TOMORROW is Europe Day, the annual commemoration of European peace and unity. While the coronavirus pandemic has sapped this year of any measure of jubilation, we should still pause to reflect on the European Union and its future.

The virus outbreak has naturally become the singular defining topic of the European agenda due to its significant health, social and economic consequences. Europe’s existing challenges, such as climate change, remain, however. Moreover, this new crisis has exposed the unrepaired economic and social damage caused by the last crisis.

Just as European governments are being scrutinised, the EU institutions have equally faced inevitable questions on their response to the coronavirus.

Public health is still predominantly the responsibility of member states. The EU treaties only give the Union the power to support national and local health policies. Nevertheless, the EU missed the opportunity to provide stronger European co-ordination at an earlier stage. In its absence, EU states acted unilaterally on borders and equipment.

Common plans have since been established. The member states are now working together better and the European response to the coronavirus is more coherent.

The EU has undertaken joint procurement for medical supplies and equipment, and it has used the RescEU programme to deploy equipment and personnel where they are needed. With a host of partners, the EU also launched the Coronavirus Global Response Initiative to fund testing, treatments and vaccines which are affordable and globally available. This week, the initiative raised €7.4 billion in pledges. That is the power of a united Europe.

In time, the crisis response will be more fully assessed. Given the universal nature of these threats, the member states may decide to transfer greater powers on health to EU level.

While common approaches have been found on many of the health dimensions, the EU remains divided on the economic and financial solutions to the pandemic.

To date, it has collectively mobilised €3.4 trillion for economic support through the EU institutions, the member states and the European Investment Bank.

The EU acted quickly to relax state aid rules and national budget obligations. The European Central Bank has commenced asset purchase programmes worth €870bn.

These initiatives are substantial, but will they be enough? Some EU states, notably Italy and Greece, already have high debt levels and largely had a non-recovery from the eurocrisis. One proposed solution is eurobonds – now called coronabonds. The EU or eurozone would issue joint bonds backed by the various states, based on their combined credit rating. France, Italy, Spain, Ireland and others (prospective beneficiaries) support the concept, while Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland (prospective subsidisers) oppose it.

Even in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, the usual divisions among the member states persist. Yet this is clearly a time to advance the discussion and consider bolder solutions.

Wealthier states will do neither themselves nor the EU any favours if their refusal to allow common financing substantially fuels anti-EU sentiment in countries in need. The result could be the undermining of the European project, from which those same states sustain much of their wealth.

The EU still has a chance to find a better way forward. Indeed, the present crisis has highlighted long-standing and unanswered questions about the future of the EU – not least the scope, pace and destination of political integration.

The European Union involves both common policies and shared institutions. But what is the ultimate objective – a federal Europe, a looser collective? We still have no consensus.

For instance, how can the EU square the ambition of becoming a geostrategic actor with the clear differences in the national foreign policies of the member states?

Beyond the pandemic, a vision for the EU’s future must be found which has the support of the peoples. Policies can then be shaped on the basis of knowing what the EU will become.

Scottish politics is regrettably largely disconnected from these European debates and ideas. As I have argued, the best means of developing our EU relations is to connect to them.

We must be clear that Scotland as an EU member state would fit into a much larger picture. Pro-European sentiment is invaluable, but it must be matched with interests and priorities.

Despite its imperfections, the EU has enabled our continent to achieve great strides in peace and prosperity. Even in our current circumstances, that is worth celebrating.

Anthony Salamone is a former academic at the London School of Economics who has set up Edinburgh-based political analysis firm European Merchants