The 16th of April is right around the corner, participants are hyped, the year-long wait is finally approaching to its end. The European Youth Debate 2021 - Virtual Edition (#EYD2021) will take place the 16th - 18th of April weekend. The four macro areas of discussion are set, the guidelines delivered to all participants and the floor - digital - is ready for inspiring and fruitful debates. In the current afflicted moment one of the major sources of inspiration could not have been but ‘Research and Health’. The world has been shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic and much of this tremor has happened to the aforementioned sector. As a natural consequence to all the unprecedented events experienced, people have been talking, arguing, pointing the finger, but better of all, thinking. Vibrant young minds will attend the EYD, many fresh and innovative ideas are expected to come out from these three-days discussions. For this reason, the Bocconi student association European Generation, organizer of the event, has chosen the health-related topic as one among the four macro areas of discussion.
I had the pleasure to be part, with two other friends and EG members, of the research team for the ‘Research & Health’ macro area. Our duty was to assemble the backbone for the respective roundtable and final discussion-floor, providing both participants and chairs with some general guidelines to follow, in terms of sub-topics, qualitative and quantitative facts, additional sources for information and some hints for potential discussions. The fun part was definitely the planning stage, where ideas had to be brainstormed, data (both qualitative and quantitative) had to be gathered, possible structures and chronology of the final guidelines discussed. Then the writing comes natural, once the previous steps are all duly run and the research team well organized. However, like not all candies come out sweet, writing guidelines comes with a burden, its generality. You provide information, but you cannot give interpretations. You provide problems, but you must hold yourself from sharing too many possible solutions, otherwise what original thoughts will come out from the participants’ minds? Anyhow, notwithstanding these constraining features, preparing the guidelines helped me explore the topic, dive in its deep and mysterious shades as well as in its bright and uplifting potentials. Research is in fact exciting, discovering new things, exploring new territories of our endless knowledge, thinking. On top of this, sharing your insights with spark and bright minds, ready to take up the challenge of coming up with a variety of perspectives and their own unique solutions to the exposed situation, lights million candles in this moment of darkness.
Tout pour un, un pour tous
Keeping up with the pace at which things are evolving is quite challenging. A final version of the guidelines was delivered just two weeks ago, yet the world situation when the EYD takes place will be transformed. In terms of the Covid-19 situation more vaccines will be distributed to countries, hence jabs administered to even more people. On the one hand, this continuous and developing and enlarging distribution is helping us win the fight against Covid. On the other it seems the fast-spreading ‘Brazilian’ mutation is escaping the country’s borders at a quicker and devastating rate, passing 137 million world cases with 2.95 million deaths.
The Covid-19 has brought great harm to pretty much all countries in the EU, both in terms of human, physical and economic capital. However, it would not be rational for us to be living through such a troubling moment creating no learning for us and future generations. The moment should be taken, as much as respected, as an opportunity. The unprecedented quantity of data disclosed, the variety of policy responses and all the difficulties encountered by the players involved. Something the pandemic has surely highlighted is the paramount importance played by international cooperation. And especially for this factor the EU seemed to be starting from a better position compared to other world countries, areas. The already-set and well functioning institutional settings of the Old Continent were good reasons to believe that the 27 MSs would have answered the health and socio-economic crisis in a reactive and reasonable way. It was instead the case that the EU Institutions became a battleground where to create conflicting factions and take up some crucial time from actual intervention. States from the south (i.e. Italy and Spain in particular) were going through the unexpected hit and sudden fatal consequences of Covid-19. States in the north, not yet severely hit by the epidemic (still to be named pandemic), were getting all their infrastructures and health response teams ready for the virus’ arrival. The former asked the EU countries, hence all MS, to provide as much help as possible, in terms of health-related equipment and financial aid to tackle the massive downfall caused to all sectors of the economy. The latter opposed resistance in any possible way: the critical situation did not pursue these states to let loose on some of their biases towards southern countries.
Even though acceptable, explained by Italy and Spain past behaviour, the strong demand for strict conditionalities could have been alleviated. First of all for these suffering countries, second for the sake of European bond. Covid-19 cases and deaths were skyrocketing, driving into a deep crisis the health sector first, and the economy right after. It was the perfect possibility to show the whole world the cohesion among EU MS, their willingness to sacrifice some of their own dinner for a starving neighbor. To show who we really are how powerful Europe could be. Together, stronger.
Moreover, once the SARS-CoV-2 virus hit all MS and the EU institutions were planning a path to recovery, the emergence of a serious dispute over plans to pass the bloc’s 1.8 trillion euros budget and post-pandemic recovery package showed further weaknesses within the union. Hungary and Poland, opposed to making the financial subsidies conditional to the rule of law and democratic law, could legally exercise their veto power to block the other 25 states' proceedings.
The harsh moment was evidence of the most pressing thing the EU MS want to work on: cooperation among each other. The inadequate (at first) and too slow response is a proof of the weak realization of being a Union de facto, not just by the treaties gathering us together. This sense of being part of the same big ‘country’, sharing cultural, linguistic, but most of all economic traits, needs to spread around the EU citizens and the 27 individual governments. Otherwise the European Union will never act at its full potential.
The power held by the EU stays in numbers. The number of states re-united under a single flag, under a single ‘government’, under the same values. 27 states are together stronger in negotiating with the pharmaceutical Goliaths, while alone a single David might remain crushed in an actual bargaining scenario. And together the 27 MS must answer to problems and shared difficulties, even when only a few of them are afflicted. Whenever other states will fall ill under great threats, we all want to be ready to help. If we really believe in such a Union and its shared values, states want to unite and cooperate in action, rather than playing childish wars against one another.
Cover Picture: “EYE 2018: “You are the children of a modern, democratic and open Europe” by European Parliament is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0”