COVID-19 has changed everything. It has had, and will have, multiple consequences on how we live and work and on how we should manage this new reality. To what extent? We still do not know.
The world, Europe and its citizens are facing a crucial crisis. In this regard, we must remember the loss of thousands of human lives. My thoughts are with the families and all those who have lost their loved ones.
This crisis reminds us that we need to find a common European response. The EU’s capacity to act depends on our ability to work together and advocate for placing citizens at the centre of our policies. We have to overcome this crisis with more Europe and more democracy. We face an opportunity to strengthen the European project by moving from unilateral state solutions to common, global solutions.
When facing troubling times, we always learn that we cannot get through them alone. The pandemic is a wake-up call for everybody and as governments, we cannot afford to isolate ourselves from our partners and blindly follow our own path alone. As a committed and reliable partner of the European project, the Government of Catalonia has always been present and active in the European debates, and now, as we begin to look at the new future ahead of us, we want to share our experiences in order to contribute to building commons solutions.
It is time to reimagine the post-coronavirus world from a European and sustainable point of view. We should rethink the future of Europe in line with the new European Green Deal and, at the same time, remain at the forefront of the political, social and economic agenda. In this unexpected and complex scenario, we believe it is necessary to empower the multilevel governance and foster the presence of stateless nations, regions and cities, together with empowering cross-border cooperation and the Mediterranean area.
Over the past few weeks, the focus has been on tackling the coronavirus outbreak and its direct effects on public health. It has been indispensable to assume common practices and rules to preserve our capacity to face the virus while at the same time preserve the internal market. The lockdown faced by many countries has meant an unprecedented halt to our economies and the decline in working activity, provoking an immediate increase of the unemployment rate, the decrease of citizen’s purchasing power and higher social inequality. This significant social and economic impact leads to a widespread consensus that the post-coronavirus world will be very different from the one we knew before.
This is a global crisis, which requires global solutions. In the construction of these common strategies, the 2030 Agenda goals are essential, and Europe has to put climate and ecological transitions in the centre of our recovery plans, with the European Green Deal and reinforcing the Multiannual Financial Framework. As the Advisory Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia (CADS), a Catalan government body, put it in its recent report on how to manage the new reality that arises after COVID-19 in terms of sustainability: “we will need to find composure, tenacity and perspective to manage this new reality.” And, “in terms of sustainability, it is precisely this new reality that forces us to reflect on the multiple outcomes of this crisis, both from a Catalan and European perspective, but also from a global one.”
During the current crisis, we have seen how innovation, non-profit public-private partnerships, large-scale citizen solidarity, and social and individual behavioural changes have been activated to answer the effects of this global pandemic. Better funding for public health and social care systems, fair taxation, and committed funding for investment in research are essential steps to take in the building of a more just and egalitarian society. Furthermore, it is necessary to find structural and transversal solutions to problems, such as the lack of access to housing, growing unemployment and the prevalence of temporary work. We have a collective responsibility to overcome this crisis in a way that all of Europe’s territories come out of it on the same footing. With this objective in mind, we defend all the initiatives and steps to reinforce European integration, to reach federal solutions. That is why the Catalan government proposes a basic confinement income for all European citizens funded directly by the European Central Bank.
This complex roadmap must also be accomplished by preserving core European fundamental values, rights and freedoms. Catalonia strongly defends the idea of an empowered and critical European citizenship which actively engages in society, with transparent governments that guarantee access to open data and in which people’s rights are guaranteed. We have learnt that only strong democracies, who believe and trust in their fellow citizens, find the best collective solutions to face global challenges of the present and the future. We need a European Union based on these values throughout its territory, a common project that rereads and reshapes itself to design a new narrative for the recovery, to become more resilient to face future challenges and pandemics and to strengthen our position in the world.
There is much to be done and we are committed to overcome this challenge. We can no longer delay the construction of a European way forward to reshape the future post-coronavirus era; it is now up to all of us to take action.
Bernat Solé i Barril is the Minister for Foreign Action, Institutional Relations and Transparency in the Government of Catalonia.
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