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FPI Coffee Hour | Europe's Exit Strategy: Rising out of the COVID-19 Crisis

April 16, 2020

Daniel S. Hamilton, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Cengiz Günay, Deputy Director of the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, University of Vienna

Kristina Spohr, Helmut Schmidt Distinguished Visiting Professor, Johns Hopkins SAIS

In this webinar, FPI Senior Fellow Daniel S. Hamilton and Deputy Director of the Austrian Institute for International Affairs Cengiz Günay explore the various strategies of the European Union (EU) as it tries to cope and recover from the COVID-19 global crisis.

The speakers both argued that the crisis poses a threat to democracy and civil liberties. Somehow there is a discourse that democracy, decision-making processes are an obstacle for speedy decisions and this is a dangerous development. Günay claims that some countries are using extraordinary measures beyond democratic control and procedures to respond to this extraordinary situation. This is illustrated by countries such as Austria, Hungary, and Turkey who are passing restrictive laws, being intransparent, and seem to manipulate the actual numbers of those infected to give off the impression that their response was not too late. These tactics make the struggle against this virus more difficult. 

Hamilton argues that the pandemic has exposed the ugly side of the EU as countries fend for themselves and neglect the notion of solidarity. In devising exit strategies, the EU is trying to play more of a role especially in economic recovery so that there is better coordination among member states. Günay emphasizes cooperation as key to resolving challenges such as the financial burden of the individual member states, the different national economies and their response to the economic effects of the crisis. In regard to the Balkans, the lack of a common European approach to the crisis and the EU’s export ban on medical equipment to non-EU countries compelled countries in the region to seek supplies from other actors such as China.

Discussing the future implications of the virus, Günay and Hamilton both highlighted the importance of cooperation not only between governments but also between scientists in their search for a vaccine.