The Brief, powered by amfori – The road to nowhere

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter. [EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN]

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused mass trauma on a scale larger than World War II, and the impact will last “for many years to come,” the World Health Organisation’s top official has said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus believes that the pandemic has affected more lives than WWII, leading to mass trauma and an impact on communities that will continue well into the future.

Mental health is indeed the invisible side of the iceberg. The good side of the story is that the economies of the developed nations are doing reasonably well under the circumstances. Fewer jobs have been lost than expected.

Vaccination is yet to produce palpable results in terms of health security, but it has already brought some much-needed macroeconomic optimism. Still, there are many big unknowns, and one of them is the long-term effect of the pandemic, notably on mental health.

Civilisations on Earth have different horizons. For poorer societies, the future is tomorrow’s lunch and physical survival overrides mental hardship.

Pampered Western civilization, however, has been accustomed to a horizon spanning months and years ahead. We make plans, we have hobbies that take us far away.

We took it for granted and it has become part of our DNA. Now the lack of horizon, the futility of making plans and life projects, is affecting our lifestyles and our psyche to a degree hard to evaluate.

We are taking a journey to nowhere in a variety of ways. Some of us, depleted of projects linked to travel that we cannot implement, are renovating our homes, refurbishing living square metres as a home office, painting rooms and changing furniture.

I have never seen so many delivery vans bringing furniture and appliances in our Brussels suburban street. Having a private activity in COVID times – even if it’s by re-ordering family photos – helps a little bit.

But the big question is – how much longer will this continue?

Personally, I have already renovated my apartment from A to Z. I put some order to my family photos and vinyl records. I even tried to enjoy it. But it’s been a full year now that we’ve been living as hermits.

Not only is it too long, but we don’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel. And as we said before, it’s even worse for the younger generation.

The sad anniversary of seclusion should not become a tradition. One more year of such isolation would be too big an ordeal for the mental health of our societies. Several more months would be bearable – but only if there was a horizon.

Ahead of the summer season, it will be a big task for the politicians to formulate one.


A message from amfori & UN Women: To mark #IWD2021, we believe businesses must put more women in managerial and technical leadership posts if they want to boost working conditions as well as the productivity of international #trade during and after the #COVID-19 pandemic. Read our statement and more on our engagement for gender equality here.

The Roundup

Trouble is brewing in Renew Europe, the third-largest group in the European Parliament, pitting the old ‘liberals and democrats’ of ALDE against the group leadership and the French delegation of Emmanuel Macron’s party, according to an insider source in the centrist group.

With France set to take over the rotating EU Council Presidency in the first half of 2022, European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune last week launched two committees: a monitoring committee and a reflection committee.

Austria’s coalition government has confirmed it will block the landmark EU-Mercosur trade agreement – which should create the biggest free-trade area in the world – saying it goes against the EU’s environmental ambitions set out in the European Green Deal.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has described as a “Russian roulette” the decision of some EU member states to unilaterally grant market authorisation to Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine at this stage, without prior approval at the EU level.

Diseases evolving to become resistant to antibiotics is a hidden threat to humanity as dangerous as climate change, an animal health expert has told EURACTIV, warning that more must be done to reduce the use of antimicrobials in agriculture.

Look out for…

  • European Parliament plenary session continues with debates amongst others on the InvestEU programme and the EU4Health Programme
  • College of Commissioners to discuss Europe’s Digital Decade 2030 Digital Targets and the EU’s humanitarian aid in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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