It looks increasingly like Europe is heading for lockdown 2.0 as coronavirus numbers climb and leaders scramble to react rather than act. By failing to think bigger and more creatively, we are setting ourselves up for a fall again.
When the European Council agreed on a €750 billion virus fund earlier this year, prime ministers and presidents gave their blessing to the ‘recovery and resilience fund’. But the second ‘r’ – resilience – is not getting enough attention.
Already, governments and politicians are spinning the latest raft of lockdown measures as a last chance to ‘save Christmas’ in the same way that we were all asked in the spring to make extra efforts to ‘save the summer’.
This vein of short-termist, reactive policy-making is going to doom us to a vicious cycle of peaking and troughing virus measures, where we do just enough to avert total healthcare system collapse but not enough to get the pandemic under control.
It is, sadly, an apt metaphor for how the EU has done business over the last decade. Big gestures to snatch us back from the precipice but very rarely any meaningful policies that would stop us from going anywhere near the edge in the first place.
The latest great example of this was in the nitty-gritty of the Council deal on a long-term budget for the next seven years. That agreement cut funding for research, development and innovation, at the very time when we need to pump money there.
Cash injections are of course no guarantee of success in developing a viable COVID vaccine, climate-saving energy sources or democracy-boosting tech. But it is certainly not a hindrance.
It is Occam’s Razor: more and better-funded R&D&I means better chances of solving some of the most worrying problems Europe faces, be it a health crisis with seemingly no end or climate breakdown plodding along in the background.
In Finland, a similar paradigm is playing out. A team of sniffer dogs at Helsinki airport has been checking for coronavirus-infected passengers, using noses millions of times more sensitive than our own.
Research is still ongoing but the scientists behind the trial are confident that the success rate is comparable to a PCR test. Pooch power is much cheaper and the results are provided on the spot instead of a few days later.
But governments do not seem interested in funding a scale-up, whether due to scepticism about the accuracy of the process or hesitation about taking a punt on a new way of handling the crisis.
Those dogs should have their day, because the process offers a chance to save our economy from wrack and ruin by rapidly and accurately checking workforces for infections, before letting them do their jobs.
Forget about ‘saving Christmas’. Think bigger and better.
A message from ENTSO-E: 4th RSC Conference: “Securing future power systems with digital cooperation” – 24 November 2020. The RSC Conference 2020, co-organised by the Baltic RSC and ENTSO-E as a digital event, will focus on the digital dimension of the TSOs’ regional coordination and on the challenges arising from the integration of large-scale renewable energy sources and offshore deployment. The event will also host discussions on the implementation of the Clean Energy Package, on the EU Green Deal, and on the impact of COVID-19. Register to the Conference here.
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Look out for…
- Video conference of EU health ministers
Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]