Besides Belgium, France has been hit particularly hard by the second wave of the corona pandemic. As a result, the government has imposed a strict curfew for the second time. All “non-essential” shops are closed until 1 December, with a high likelihood of extension. This concerns companies especially in the pre-Christmas period, which in some industries defines the annual revenu. Updates to the 2020 forecasts have shown that the second lockdown is expected to reduce France’s GDP by 11 instead of 10 percentage points. By way of comparison, the forecast for GDP decline in Germany is 5.5 percentage points for the entire year of 2020.
In these days of skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates, the image of the wave is rhetorically booming. Waves roll in, are supposed to break and the tsunami like ones sometimes even swallow any kind of defence efforts. Just like in March/April, there is no question that Europe remains under the influence of emergency response measures. Spain is imposing a state of emergency for several months, France is closing down completely, Germany is imposing a so-called lock-down light. And Brussels? What is happening in political Europe? The Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen, is working to improve coordination of national measures during the pandemic. In the short term, this means cross-border optimisation of intensive care bed capacities, in the medium term, the procurement and roll-out of vaccine doses, and in the long term, improving the statistical basis for better decisions in the event of similar hazards in the future. In cooperation with the European Parliament, the German Council Presidency is endeavouring to implement the post-COVID development programme NextGenerationEU as quickly as possible. With difficulty, but with progress in sight, we hear from the Brussels engine room.
The European institutions are working. It is the Member States, and within them the provinces, federal states, departments, counties, municipalities and whatever the name of the local authorities, that impose and implement measures. These measures are often more differentiated than in the spring, but also more controversial in the national discourse than at the beginning of the crisis. This makes the picture of pandemic control more diffuse and the public opinion more diverse. This does, however, not have to be a disadvantage. In Europe, we live by diversity and public debate, the dispute about the better concept, the better solution. We are not a society that marches in silence behind the flag of a one-party government to wherever the Politburo has planted the target flag. But our openness can also become our open flank: The success of the test that Europe must now pass can be measured not only, but also in falling infection rates. The test result says something about whether our European and Western culture of the unique combination of individual freedom and public capacity for action will find effective answers to the pandemic. For Liberals, the matter is clear: it is not because we want to be free, but because we are free that we have the better ideas, the more powerful concept, the greater resources. This includes the tough political battles as well as the obvious cross-border cooperation in the small and big issues of the pandemic. In the spring, Europe began to shake and the first wave rolled over the European Union. Now the Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission must ride the second wave. To do this, we need to be able to argue, to compromise, to act together and to be at home with each and every one of us.
Thomas Ilka is Regional Director of the FNF European Dialogue
The small bar in Calle de Fortuny in Madrid’s city centre is crowded, as are many others these days. The people of Madrid don’t miss the chance to go out with friends. And yet everything is different since the weekend: Once again it has become quiet in the streets, and the normally lively Spanish capital has been closed off. According to the World Health Organisation WHO, 850 cases per 100,000 inhabitants have once again made the region the epicentre of the pandemic in Europe. Spain currently counts 32,000 corona deaths and 800,000 corona cases, almost forty percent of which are reported in Madrid. The second wave has hit the city with full force. Thousands of jobs in hotels, restaurants, flower shops and travel agencies are disappearing. The pandemic is hitting Spain not only in the geographical sense, but right in the heart.
From day to day, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way people live around the globe. Even when lockdown restrictions are lifted, many say that the world will never be the same. What might the world after the pandemic look like? How will the novel coronavirus change our daily lives, our countries and our cities?
The Institute for Politics and Society (CZE) together with Prague office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom organized a competition “World through my eyes” to encourage young high school and university students from the Czech Republic to think about how the world might change after the global pandemic. The students were asked to introduce their thoughts, ideas and visions in a short policy brief. The winning policy briefs will be presented to the members of the Czech Chamber of Deputies and the winner will also get the opportunity to organize a public event on the topic.
We are bringing you an interview with the three winners of the competition: Marie Ptáčková, 21-year-old student of biochemistry, who was best placed in the competition, Štěpán Hartl, 18-year-old student of secondary school of pedagogy, who placed second, and Magdaléna Kráľová, 24-year-old law student, who finished in third place. What are their perspectives of the world after the pandemic and how has Covid-19 changed their perception of life?
What has happened in Hungary since the adoption of the controversial emergency law?
The “Coronavirus Law” adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on 30th March did not only enable Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to govern by decree for an unlimited period of time, but also suspended elections and referendums. With the passing of the emergency law, the parliament controlled by Orbán’s right-wing conservative Fidesz party had disempowered itself. The law also provides for prison sentences of several years for the dissemination of false news as well as for news that could cause panic. This emergency law has somewhat distracted the public from the fact that the dismantling of fundamental freedoms is not only being pursued under the banner of the fight against corona, but is continuing on all fronts.
What has Hungary as a whole been doing since the so-called “Enabling Act” was adopted by Parliament? Here is a chronicle of events:
Europe in May 1945: a destroyed continent, over 50 million war victims, tens of millions of refugees, uprooted and injured. Hunger, devastated lands and torn societies. Continuing civil wars and partisan fights in Italy, the Balkans, Greece and Eastern Europe. A political geography of failed states with dysfunctional judicial and financial systems, mistrust and a desire for revenge between neighbouring states.
Europe in May 2020: A continent in corona lockdown, Brexit on the doorstep, a difficult transatlantic partner, China as a rival gaining influence, deep mistrust of neighbour Russia, which is waging a hot war in Europe. Climate change and migration as megatopics challenging Europe’s material and political resources.
Is Europe finished? No, because Europe today is also the following: one of the three largest economic areas in the world, winner of the Cold War in the 20th century, a community of continuously developing and expanding work of peace and prosperity by former enemies of war. Europe, that is the reality of a deeply integrated area of economy and law, of learning and research, of free encounters and free speech. A place of longing for millions who want to escape misery and make the dream of a better life come true.