Ambassadors of Italy and Spain on tackling a pandemic

The Meridian 5: Italy and Spain in Solidarity on COVID-19 Response

1. PANDEMIC SPURS SOLIDARITY. Both Ambassador Cabanas and Ambassador Varricchio said maintaining solidarity is key in tackling COVID-19. Individual governments must address their own cases directly and efficiently, but this should not replace collaborative global efforts. The European Union has demonstrated commitment to this joint effort by allocating €2.7 trillion in response to COVID-19, with both ambassadors supporting this coordinated approach.

2. NOT WAR, COMPASSION. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been called a ‘war’ by many, Ambassador Varricchio cautioned against this tactic. Varricchio asserted that utilizing wartime analogies is not a useful approach during this time as it emphasizes divisiveness over a collective response. This crisis has impacted everything from major country-wide strategies to the daily habits and routines of individuals, and worldwide compassion should triumph over the hostility that wartime rhetoric invokes.

3. CAN DIPLOMACY CONTINUE? As meetings, classes and social gatherings around the world have moved online as important distancing measures are implemented, what does this mean for the future of diplomacy? Ambassadors Cabanas and Varricchio noted that while virtual convenings may augment standard practices, they cannot and should not replace traditional diplomacy in the long-term. Physical, interpersonal connection should certainly be avoided now, but face-to-face diplomacy is irreplaceable.

4. HISTORY LESSONS FOR COVID-19. Comparative world-crisis moments have been referenced in discussions on tackling COVID-19, including the successful responses to 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis and even World War I and II. Managing a fast-spreading global health crisis requires responses that are immediate and situational; however, the pandemic has exposed weaknesses and loopholes in country-specific and world-wide health systems that must be addressed in sustainable long-term measures in order to achieve permanent success.

5. ‘HEALTH’ OF DEMOCRACY IN JEOPARDY. Ambassador Cabanas asserted that COVID-19 has not only jeopardized human health, but the health of democracy as well. Both Ambassadors expressed concerns over the temptations of authoritarianism that may arise in responding to this pandemic, and in conjunction with fears of a repeat crisis. Ambassador Varricchio noted that Italy, the first Western democracy to be dramatically hit by the virus, found that a difficult balance had to be maintained in pursuing tight and efficient measures while still preserving citizen freedoms and overall democratic values— a challenge faced by most countries today.

To read more on Meridian's response to COVID-19, click here.

Project summary

Ambassadors of Italy and Spain on tackling a pandemic
Countries: Italy
Impact Areas: Global Health
Program Areas: Convening