Chairman’s Letter addressing the Coronavirus pandemic:
To the members of the Council of European Democrat Students,
Dear EDS Family,
As you all know, Europe is currently facing an unprecedented threat. Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation declared Europe as the active centre of the Coronavirus global pandemic. Across the whole of Europe there are hundreds of thousands of confirmed cases of coronavirus. Even more dramatically, tens of thousands of infected patients are perishing, often alone and far from their families and loved ones. Furthermore, the consequences of the health crisis are that both our healthcare systems and our economies are on the edge of collapsing. Hospitals have enacted wartime triage to select which patients can receive their treatment. Armies are patrolling the streets and building field hospitals to tackle the emergency. Governments have announced lockdowns and 16 EU Member States have declared the State of Emergency (including France, Italy and Spain). Borders have been restored and Schengen is de facto suspended.
This terrifying scenario will not improve much as the emergency goes away. Economic contagion is spreading as fast as the virus and no measures to stop this are compatible with fighting the disease. This crisis caught our institutions off guard and by now, the blow for real economy is impossible to foresee. The estimated forecasts for US unemployment last week raised up to 1.6 million. By now we know that this figure is actually 3.28 million. This is an unprecedented number, five times greater than the worst week in the global financial crisis of 2008. From this perspective, the initial assessment on the short-term future of the European labour market is fatalistic. We must brace for impact.
Education is not free from disruption either. The containment measures, adopted around the globe, include the temporary closure of schools and universities. According to UNESCO´s studies, 80% of the world’s student population has been affected. The European Commission response will soon be available through the review of the Digital Education Action Plan. A smooth transition to digital education has not been possible due to the rapid adoption of containment measures. However, it is important to note that European cooperation and support to Member States has ensured that Europe was better prepared in the field of digital education than any other continent.
Nonetheless, we are getting closer to a critical phase for senior years students, both at college and at high school. They are preparing for their final exams, whose outcome will play a major role in their professional future and the future of Europe. Amidst one of the worst environments for employment, the government’s decisions cannot come from political improvisation. We, as a student’s organisation, must side with students across Europe and ensure that their rights and obligations are diligently respected. Our strength is that we have always encouraged and believed in representation. Decisions regarding this academic year must come from a broad consensus that respects student’s representation.
In this grave hour, we must not forget about our social role, aside from the field of education. We engaged in EDS because we care about students and because we advocate for a set of common values that we hold dear. Our organization is the largest European family for Centre-Right, Christian Democrats, Conservative and Liberal students. At the aftermath of this health emergency, we will be facing a number of fundamental questions which we will have to face with serenity and commitment in order to secure our future and that of Europe
The post-Coronavirus world will be a different place.
On the frontline of this war, our heroes are doctors, nurses, scientists and armed forces, among many others. They are putting their lives at risk to protect ours. We have faith in their work and our message shall be a unanimous “thank you”. They will win, and once they have, they must know that we will be here to support them.
It would be naive to not recognise that a new strain of fear is rapidly spreading. To rise above it, our leaders will need to emerge with even more strength and determination. Once again in Europe’s history, our values and principles will be under siege and only a strong union will make the difference in defending them. To face these challenges we need a brave, committed and united political family.
Allow me to finish by quoting Pope Francis Extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing, pronounced on the steps of St. Peters Basilica as a response to the epidemic:
“Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars.”
May God help us all,
Carlo Giacomo Angrisano Girauta