European University Cyprus Rector Kostas Gouliamos explains why the world will never be the same politically and economically as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sputnik: The current pandemic has raised questions about globalisation and the state of affairs in the world today. In your view, might we see the world begin to change after countries recover from the pandemic?
Kostas Gouliamos: As China heals and a vast number of nation-states have implemented the world's most mandatory geographic lockdowns, more than a third of the planet's population live under conditions of social distancing and self-isolation. Within this framework, we have entered an era of unprecedented uncertainty and risk. At the micro-political, social and economic level, the consequences of this pandemic are huge. On the macro-geopolitical level, many of the existing disputes and frictions will not be erased. On the contrary, the COVID-19 will accelerate those frictions.
Sputnik: Some analysts are currently discussing the viability of government structures in countries - in terms of what works better in times of a crisis - liberal systems like the EU or nationalist, protectionist, or even more authoritarian governments. In your opinion, will we see some kind of shift in national policies after the pandemic? Will this lead to a further crisis of neoliberalism?
Kostas Gouliamos: Due to the holistic expansion of crisis, societies in EU and abroad are going to face the rebirth of old and new forms of nationalism which will address the issue whether or not the state apparatus today needs to be more regional-national oriented or - as globalization implies-, more multinationalist settled by parameters of uneven supranationalisation of the nation-state. In any case, the existing crisis of neoliberal fundamentalism is directly interconnected with today’s pandemic conditions. Moreover, I would argue that the pandemic crisis will be deepening the crisis of neoliberal capitalism, the redistribution of wealth, power and labour relations.
This also calls into question the role of the state in the market and the global economy. Countries are already trying to ensure self-sustainability. How might economic policies change across the globe? How this will reshape trade policies?
Eurocrisis proved - and still proves- the failure of a neoliberal European agenda driven by a transnational corporate elite. The nation-states, guided by those elite’s objectives, fail to trust and understand each other with a profound impact for citizens. Besides, by reinforcing the neoliberal practices of socio-economic governance as well as the trade policies that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s, the countries deconstructed the network of their social institutions that played a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of their citizens. Under these circumstances, it is absolutely necessary to change the existing neoliberal model of development. To do so, we must develop agonist models of democracy that, inter alia, will determine both the annihilation of disparities or inequalities and the emergence of a trade equilibrium. We have to create and act on a new democratic apparatus based on a democratic habitus, ethos and responsibility.
Sputnik: This crisis was an opportunity for the US to lead the world, as it did in 2014, in the global response to Ebola. Experts are debating as to who is leading the charge against this pandemic since China hasn’t secured its place as a superpower yet and the US has failed in tackling the coronavirus crisis even inside its own borders. To what extent will global cooperation be reshaped? What will cooperation within global institutions such as the G20, the EU, and OPEC look like post-COVID-19 and how effective are these institutions operating in the current crisis?
Kostas Gouliamos: The pandemic crisis will accelerate digital technologies and quantum-mechanical phenomena. Artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain and virtual reality will dominate global politics, energy, commerce, education, culture, labour and human interaction. As the US is dismantled, Russians seem to seize their influence in strategically and economically important European and the Middle East regions; they definitely take advantage of the EU political and economic cohesion gap. But from a wider vantage point, the causes of digital technologies and quantum-mechanical phenomena can be led China to lead the world. China is destined to become a superpower within the next decade. In the post-COVID-19 era, China primarily and Russia secondarily will determine the agenda in finance, energy, trade and development. EU will follow them if institutions in Brussels heal the greatest weakness which is the lack of political integration.
Sputnik: To slow down the spread of the coronavirus most countries have officially closed their borders. How might this influence migration flows amid the aftermath of the coronavirus?
Kostas Gouliamos: CoVID-19 does not recognise boundaries, does not respect borders. Nor does it discriminate. The pandemic phenomenon has already had important consequences for basic humanitarian hotspots across the world. It is worthy to note that more than 1 million people are staying in overcrowded and unhygienic camps, according to refugees international latest report. Those immigrants and asylum seekers who are able to cross the borders will continue to do it. However, they will experience trouble accessing the care they need in the host countries.
Sputnik: Researchers all over the world are working to develop a vaccine, yet to a large extent, they are working in isolation from one another and in a quasi-competition. To effectively develop a vaccine, governments around the world need to intervene to lessen intellectual property restrictions in the short-term and control prices. How could this race for a vaccine reshape the intellectual property landscape? Can world leaders secure viable cooperation with regard to developing the vaccine?
Kostas Gouliamos: One of the major lessons from previous pandemic conditions includes the necessity for maximization of human cooperation. Besides, synergies or partnerships cannot succeed without a reciprocated involvement of both the political leaders and actors of the civil society. In addition, successful synergies unite opposites. The fight against the CoVID-19 demands harmonious cooperation among governments, academic institutions, public and private organizations and many diverse partners with different approaches, views and ways of working. Within this framework, there is an ongoing international debate on intellectual property rights. The problem is related to the fact that the world of vaccines is operating in a changing context and, most important, under the despotic power of multinational pharmaceuticals which dominate the health environment for states and markets.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.