How to strengthen the public sector and restart a more sustainable and social Europe in the aftermath of the coronacrisis.

There is little doubt that –whatever countries do to fight the virus- the economies of many EU countries will be in serious disarray. It is likely that Governments and the EU in the struggle to regain employment and income will fall back into the “old normal” and put aside their agreed strategies to achieve sustainability and to further a social Europe with a strong public sector.

A vision is presented for an emergence of EU countries out of the crisis with sustainability and with an improvement of the public sector. EU cooperation is a must for that vision, with a commitment of EU countries to the conditionality’s for joint Euro area monetary funding (ECB) and joint Euro area borrowing (though ESM) or joint European borrowing through the EIB or otherwise. These conditionality’s are in terms of a commitment to sustainable development, to improvement of the public sector (health and education), to joint taxation as well as to sound fiscal behavior.

  • A memorandum by Jo Ritzen (together with Javi Lopez, André Knottnerus, Salvador Perez Moreno, George Papandreou and Klaus F. Zimmermann) has just elaborated this in a new UNU-MERIT Working Paper (see online access below).
  • Jo Ritzen has presented the memorandum in a UNU-MERIT seminar in Maastricht on April 23, 2020. His presentation was followed by a discussion prepared by Luc Soete and Bart Verspagen.

Some insights to begin with:

  • The lockdown measures will cause a tremendous recession, much stronger than the global (2007-8) financial crisis with substantial long-term negative consequences for government debt and the flexibility of government activities.
  • The burden for the next generations has therefore substantially increased above the huge challenges already present through climate change, demographic imbalances, global refugee pressures and digitization.
  • The state is back in a dominant role for society and economy, while the end of Schengen and of free labor mobility seem possible (if not even likely).
  • Europe has been largely absent in the initial response to the Corona-crisis leaving the message: the European Union is superfluous.
  • This is a dangerous development since a strong European collaboration is essential to deal with the challenges and to ensure a healthy and prosperous social and economic development of Europe.
  • The challenge has to be used to foster structural reforms to invest in the future to strengthen education, digital and transportation infrastructure, the healthcare industry, and to handle the challenges of climate change, demography, open labor markets and refugees.

GLO Fellow Jo Ritzen is a Professorial Fellow of UNU-MERIT and its School of Governance. UNU-MERIT is a joint institute of the United Nations University (UNU) and Maastricht University. Ritzen is a former Minister of Education, Culture, and Science of the Netherlands, served in the Dutch Cabinet at the Maastricht Treaty. He is a former Vice President of the World Bank and a former President of Maastricht University.

Taking the challenge: A joint European policy response to the corona crisis to strengthen the public sector and restart a more sustainable and social Europe

Jo Ritzen, Javi Lopez, André Knottnerus, Salvador Perez Moreno, George Papandreou and Klaus F. Zimmermann

UNU-MERIT Discussion Paper No. 2020-015

  • Jo Ritzen, Professor UNU‐MERIT, Maastricht University, and GLO Fellow
  • Javi Lopez, Member European Parliament
  • André Knottnerus, former President Scientific Council for Government Policy, the Netherlands and Professor Maastricht University,
  • Salvador Perez Moreno, Professor University of Malaga and GLO Fellow
  • George Papandreou, Member of Parliament, Greece, and Former Prime Minister, Greece,
  • Klaus F. Zimmermann, Professor University of Bonn and UNU‐MERIT, Maastricht University, and President, GLO


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