Against the background of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been much discussion of a “return of the state” across two dimensions: a state-society one and a state-market one. In both dimensions, the institutional structure of the EU constrains or distorts its response in ways that should worry “pro-Europeans”. In the first dimension, the EU’s inherent technocratic nature and way of functioning may lead it to respond to the crisis by further continuing the shift in recent decades from the “popular” to the “constitutional” pillar of democracy and thus deepen the crisis of liberal democracy in Europe. In the second dimension, EU rules limit the possibility of a shift from the market to the state that may now be demanded by citizens. Paper presented in a joint webinar on transatlantic relations by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik (DGAP), organised in cooperation with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Compagnia di San Paolo, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (Rome Office) and the US Embassy to Italy on 5 November 2020.
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