This summer was dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is still ravaging people worldwide. At least 1 million people have now died from the virus. This grim milestone comes only eight months after we learned about a mysterious virus infecting people in China. And the pandemic is currently regaining strength. How strongly populations will be affected and with them society and the economy, remains to be seen.
This unexpectedly virulent pandemic is putting European solidarity to the test and is a wake-up call for the European Union. While some Member States initially retreated behind their borders, the European institutions reacted rapidly with plausible initiatives despite the fact that healthcare remains a national prerogative. This edition will highlight the EU’s political action and discuss the need to prepare together for future pandemics and modernise health and care systems in Europe.
The impact of the pandemic on the global economy can however be measured already: a fall of more than 6% in GDP for developed countries and at least 10% for developing countries. The economic constraints inherent in combatting the virus will have profound economic and social consequences and could tip countries into permanent recession with negative repercussions on livelihoods, tearing the fabric of society and culminating all too often in violent demonstrations and revolt. As all nations have different structures, there will be no global solution, which is why only individual countries can determine the level of constraints they impose on their own people and the degree to which they keep their economies open. Richer countries will be called on for solidarity and help.
“The pandemic will change the world order” wrote Henry Kissinger on April 7th 2020 in the Wall Street Journal and his observation is surely right. Behind the veil of the pandemic, the world is indeed changing and there is much evidence to indicate an acceleration of geopolitical transformations. The cracks in globalisation have already led to an incipient cold war between China and the United States.
China’s violations of the treaty on Hong Kong, the increasingly shrill threats against Taiwan, the annexation of islands in the South China Sea and the military skirmishes at the Indian border are clear indications that China is pursuing a policy of aggression.
The US for its part is increasingly showing itself to be a less reliable partner for Europe. The current President appears to have no strategy to control the pandemic that is causing so much harm to his country, nor has he a policy to contain China.
Russia is far removed from democracy. Even as she tries to assert herself as a leading international power, her internal cohesion is founded on repression and the spread of fear and terror.
Turkey’s leader is trying to disguise the deterioration of his economy by claiming sovereignty over parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, in violation of international treaties, and is apparently ready to wage war to realise his ambitions.
The European Union, against this background, must show its power and adopt a higher profile. If it fails to do so, it will be condemned to insignificance. In the face of the multiple crises of the past months, from Belarus to Mali, between Greece and Turkey and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the EU must show where its interests lie by imposing sanctions on Belarus and exerting strong diplomatic pressure on Turkey in support of Greece and Cyprus. At the same time, it must try to maintain a dialogue with all parties.
Covid-19 will change the world order, but within this new order societies will be changing too, and we must ensure that democracy and human rights are not trampled underfoot! Winning the fight against Covid-19 in this context is a major challenge we must successfully meet together!