In the space of just a few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has plunged much of the world into a state suspended paralysis. The crisis has laid bare just how unprepared we in the developed world are in the event of a major global catastrophe. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that bureaucratic infighting and delays in prudent policymaking has deadly and economically ruinous consequences.
When the first signs of an outbreak began in China in late 2019, the earliest warnings were covered up by a paranoid Communist regime intent on keeping the world uninformed about the deadly nature of the disease. And despite numerous signals, Europe and the US chose not to heed the warnings.
While the lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic await an in-depth review once the worst phase of the crisis passes, the world is now left with finding a way to somehow tame the disease while at the same time picking up the pieces of the world’s economies and forging ahead with a more secure post-pandemic existence.
The world’s democracies must acknowledge the disturbing speed by which aggressive and heavy-handed measures were enacted by officials in nations with little-to-no-history of authoritarianism as part of their efforts to combat the spread of the virus.
The distinctly Orwellian character of the lockdowns, curfews, restrictions on the press, public shaming of those who question the authorities, and restrictions on the right to assemble is impossible to ignore. Each of the leading nations of the free world must come to the realisation that once certain inalienable rights are stripped away, it is nearly impossible to ever recoup what has been forever lost – the post-9/11 world taught us that simple but fundamental lesson.
The reality is that economies will contract, resources will shrink, and governments will struggle to provide for their populations. But by pooling together the vast manufacturing and innovative resources that Europe possesses – and working in tandem with its close allies in the US, UK, and Canada – the EU can produce and provide its own medical and telecommunications resources that would help wean itself off its destructive dependence on China.
By developing a coherent vision of exactly where Europe’s place in the post-pandemic world will be will allow the 27 members of the bloc to further address many of the issues that have dogged the EU for the past dozen years. What’s paramount is that Europe must find a way to allow its constituent members to rethink their notion of sovereignty while at the same time halting the growth of an even stronger nativist and xenophobic surge as a result of the pandemic.
For the Western democracies, the end of the pandemic must be followed by a renewed sense of close cooperation, similar to what was seen in the years immediately following the end of the Second World War.
We began 2020 by marking the tenth anniversary of our annual “Our World” magazine, where we invite leading minds from the political, business, academic, and civil society world to discuss our future as seen from the perspective of our individual and collective challenges.
None of us could have imagined as recently the world would be faced with the sort of calamity that has befallen all of us in the months since we published the latest edition of Our World. From the very beginning, New Europe has offered entities who actively do good for our societies the opportunity to express their hopes and ideas in the pages of Our World.
At this critical time in all of our lives, we sincerely hope that the thoughts and observations in this special edition helps bring more clarity for all as we look to the future.