bankrupt and the unemployment rate is rising. Anyway, Sweden, Germany and Estonia do not live in a vacuum. The economy is contracting across the world and nobody can crawl out of this hole on their own – we can only do it together.

Estonia, just like the rest, is preparing for the recovery of its economy. It seems that, in one way, we are very lucky at a European level. In July, Germany will assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union. This has been a known fact for a long time and the Germans have been preparing, though, not for the current situation. The course is changing on the fly.

Germany is coping with coronavirus a bit better than other countries; however, its economy cannot function when chaos is all around. Even so, Germany has the resources and influence. Angela Merkel is the one person to whom all leaders of the continent listen.

On Saturday, Merkel posted a video on her site in which she described the prospects of Europe up to the end of the year. Some fragments of this speech sound revolutionary. First, we were promised an enlivening of the EU economy. I remind you that at the summit held on Thursday, the EU member states failed to agree on the size of the recovery fund or how to distribute funding, i.e. should it be in the form of loans or distributed to those who cannot pay anyway. On Sunday, the day after Merkel’s speech, EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni announced that the recovery fund should be one and a half trillion euros, and funding has to be distributed as loans and grants. It seems like the main players have already made an agreement behind the scenes.

Second, Merkel continued to say that the EU would combat global warming. Third, Germany would raise the question of how to create an efficient European healthcare system in all EU member states. This, mind you, is a breakthrough. To date, Brussels has not been able to intervene in healthcare.

I repeat, the times have changed.

Yes, we have to tread on thin ice: keep the EU from collapsing due to the rift between the northern and southern European countries and not to let the nationalists win who hope for a break-up. Fortunately, the second EU engine, France, today is for a united Europe. There is no other way anyway.

Stay healthy. See you in a week.