The European Commission DG NEAR and the office of the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy released a new policy statement (‘Communication’) ‘Renewed Partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood: A New Agenda for the Mediterranean’ on 9 February 2021. The Communication was accompanied by a staff working document ‘Renewed Partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern Neighbours’. The priorities outlined in the Communication and the investment Plan are to be concretised during 2021 as the new ‘Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), which will finance the EU’s international cooperation, is programmed during 2021.
In the context of a global crisis, access to reliable information is more important than ever. Limiting free speech and press freedoms can impede accurate understanding and hence mitigation of the crisis. Beyond COVID, freedom of the press and expression are foundations of any functioning democracy.
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 management of the coronavirus pandemic has been considerably impaired by a dearth of essential medical and pharmaceutical products. Disruptions in supply chains for healthcare goods have caused shortages and tight inventories. The reliance of many countries, particularly in Europe and Africa, on products imported from a few international suppliers is largely the result of the process of globalisation in the past decades. In conjunction with the lack of preparedness of health and civil protection systems, interdependencies in healthcare sectors, notably between Europe and Asia, made them vulnerable to a crisis affecting both exporters and importers.
The EU is putting forward the idea of a COVID-19 marker on aid data to track the unprecedented mobilisation of resources to tackle the crisis globally. Rather than such a marker, the EU should consider supporting more sustainable and technologically-savvy approaches to ensure much needed transparency and accountability. The EU could back a number of other initiatives that are likely to better meet information needs, strengthening data ecosystems in developing countries and improving global reporting during and beyond the ongoing crisis.
Covid-19 brought a brief respite in the growth of carbon emissions. The challenge now is to achieve a long-term decrease. We must seize the moment to turn the coronavirus crisis into the green opportunity the world needs most.
Energy renovations are a priority for post-crisis recovery plans, both in France, in the European Union and in the world.1 This urgency can be explained both by its rapidly mobilizable economic potential, its key role for climate policies, and by the importance of the fight against energy poverty in a context of increasing vulnerabilities. While proposals for France’s recovery plans abound,2 the challenge now is to identify the most effective levers for combining economic recovery with scaling-up of highly performant deep retrofits, which is a prerequisite for moving onto a convergent path with France’s national low-carbon strategy.
While the EU weeps over the slow progress in the preparation of the EU-Africa Summit in October – partly slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic – China and African leaders held an ‘Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19’ last week. Thirteen African leaders took part in this virtual event, including South Africa’s President and African Union Chairperson, Cyril Ramaphosa, and Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the African Union Commission.
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.
Follow the discussion we had on 24 of June together with IDDRI on possible impacts of the Covid-19 crisis on greener and climate friendly economies in both Europe and Africa.