While the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the globe into an unprecedent state of immobility, a gradual reopening is beginning. The deep economic recession that has followed may spark new forms of migration and changing routes, even as it constrains other movements. What are some of the first indications as to the drivers of migration in a post-pandemic world? And is Europe geared up for dealing with a new migration wave?
We are experiencing unprecedented times. Less than one year ago the pandemic triggered the worst economic and financial crisis ever. At the end of 2020, the world is in an extremely indebted position. My understanding of debt issues is based on my personal experience.
Having been on the increase in most parts of the world for some time, economic and social inequality have now become more acute across the European Union as well, in the wake of two severe crises: the global economic and financial crisis of 2008 and the Covid-19 pandemic, both of which struck the region within the course of little more than a decade. Will rising inequality trigger a new wave of protests, social radicalisation and political instability? It is likely to do so, but unlikely to be accompanied by traumatic effects and political regime changes.
The Covid crisis did not affect every country in the same manner. We have long known that symmetric shocks almost always have asymmetric consequences. While there are marked differences even within homogeneous areas (such as the Eurozone), the differences between macro-regions are particularly striking. In October of this year, the IMF’s World Economic Outlook projected a 5.8% decline in GDP for advanced countries in 2020 (with an 8.3% decline for the Eurozone and a 4.3% decline for the United States).
We enter 2021 with stark reminders of how a pandemic can wreck a global economy and destabilize nations. After almost twenty years of steady poverty reduction through the Global Goals, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) sent more than 100 million people back to extreme poverty, and simultaneously collapsed oil markets, the airlines, and other industries.
While EU member states and citizens debate the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, it is clear that migration has been, is and will continue to be an integral part of the relations between African and European countries. A ‘strong external dimension’ takes a pride of place in the Pact and ‘migration diplomacy’ will most probably be deployed as a tool of first choice to persuade (sometimes coerce) governments to agree to keep people in countries of origin and transit.
The European Union’s (EU) security engagement in Africa must always be viewed against the backdrop of colonial and postcolonial ties between Africa and Europe. However, irrespective of historical factors, Africa has a complex relationship with the EU in terms of peace and security. For more than two decades, EU member states, particularly France, have attempted to move their security role in Africa from traditional security focused on direct military interventions in armed conflict towards a broader ‘human security’.
Until a few years ago, one might have asked what does "development" have to do with the OECD, an organisation seen as the "Club of Rich Countries"? In fact, “development” is in the name of the organisation itself - the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. However, the meaning attached to the word has changed over 60 years of history. To understand this journey, I will outline three different phases.
Since the AU-EU Summit held in Abidjan, Nov 20-30, 2017, a progressive shift in the political and policy approach to Africa occurred in the EU. This change was not only meant to respond to the increasing requests for more investments and job creation, coming from African leaders and stakeholders, such as the private sector, civil society and youth; it was also driven by the geo-strategic changes occurring on the African continent.
Historically, EU relations with Africa have remained fragmented, based on relatively short-term arrangements, and with a weak capacity to command attention and political support. In an effort to inject new vigour into EU-Africa relations – and in line with a pledge to lead a ‘geopolitical Commission’ – early in her mandate president Ursula von der Leyen called for a ‘New comprehensive strategy with Africa’.
The most striking feature about Africa today is its geopolitical centrality. Predominantly because of the strong economic growth it experienced in the last decade, the technological innovations linked to the fourth industrial revolution, and heightened hopes for peaceful transitions, a new narrative of Africa as a “land of opportunity” has emerged in the international community.
What role can Italy play in today’s Africa? And what are our priorities?
Of course, our country cannot compete alone with the global giants either in size of funding or in impact on the continent. Yet, as a founding member of the European Union, it can certainly contribute significantly to forging EU policy and strategies beyond the Mediterranean, and indeed it is fulfilling this role quite effectively.