The consequences of COVID-19 will shape European policies and politics for years to come. Europe is lacking behind particularly on the SDGs related to agriculture, climate change and biodiversity and in strengthening convergence of living standards across EU member states. The pandemic has made these SDGs even more difficult to achieve by 2030, and could derail progress on other SDGs as well.
2020 was dominated by a collective global crisis on an unprecedented scale, the impact of which was felt differently around the globe and in parts of society. And the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to cast its shadow this year. The fight against Covid-19 and the recovery in the economy and society are coming at the same time as several major events in international environmental and climate policy.
“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. It affects us all.”
The EU intends to play a pioneering role in the future, armed with a “clear and coherent Arctic policy”. If this is to succeed, the EU will need to take the lessons learned from the pandemic into account because COVID-19 has exacerbated existing inequalities and challenges in the region, particularly in terms of infrastructure and healthcare.
Digitalisation is the use of digital technologies and digitised data in enterprises and organisations, with far-reaching implications for how work gets done and how customers engage and interact with operations. There can be no doubt that digitalisation is transforming business models, revolutionising societies and creating new revenue streams around the globe. Now, more than ever, we need to understand and harness the power of digitalisation, to further the global common good.
The current policy brief lays out the obstacles to both AfCFTA implementation and realisation of its full economic potential. It also explores how the EU can engage in providing targeted support and how to strengthen AfCFTA-related cooperation between Africa and the EU. The analysis and recommendations draw on a review of the literature and policy documents by the German Development Institute (DIE), the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), as well as two online expert seminars on 17 and 24 June 2020.
Governments in the Middle East and in North Africa (MENA) are tackling the pandemic in different ways, many challenged by weak social systems and growing societal frustrations. In relatively prosperous (middle-income) countries – such as Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq – leaders have used the pandemic as an excuse to suppress justified protests at their lack of accountability and failure to provide basic services. For international cooperation, which supports the functioning of legitimate, accountable governments and resilient societies, this poses a critical challenge – as the case of Lebanon currently illuminates.
Populism has revealed one of its weaknesses, by displaying particularly ineffective crisis management. However, it is not clear that populism will be politically unsuccessful in the post-corona future. The ability of populists to mobilise supporters, to concentrate powers and to spread a narrative of the crisis aligned with their nationalist and authoritarian ideology should not be underestimated. They could show resilience by relying on a broader anti-globalist narrative, conspiracy theories and polarization.
While the 2008/2009 global economic crisis had many negative consequences, one positive effect was that it massively accelerated international cooperation on tax matters. This is the kind of impetus that we also need for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. The focus is not on generating more revenues, but rather primarily on achieving greater equity in the way that revenues are generated. This requires more public discussion of fair taxation. After all, the way that resources are mobilised and deployed to tackle the crisis will also have an impact on state legitimacy and social cohesion.
The impacts that Covid-19 has brought about in our daily lives are very apparent. Less apparent is the immediate implications of the pandemic for global poverty. In terms on the effects on livelihoods, however, impacts are going to hit vulnerable communities the hardest. Any net loss for them represents a larger share of their already limited income and the effects will be felt well beyond shocks to their income.
Beginning in July, Germany will hold the European Council Presidency until the end of the year, a term that will be characterised by the effects of the corona pandemic and the efforts to manage it. The Council Presidency should be used to mould the processes of the EU recovery plan and the MFF in a way that delivers decisive impulses for an orientation towards climate and sustainability goals. A further summit of the EU heads of state and government will take place in July, tasked with reaching agreement on the EU recovery plan.