European winter is coming early
In Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, pedestrians pass through an electronic sign that promotes epidemic prevention measures. Photography/Xinhua News Agency reporter Peng Lijun
Xiang Changhe (International Issues Scholar)
” Europe is no longer the Europe you were when you were here”-these are the words that my old friends in Europe and the author often said when chatting over the air, often accompanied by an angry sigh. With the second wave of the new crown epidemic intensifying, the economy plummeting, and the harassment of extremism, the European winter seems to be coming early.
Let’s talk about the epidemic first. At present, Europe has become the continent with the fastest spread of the new crown pandemic. The number of confirmed cases has exceeded 10 million, and the number of new cases in many countries has repeatedly reached new highs. According to the latest data released by WHO on the evening of October 29, there were more than 239,000 new confirmed cases of new crowns and 2,482 deaths in Europe in the previous 24 hours, making the cumulative number of confirmed new crowns in the region exceeded 10 million for the first time, reaching 10.229 million There are more than 276,000 deaths from the new crown.
Belgium, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Austria, Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lithuania, Croatia, Serbia, etc. The newly confirmed cases all hit the highest value since the outbreak. The number of new cases in France, the United Kingdom, Germany and other countries remains high, and the number of confirmed patients in Italy once again exceeds the number of recovered patients in the same period. The European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that with the exception of Cyprus, Estonia, Finland and Greece, the situation in all EU countries falls into the category of”serious concern”.
Faced with the WHO’s warning that the number of cases in Europe may increase”exponentially”, the”second lockdown” has become the last resort of many European countries. German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron announced new blockade measures on Wednesday. The French-German decision marks a new stage in Europe’s fight against the epidemic. Prior to this, governments have been resisting the massive blockade measures implemented during the March and April outbreaks.
In addition to France and Germany, Ireland, Belgium, Greece and other countries have successively announced similar”cities lockdown” measures. More and more people believe that the second wave of epidemics will last longer than the first wave and may eventually cause more deaths. However, many people did not support the closure measures, and sporadic protests and demonstrations took place in some places.
Let’s talk about the economy. According to Reuters forecasts, the Eurozone economy will shrink by about 8%this year, and whether it can grow next year depends on the spread of the new crown virus .
France is one of the”engines” of the EU economy, but its situation is particularly bad. France’s GDP in the second quarter has shrunk by 13.8%, which is a post-World War II record. Berenberg analysts said in a report a few days ago:“France’s GDP will fall sharply in the fourth quarter, and the decline may reach 3%to 4%.”
With the second “closed city””The European restaurant industry will suffer a new round of blows. Restaurants are at the core of European life, because they are places where neighbors exchange, big family gatherings and love. The European Union pointed out that between February and April, the hotel and catering industry sales fell by an astonishing 79.3%. According to estimates by the Italian Food and Entertainment Federation,”hundreds of thousands of jobs may disappear completely” in the coming months.
Restaurants are the epitome of European SMEs and service industries. The impact of the epidemic on small and medium enterprises is fatal. In a survey of more than 2,200 companies in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, McKinsey & Company found that if their revenues remain at current levels, 55%of companies are expected to close down by September next year. According to current trends, one in ten SMEs is expected to file for bankruptcy within six months.
Because of this, the new home orders in European countries are not as strict as before, and protecting the economy and employment to the greatest extent is a major concern of policymakers. French Finance Minister Le Maire said that during the implementation of the blockade, France will provide companies with a monthly subsidy estimated at 15 billion euros.
Compared with its European counterparts, Germany has performed well in the previous fight against the epidemic. Germany has weathered the economic crisis relatively well, and the”Iron Lady” Merkel has also gained a reputation. The root cause is that due to the relatively high proportion of the manufacturing industry in Germany, the impact of the epidemic is far less than the service industry, and the Merkel government’s fiscal stimulus is also very effective. However, facing the second wave of the epidemic, the Germans are no longer optimistic. Deutsche Bank analysts predicted in a report that “the blockade measures will cause Germany’s fourth-quarter GDP to drop by at least 0.5%from the previous quarter. In particular, hotels and cultural institutions will suffer the biggest blow again.”
Every night it rains. Just as Europe was struggling with the spread of the epidemic and economic shrinking, the successive”beheading” incidents of extremists in France caused panic and anger across Europe, social opposition and ethnic divisions were intensifying, and social conflicts were accumulating.
On October 29, a suspected terrorist attack occurred in a church in the southern French city of Nice. The attacker with a knife beheaded a woman and killed two others. Earlier this month, a teacher on the outskirts of Paris was beheaded because he showed a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in class.
German Chancellor Merkel, British Prime Minister Johnson, European Commission President Von der Lein and almost all European leaders Everyone condemned the attack, saying that”Europe is with France.” At the same time, due to the dispute between Macron’s remarks and the French government’s measures to combat religious extremism, protests against France have taken place in many Islamic countries. What happened in France touched the most sensitive nerve in Europe. With the rise of the Muslim population in various parts of Europe, the problems of ethnic opposition and social integration are unsolvable, and European anxiety is everywhere.
“Winter is here!” How Europe resolves the problems it faces and determines the future and destiny of Europa, but the answer is still in the wind.