The terrifying dilemma EU leaders are facing now

Shortly after the beginning of the state of emergency in many EU countries, it becomes increasingly clear that the corona crisis will last longer than the announced two weeks. This plunges EU leaders into a terrifying dilemma.

If we close schools for two weeks and keep people at home, we will keep the curve of the newly infected flat and prevent a collapse of the health system. That was the message earlier this week in Brussels, Berlin and Paris.

But a few days later it is clear: two weeks will not be enough. Italy already has more deaths than China and is now announcing an extension of the state of emergency. Germany is preparing a curfew, an end to the crisis is not in sight.

But this also means that EU politicians’ hopes of limiting the social and economic damage are dwindling. Schools can be closed for two to four weeks and companies can be sent on plant holidays without risking permanent damage.

But if it takes six weeks or even several months, there is a huge risk of social and economic collapse. Then the damage caused by the state of emergency could be greater than the health benefits it brings or should bring.

This presents EU politicians with a stark dilemma: should they extend the protective measures even if people grumble and the economy collapses? Or should they lift house arrest even though the pandemic is not yet over?

It may be possible to postpone the decision until Easter. This is waht EU leaders are trying to do. From now on, they will hold a video summit once a week to adapt their measures to the situation and gain time. But they cannot escape the dilemma.

This is bitter – after all, our politicians are partly to blame. First they took the pandemic lightly and neglected the necessary protection measures. Then they locked us up without developing an exit strategy.

Germany in particular sat on its high horse for a long time. Now it is becoming clear that even in the largest and richest EU country, tough and blatant decisions are due. Even the political survival artist Merkel no longer has any good options…

The original post (in German) is here