Editor's note

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Monday, 01.06.2020, 19:45

Corona virus: lessons for the Baltic States

Eugene Eteris, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 01.04.2020.Print version

The lessons are actually simple: national efforts with strong science’s support and close inter-state cooperation to confront the pandemic. Due to closer proximity, the Baltic States need unanimity about the “tools” to tackle the present corona virus’ crisis.

As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold across the world, questions are asked about the proper and most efficient instruments, both theoretical and practical, to combat the crisis and to guide the perspective growth. Self-isolation allows scientists to dwell on the perspectives and work out solutions for the most optimal socio-economic development in our countries. 

The recipe is actually simple: it is the states’ scientific communities that can deliver the most optimal means for dealing with the pandemic and provide for recovering instruments in economic growth, for peoples’ health and their wellbeing. There are numerous scientific research fields in both natural and social sciences that can be involved in dealing with the present coronavirus crisis, as well as with its aftermath.

For example, the natural science’s fields are now in the frontline being involved in resolving human health issues, such as bio-medicine, bio-technology and virusology, to name a few. In social science and humanities the potentials are great too: for example, in the political science it is to find modern “political means” to overcome the crisis; in the economic spheres, it could be a “full flexibilisation of existing structural funds, including a stimulus package”, as the Commission President recently underlined.  

Citation from: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/STATEMENT_20_554


EU-wide controversies

On the EU-wide scene, Italy, Spain and seven other countries (incl. France) argue that the “common debt” (i.e. EU long-term budget, the MFF’s injections) should be part of the economic response to the pandemic; another EU-states’ camp led by the Netherlands and Germany say it shouldn’t. However, this political debate is often loaded with emotions, deep beliefs, religious metaphors, national pride and prejudice, with the specter of populism invoked on both ends. In the middle of the debates are national political leaders occupying most uncomfortable place, including those in the Brussels’ headquarters.

At the first weeks of the crisis, there have been predictably divergent national reactions, which showed the complexities and nature of the crisis. After about a month in actions the situation has turned into a complete uncertainty with one definite resolution: the world after coronavirus will be a different place!

Some –even at the beginning of this crisis- have been saying that the states have to do more as the situation evolves. But the truth is that in order to overcome the crisis not only the EU states are to be closer together, but the neighbouring states (as the Baltic States are!) need to be intertwined in more active and efficient common actions in managing the crisis.

On the EU side are such issues as coordinating border measures, supporting repatriations, launching joint procurement procedures for medical equipment, securing free passage for essential goods across the internal market to mobilizing unprecedented financial support and relaxing budgetary and state aid rules, to name a few.

On the state’s level – there are such spheres as elaborating optimal scientific priorities and unified actions from all branches of science and social development. In this regard, the Baltic States governments have to adopt the national priorities in dealing with the crisis. No doubt that each state will have its own “remedy tools”, i.e. national priorities and strategies. However, in order to optimize the efforts, the countries have to unite existing potentials showing solidarity: thus in one Baltic country it is better and more efficient to concentrate for example the sub-regional bio-medical potentials, on another state –the ICT/digital means, still in another –the manufacturing sector, etc. This approach can be called “the Baltic common course” for getting out of the crisis including changes in the supply chain, recruitment practices and online learning.

Socio-economic challenges: the remedies

The health crisis caused by the corona virus pandemic and its severe socio-economic ramifications are understandably at the forefront of member state leaders’ minds. Revised political economy spectrum includes three options: a) business-as-usual orientation, which is highly improbable; b) follow the bystanders’ visions, and c) the forward-looking and sufficiently courageous approach.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis thus provides a concrete test of present national governance schemes, i.e. the test which will require the most optimal decision-making and, at the same time, identify those leaders who are truly committed to tackling the modern multiple crises. Any national response shall include both resolving  both the pandemic crisis and socio-economic issues: the measures would consists of the use of EU and national stimulus packages to invest in the resolute modern political economy strategies, which include “smart” specialisation, circular economy and sustainability.  

There are some apparent « truths »: age-old economic theories cannot be used in modern political economy with new approaches to structural reforms, sustainable growth and circular economy. Financial ejections “a-la USA”, with trillions of dollars in saving the economic development (with about $1,2 thousand per person!) are not feasible for the rest of the world!

As to the time-span, China’s experience has shown that the recession the EU will last about for-five months (the longest is six months). It is seen that COVID-19, which started in China last December only now the epidemic curve goes down there.

That means the EU member states are facing at least several months of “self-isolation” and economic slow-down.

Most experts assisting the governments in the Baltic States have been trained by the old liberal economy schools’ guidebooks; however, new realities challenge most their basic postulates and require new approaches which the old economic recipes cannot provide for. That is becoming a real generational problem! Hence, as a rule, politicians are “inventing” some socio-economic decisions and then ask the economists to prove that they are right…     

Another clear message is that the online platforms need to step up efforts to fully enforce the new digital economy’s policies and offer more evidence that the measures they have taken are working well.

Among additional measures are: developing national emergency action plans composed of voluntary team of experts from all walks of science and management, following the example of the Commission’s crisis response team – the European Democracy Action Plan – which will ensure that digital platforms are more transparent and accountable being able to explore most optimal decision-making systems in the digital age.

Concerted actions: examples in the Baltic Sea region

The Nordic countries have moved rapidly to launch research projects to help address the pandemic issues involving universities, research institutions and funding agencies. Thus, e.g. in Denmark, the New Carlsberg Foundation has donated about $13 million “to accelerate efforts against COVID-19”, incl. virus research, as well as social scientist and humanities group of behavioral researchers to find the ways modern societies can handle most effectively epidemics. Research projects will pave the way for new, global insights into behavior, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of any future epidemics. 

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20200323152955985

Another interesting example of cooperation in the Baltic States region is the ProVaHealth Living Lab’s (in short, Living Labs) activity supported by the Interreg and European Regional Development Fund. It seeks to provide practical advice on dealing with innovative health products and services and public procurement in partner countries. The project brought together 17 organizations from 8 Baltic Sea countries to focus on creating better collaboration between Health Living Labs in the Baltic Sea Region, ensuring smooth access to Living Lab services for SMEs, improving market uptake of new products and services in health, enforcing innovation, creation of new enterprises and growth of SMEs and improving health, well-being and quality of life in the society. 

More on Living Lab projects in: https://scanbalt.org/livinglabs/reports/ 

Bottom-line: joint Baltic States’ roadmap for research and innovation is needed to address the most pressing knowledge issues in tackling the crisis. National research funds should contribute to filling these knowledge maps and coordinate countries’ efforts.

Educational aspects

The COVID-19 pandemic will sooner or later come to an end; however, it will serve as a wake-up call for science and education systems in all countries in re-assessing existing policies in view of amending their existing patterns. The new approaches will lead to adapting to new challenges and transferring digital pathways while providing for a “flexible education delivery tools” to increase the value of knowledge and science for the learners; the process will take at least a year to recover...

For example, some governments in the world had acquires unprecedented powers over universities and schools as countries started the lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thus, New Zealand’s parliament passed a bill granting the education ministry emergency powers over all educational institutions (there are 2,500 school board entities and 4,000 education service providers). The ministry will be able to direct education providers’ operation, control and manage provision of education in specified ways, e.g. through distance or online learning.  

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20200325232511186


Digital capabilities are not distributed equally across European universities, and deficiencies have delayed implementing systems for online teaching. Italy was the first country in Europe to completely shut down its universities and move teaching online; students have reacted well to online courses. But access has not been equal, moving the Italian government to announce an €85 million aid package to support distance learning and to improve connectivity in isolated areas. Among the most common technical problems are slow internet connections, video feeds freezing, etc. which are making for a bumpy course experience.

Reference to: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20200328090607782  



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