In contrast with their halting response to the global financial crisis a decade ago, European policymakers acted quickly to mitigate the economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic. They eased the way for governments to run deficits and increase their debt loads. In a breakthrough, the European Union agreed to a plan for common borrowing for a pandemic recovery fund. Although controversial in some countries, common debt would make it easier to address inequities among member states. But the plan was nearly derailed by objections from Poland and Hungary to a provision that would withhold funds from member states that violate the rule of law and other democratic norms, raising doubts about how transformative the borrowing precedent would prove to be.