The battle for the “Hearts and souls” of the residents of the Western Balkans has never stopped, and Covid-19 is just another catalyst
There’s no doubt that we are living in the great turning point of the 21st century. The global health crisis has also led to the deepening of other crises. COVID-19 is trying to awaken the world and tell it that changes are essential if we want to build a socially just and ecologically stable future. The direction we go depends on our decisions. No one was prepared for the battle with this coronavirus. And in the absence of coherent visions, institutions were unprepared to confront this extraordinary health challenge.
New internal and external confrontations have contributed more to the politicisation of the virus than the rapprochement that would be expected in times of global peril. Pandemics obviously don’t encourage idealism.
Donald Trump’s administration blamed China for everything. Then the U.S., as the country with the greatest number of infected people and proportionally the highest mortality rate, withdrew demonstratively from the World Health Organization.
China retaliated with aggressive “mask diplomacy”, attempting to deny the accusations and present itself as a major donor of humanitarian aid. Russia didn’t lag far behind in the propaganda war, highlighting the disorganisation of the West in saving human lives, and more recently trying to prove the superiority of its science by launching the first vaccine.
The long-term consequences of the desire of autocrats to manage processes that should have been under the exclusive authority of the medical profession are also dangerous. We live in an orwellian world
The European Union, the members of which showed an astounding degree of selfish indifference and a lack of elemental solidarity at the start of the pandemic, is still repairing the damage to the reputation of its own community.
Various political players, mostly right-wing populists and nationalists with authoritarian ambitions, used the pandemic’s preventative measures to strengthen systems of control over people and institutions. The long-term consequences of the desire of autocrats to manage processes that should have been under the exclusive authority of the medical profession are also dangerous. We live in an Orwellian world.
And the whole time there is one question that lingers: what is more important – people or the economy? The pandemic caused thousands of billions of dollars worth of damage and revealed that the decades-long obsession of the world with economic growth was a mask for economies that proved incapable of ensuring social security. GDP is a deceptive measure of economic and social health.
Many painful lessons have not been learnt. Distrust has increased. Tragic experiences don’t help in the growth of mutual understanding. The struggle to preserve the human environment is suffering from the same symptoms.
When it comes to the Western Balkans, this area has never ceased to be a training ground for the struggle of influence between great and regional powers, and COVID-19 is just another catalyst. Nothing changed even during the medical struggle for the “hearts and souls” of the people of the region. The race for influence, which the pandemic has made its own modest contribution to, continues and the warning does not change: none of us are safe until all of us are safe.