When the coronavirus emergency is over, the extent to which life will have changed will depend on the length of the disruption, the number of lives it took and the way each country and transnational organization dealt with the crisis.
The day after will depend on the level of trust that exists between citizen and state, between countries.
Fear undermines our trust in everything that we considered a given, opening the way to change. Yet, just as faith trumps fear, if we establish confidence in institutions and individuals we will have the strength to fight today and will establish tomorrow’s foundations for society, the economy and politics.
Trust depends on whether our need for security and stability is met. This demands full and frank information, stable yet flexible government policies, scientific and operational capabilities, and real contact between citizen and state. Greece’s government has done well so far in its choice of people and policies for managing the crisis. Also, President Katerina Sakellaropoulou’s straightforward and comforting comments have contributed to easing fears. The valiant struggle of doctors, nursing staff and other members of the National Health System, along with the serious stand taken by opposition parties, also contribute to calming people, reinforcing faith in the system.
Of course, consensus is not permanent, it is at risk of being overturned the moment the number of infections or deaths rises abruptly, or when restrictive measures last longer than people’s patience. As long as there is peace on the domestic front, though, the new sense of trust between us, between ourselves and institutions, will keep growing. We we will be able to build on this after the crisis.
European Union decisions will play a crucial role in determining people’s faith both in the Union and in their countries. In the last few days, serious efforts were made toward greater cooperation and coordination (at the EU and bilateral level). Some countries initially refused to export medical supplies to other member-states, striking a serious blow to people’s perceptions of EU solidarity. Now, if Germany and other Northern countries can be persuaded eventually of the need for a common bond to ease the economic damage of Covid-19, the crisis will have contributed to Europe’s closer union. Such a leap of faith would reinforce citizens’ faith in the project. Inertia or retreat would be a surrender to fear, a confession of failure.