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 full extent of COVID-19’s impact on global geopolitical balances cannot yet be assessed. Nevertheless, a number of trends are clearly emerging and these have already upset a number of balances which previously seemed unchangeable. COVID-19 is evidently not the cause of such changes, which had been well underway before the outbreak, but the pandemic has become a litmus test that has further thrust these developments under the political spotlight.
European governments and citizens cannot allow the COVID-19 emergency to (re)determine our identity and interests, erecting national barriers or trade wars. The crisis can bring us together or tear us apart, but the ultimate responsibility will rest on people, the leaders and citizens of Europe, who can determine how we will emerge from this pandemic and redefine what it means to be “European”.
Europeans are incredibly lucky to largely not know what it feels like to fear for their lives due to war and violence. Yet suddenly, communities in Europe share characteristics with people who live in countries with violent conflict: coronavirus makes lives precarious and incomes unstable. It shows what it’s like when public services are underfunded, unreliable and insufficient.
European Think Tanks Group (ETTG) calls on the EU to look beyond its own economic recovery and to work with Africa as our ‘twin continent’ and ‘closest ally’ to avert the worst effects of the crisis and to craft a new partnership for the longer-term. History has taught us that major crises create opportunities for accelerating social, economic and political reforms. The coronavirus crisis provides an opportunity to finally transform the old paradigm of donor-recipient aid relations towards a model of genuine international cooperation between Europe and Africa.
The international community bears joint responsibility for the world’s poorest countries during this pandemic. For this reason, both temporary, immediate liquidity support and long-term measures that address the root causes of indebtedness are important in order to enable these countries to prevent a financial catastrophe on top of a humanitarian one.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered important debates about technological and industrial sovereignty in Europe. The lack of essential equipment such as respiratory devices and protective gear underscored the weaknesses of supply chains largely dependent on Chinese producers.
International development cooperation risks being deeply affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic, with potentially disastrous consequences among fragile states.
COVID19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that has rapidly turned into a pandemic, could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. The international liberal order, as well as the European Union within it, has been in trouble for years now. The EU has been shaken by the successive Eurozone and migration crises, while its surrounding regions were spiralling into conflict and outright collapse. COVID19 could be the final nail in the coffin of a rules-based international order and the European project within it. But it could also give birth to a new phoenix rising from its ashes. Much will depend on how Europe, both internally and internationally, will confront this epochal crisis.
Twenty-twenty should have been the year of a fundamentally new Africa-Europe partnership, culminating in the sixth EU-AU summit in October in Brussels. Ursula von der Leyen, with a delegation of some 20 European commissioners in her wake, recently traveled to Addis Ababa for meetings with their African Union counterparts.