05 January 2021

Let’s not forget the 2020 year!

Sergiu Medar

On this New Year’s Eve, I heard many people saying: let’s forget about 2020! I do not agree with that. In order to not repeat the mistakes we made, we shall not forget any suffering or wretchedness. Just like after any military or diplomatic operations it is mandatory to analyze the events, after 2020 as well, even if the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet, all states must learn some lessons.

Image source: Mediafax

In any campaign, periodically, during its development or when ending it, analyses are made.  When a difficult phase ends and, with the start of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, a new phase emerges, it is necessary to make an analysis of the development of threats and risks and the response to possible actions.

States’ solidarity

On 9th May 2019, in Sibiu, an informal summit of the European Union took place. The word that was summarizing the atmosphere and the EU future was solidarity. The leaders of all participating European states have declared their determination for a common support, if one or many states need help. The message’s credibility test came only a few months later, when, in China, the first cases of COVID-19 were emerging. Shortly after that, the China epidemic turned into a pandemic. This was the moment the European states had to prove they could keep the promises made in Sibiu. That did not happen though. On the contrary, there were cases wherein states have blocked or shunted the transports of medical equipment dedicated to other countries or did not move a finger when they were asked for help by states with huge difficulties. There were a few states that accepted COVID-19 patients from other states when the pandemic was localized and those states were way above the AIC (Anesthesia and Intensive Care unit) limit.

The World Health Organization failed trying to identify and recommend the best COVID-19 treatments. There were, however, also direct information exchanges between doctors, but these were only based on professional or personal relations between specialists in the field.

Political and economic crises with increased effects due to the pandemic

2020 was marked by a series of global crises, which developed against some governments and states which were already weakened by the pandemic.

The effects of the climate changes reached a climax, which was felt by people around the world due to the global increase of annual temperatures.

The social movements like the Black Live Matter, which started in the USA and got, then, in the entire world in the form of demonstrations and manifestations, have emerged due to racial hostilities everyone thought that have disappeared once with colonialism’s end. This type of crisis would have emerged even if the pandemic would not have started. In some states, the public manifestation developed and increased, going in line with the protests against the governmental measures, taken to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The lessons the governments learned were to solve the sensitive political problems as soon as they emerge, and not wait for them to vanish alone (the Black Lives Matter case) or to improve the communication between the government and the population (the case of the reactions on the restriction measures, taken to reduce the pandemic’s effects).

Due to the restrictions imposed for the economic comeback from the crisis provoked by the pandemic, austerity regimes will emerge and will dramatically affect the population’s incomes, producing social movements that could destabilize the governments. That’s why it is necessary for them to have a permanent dialogue with the syndicates in order to avoid internal crises and social instability.

A series of European states have held national elections during the pandemic, which have often led to an increase of the SARS-CoV-2 infections. However, considering that this is the main exercise of a democracy, they have assumed these risks, even having results way below the preliminary polls. This led to the disavowal of the final results, the US being the most eloquent example to that end.

Consequences in the international relations

 The SARS-CoV-2 crisis, by decreasing the living condition, has increased the frequency of the violent and populist manifestation, which inevitably led to illiberal or even dictatorial regimes. For the first time in the last century, the number of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes has surpassed the number of democratic states. This is the reason why the language of many leaders became a violent one. The authoritarian states got on defensive positions, as if a regional conflict could start at any moment.

The pandemic showed that the effectiveness of the cyber attacks which have negatively influenced the people’s spirit and covered the social media with fake news that tend to undermine the trust of the population in the authorities. This became obvious after the COVID-19 vaccination started, when fake messages have discouraged a big part of the population from trusting the benefits of the vaccine.

2021 will redo the population’s hopes, the global condition will, most likely, be more relaxed and, at least starting with the midst of the year, the daily activities will be resumed. This way, the states’ leaders will have more space to approach the political programs they won the elections with. However, the global effects of the pandemic will be most likely recovered in a generation from now on. It is crucial for the states to develop smart programs, which can transform the wretchedness in opportunity and allow the change and redo of the social systems.

Among the learned lessons there is also the vulnerability of the supply systems with products to allow the state cope with such a pandemic: medical equipment, the management of hospitals for properly countering the vaccines etc. The main suppliers were China and the low labor force states, which would keep a low price for the products. Closing the borders as a restriction measure has affected even more the distribution chains of the necessary products for pandemic’s control.

The pandemic revealed the multilateralism’s weakness, manifested among the international organizations. Only the EU and NATO has asked for common measures to cope with the crisis, the UN needed more than three months to organize a meeting of the Security Council wherein to ask for the suspension of conflicts during the pandemic.

As usual, the results were partially positive, given that the arms transports to Libya have continued, as well as other breaches of the UN decisions. Russia and China have used their veto right three times more at the Security Council’s resolutions than in the previous period, thus decreasing the number of implemented decisions.

Consequences of the pandemic in states’ governance

In order to redo the supply networks and recover the basic economic capacities, the European Union has launched the European Recovery Program, which involves the increase of the production systems’ resilience, encouraging the green and digitalized economies.

The digitalization of the production and transport systems involved the implementation of protection measures from the cyber attacks. The EU is deeply concerned with this target, thus, it has founded in Romania the Center for Competence in the Cyber Security field, to prepare the specialists with skills in the field.

The economic recovery will also have to be supported by states’ political recovery. The measures taken by governments to restrict the local or international movement of citizens have led to complaints and a confidence decrease in the state leadership, but also in specialists. The sacrifice of the citizens, unsupported by the results, generated antagonistic relations between governments and the population.

As failures of private non-medical companies have been identified during the pandemic, governments are looking at conditions wherein the state would become more involved in private companies’ economy. This aspect is blamed by the populists, who try to use this beneficial measure as an argument in support of their ideology, but also in preventing the acquisition, at a low price, of these companies by other states.

If such a crisis cannot be prevented, the governments should at least have the ability to act according to learned lessons

The United Nations has once again proved its inefficiency. The UN Security Council no longer has a composition in line with the current political and economic positions of the world's states. Hence the effects of small authority on Council decisions.

The G7 and G20, which were very active during the 2008 financial crisis, were this time almost non-existent.

The US will try to rebuild multilateral relations during the Biden administration and join the climate change mitigation initiatives. The European Union will go back and forward between the US and China, being unlikely to side with the Asian state.

Doctors and scientists are the ones who will make a major contribution to stopping the SARS-Cov-2 virus. Their cooperation, uncoordinated by international bodies, has succeeded in developing the vaccine against the virus. Direct cooperation between doctors in European countries has been exemplary, despite the fact that the EU has not met the requirement to provide 3% of each state's budget for science and research.

No one can guarantee that such a pandemic will not emerge again, sooner or later. But governments would be blamable if such thing will again turn into a global crisis.

Translated by Andreea Soare