In the pandemic, it's every nation for itself
"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time," said Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey to a friend on the eve of Britain's entry into the First World War.
Observing from afar as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the Old Continent, Grey's words return to mind. And as the Great War changed Europe forever, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be changing the way European peoples see each other.
"All for one and one for all!" These were the words by which "The Three Musketeers" of Alexandre Dumas lived their lives.
This was the ideal upon which the EU and NATO were built. An attack against one is an attack against all. The Schengen Agreement by which citizens of Europe are as free to travel through the countries of their continent as Americans are to travel from Maryland to Virginia is rooted in that ideal.
Yet, suddenly, all that seems to belong to yesterday.
How the EU's nation-states are reacting to the coronavirus crisis brings to mind another phrase, a French phrase, "Sauve qui peut," a rough translation of which is, "Every man for himself."
The New York Times has written of the new reality. In Sunday's top story, "Europe Locks Up and Faces Crisis as Virus Spread," the Times wrote:
"While some European leaders, like President Emmanuel Macron of France, have called for intensifying cooperation across nations, others are trying to close their countries off.
"From Denmark to Slovakia, governments went into aggressive virus-fighting mode with border closings."
Describing a host of countries heeding the call of tribalism and nationalism, the Times laments Monday: