In the death toll, the EU as a whole did not perform worse than the UK or America, with 138 deaths per 100,000, compared to 187 and 166 respectively (although Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Belgium fared worse than these countries). Yet Europe is in the grip of a wave driven by a deadly variant. This highlights the dangers posed by low vaccination rates in Europe. According to the tracker The Economist, 58 percent of British adults got vaccinated, compared with 38 percent of Americans and only 14 percent of EU citizens.
European countries are also lagging behind on another criterion: the economy. In the last quarter of 2020 America was growing at an annualized rate of 4.1 percent. In China, which suppressed the virus with totalitarian rigor, growth was 6.5 percent. In the euro area, the economy was still shrinking. A year ago, Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister of Spain, called Covid-19 the worst crisis the EU has experienced since World War II.
Part of Europe's problem is demographics. By world standards, the EU society is old, which makes it more prone to disease. Other, less intuitive factors, such as crowded cities, can also make Europeans vulnerable to the disease. Cross-border mobility, one of the EU's greatest achievements, has arguably benefited the virus, and no one will want to limit it once the pandemic wears off.
But politics is also part of Europe's problem. Jean Monnet, a French diplomat who helped create the European project, wrote the famous phrase: "Europe is learning itself in crisis". When things are at their worst, these words are used to imply that the Union will tear victory out of the mouth of defeat.