If one had to summarise with only one word the meaning of the measures that former ECB President Mario Draghi proposed from the columns of the Financial Times, we should choose the word “trust”.
That trust, which nowadays seems to be an elusive holy grail for the EU and many other national and international institutions. That public trust that the Eurogroup had to handle, carefully, in its 16-hour fruitless meeting overnight – but might unwillingly break on Thursday when the talks resume.
Today more than ever we must trust institutions, our institutions. This is ever more important now, as we even accept limitations to our personal freedoms to protect the common good public health. Now more than even we must trust others, the other. We put our lives, trembling but with confidence, in the hands of those healthcare workers, pharmacists, retailers and law enforcement man and women who must do everything and anything possible to protect the health, safety and sustenance of all.
Governments and political leaders, however, still try to paradoxically deceive themselves, to try and show they can do better than the next one, or be better than their neighbour. They defend the interests of their own nation, accuse others of not doing enough or grandstand uncompromising and firm in international negotiations before requests of solidarity. Some even do so as if they were convinced that some other States have provoked the Coronavirus – just like superficial and insane economic policies have produced or aggravated economic crises and public debt in the past.
This short-sighted vision, this myopia about the very meaning and mission of the nation-state and the supranational institutions we created can only have one consequence. The growth of a maturing distrust, which today is becoming suspicion and tomorrow will be resentment. In new generations, it may be readiness to embrace a logic of conflict to solve all those challenges that will gradually but certainly continue to arise. The lack of trust between nations will cause even more resentment amidst the national public opinion of states where public policy measures had limited guarantees, lacked economic coverage and thus ended up being insufficient. There, social discontent and unrest will rise the most.
We thus need trust. We need to protect it and pose the necessary conditions for it. We need to trust each other because trust is the foundation and engine of community dynamics. That foundation holds the weight of building human relationships and sustains the effort of maintaining lasting friendships, just as it is the basis, the cornerstone of all economic interactions and virtuous international relations.
This is the reason why the persistence of selfishness and mistrust is perceived not only by Mr Draghi, but by so many citizens as a gloomy mortgage on the fate of the European Union. This is, on the well-being and peaceful coexistence of millions of people. The political project we call Europe is above all a bet on trust as an antidote to conflict: a counterweight to the might of force and the will to exert power.
Time is of the essence. The EU, together with other Western democracies, feels the pressure to deliver solutions to this emergency and show that the guarantees of liberal democracy are compatible with doing “whatever it takes” when it is necessary. The ruling classes, those people in power who are now choosing to take responsibility for not sharing a present made of pain and effort, run the risk of delivering us a future made of poverty and war.