The words “virus,” “pandemic,” “quarantine,” “vaccine” and “immunity” have featured prominently in all kinds of recent debates. As far as politics go, the word solidarity has been the most popular one. Following an initial string of unilateral national reactions to the pandemic, we have been looking for means to fight the plague and rebuild our economies together.
However, we should not fool ourselves into believing that everyone means the same thing when they talk about “solidarity”. A long time ago, the Holy Father John Paul II taught us that it meant being good to one another and not acting against each other. It was supposed to be equal to working together in the name of mutual benefit.
Unfortunately, in these difficult times, this is not how solidarity is perceived in today’s Europe, especially the left-wing liberal parts of it. Many politicians representing the EU institutions and some of the largest member state national governments are still plagued with double standards and hypocrisy in their approach to this crisis. Certain political leaders are still trying to take advantage of the situation and push their own agenda instead of working to the common good.
Recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany said that his country would focus on fighting the pandemic and its consequences in the second half of the year, but only after it takes up the mantle of the EU Presidency. He added, however, “anyone who undermines the EU’s fundamental values should not expect to benefit fully from the Union’s financial advantages.” This definition of solidarity leaves us no room for compromise, respect for the treaties and replacing ideology with pragmatism.
A number of other politicians from the EU, being equally concerned about solidarity and economic revival, have decided to criticise certain member states from Central and Southern Europe over the steps they have taken to combat Covid-19. At the same time, those very same leaders have turned a blind eye to similarly radical measures adopted in other parts of the bloc.
The obsession over pushing forward with the so-called “Green Deal”, that will supposedly help protect the environment, is particularly unsettling. If such draconian, anti-coal measures had been in place before the crisis, a good part of our households would be candlelit today.
It is obvious that the European Union will not give up on its utopian ideology overnight. Therefore, we should focus our efforts on regional cooperation, among like-minded member states with common problems and common interests. The Three Seas Initiative should take the lead on economic revitalisation in the spirit of solidarity. We should take advantage of Washington’s support for 3SI and expand its scope – both economically and geographically. Solidarity and cooperation that benefit all participants are achievable within such a framework.
A broader regional framework could serve as a new platform for cooperation. In due time, the Balkan States and the Eastern Partnership countries should potentially join our communications and energy networks. Moreover, it would be a good idea to consider more involvement and cooperation with Turkey, which has been left behind by the EU.
We should also take hold of the opportunity to expand our cooperation with Israel’s technologically advanced economy and remarkable healthcare system. Progress in this area could really help to revitalise Europe’s economy. The latest series of agreements signed between Poland and the US during President Andrzej Duda’s visit to Texas could be a good starting point for such measures. The digital economy and e-commerce 4.0 could play a crucial role in this recovery process. For example, European nations and businesses want 5G connectivity just as much as the UK and the US.
The pandemic has hit our economies and social structures hard. However, the predicament may encourage creativity and allow for disruptive solutions that will help our economies to bounce back. After all, idleness and a lack of ambition never solve anything.
Also published in Polish by Rzeczpospolita