"The basic threshold of what it means to live in a community is that you have some collective responsibility to each other that goes beyond your self-interest—and there I have found it pretty shocking," says Chris Bickerton, an academic at Cambridge University and the author of The European Union: A Citizen's Guide. "It reveals that the political obligations of governments and leaders are really still national, [and] it seems very difficult to think of a common European identity under those circumstances."
The coronavirus outbreak is the latest in a long line of crises that have thrust the E.U. into existential despair. The euro-zone crisis of 2008 first gave the lie to the dream of a pan-European solidarity, with wealthier nations loath to take any economic hit to come to the aid of struggling ones.