The State of the Union 2020

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The State of the Union 2020

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Europe: Managing the COVID-19 Crisis

On 8th May 2020, the European University Institute hosted a special online edition of its annual The State of the Union Conference to explore how Europe is managing the COVID-19 crisis, and its impact on three key policy areas: health policy and society, the economy and global cooperation.

The 2020 EUI State of the Union Conference

This year, the special circumstances created by the COVID-19 lockdown meant that the State of the Union Conference – usually a three-day event in Florence – went virtual, for the first time in its ten-year history, with a pared-down one-day programme comprising three sessions, which still enabled the participation of many high-profile delegates.

On Friday 8 May, the European University Institute (EUI) hosted a special edition of the conference, at which speakers discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and social policy, the global economic outlook and international cooperation.

Almost 70 years to the day after the Schuman Declaration, the European leaders in attendance stressed the importance of ‘solidarity’ in enabling the European Union to tackle the crisis and the many challenges that will emerge in the months ahead as it seeks to implement a common recovery plan.

After his opening address, EUI President Renaud Dehousse gave the floor to the Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, and the Governor of Tuscany, Enrico Rossi. President of the European Council Charles Michel underlined the importance of directing efforts at ensuring individual and collective well-being, and proposed implementing a ‘De Gasperi Plan’ to rebuild a Europe that is strong, cohesive and rooted in the principles of former Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi, one of the founding fathers of the EU. Reiterating the need for a reconstruction plan, Luigi Di Maio, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, set out the strategic lines it must follow for a European recovery based on solidarity and cooperation among states that stand united before the health and social crisis.

The participants in the debate of the first session on health and social policy, chaired by Professor Ellen Immergut from EUI, were Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Dorit Nitzan, Regional Emergency Director for the World Health Organization, and Professor Xuejie Yu from Wuhan University. In the second session on economic policy, the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Christine Lagarde, called for common action and practical steps, and – undeterred by the judgment from the German Constitutional Court – declared that the ECB remained committed to its mandate, and to pursuing peace and stability in the spirit of the Schuman Declaration. In an interview with Financial Times journalist Roula Khalaf, the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, highlighted the importance of implementing a common fiscal policy – not only a common monetary policy – and of setting up a recovery fund and virtuous system of vigorous public investment to attract private investors. The debate that followed, moderated by Professor George Papaconstantinou, a former Greek Finance Minister, examined the economic impact of COVID-19 from various perspectives, with panellists Chief Economist at the OECD Laurence Boone, former Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijesselbloeme and Professor Ricardo Reise from London School of Economics.

In the final session, which addressed global cooperation, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, pointed out that this crisis could be an opportunity to build a better world, to study new environmentally friendly economic models with fiscal stimuli that bring societal benefits and consider climate change and recent poverty rises. The subsequent debate was moderated by the Director of the International Affairs Institute with contributions from Mari E. Pangestu, Managing Director at the World Bank, Jeffrey Sachs from Colombia University and Alexander Stubb, the former Finnish Prime Minister and new Director of the EUI School of Transnational Governance. Closing remarks were made by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who championed the principle of solidarity.


Monica Baldi

EPP-ED, Italy (1994-1999)


May 8, 2020
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