Comparisons and key challenges in Europe’s COVID-19 responses
BGIPU hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on 16 July focusing on the different COVID-19 experiences of some of our closest European neighbours. The event was chaired by BGIPU Chair, Harriett Baldwin MP and featured three UK Mission representatives from the region: Eleanor Sanders, Deputy Head of Mission to Italy; Nerys Jones, Deputy Head of Mission to Austria; and Peter Ruskin, Deputy Head of Mission to Sweden who each gave an overview of the impact of COVID-19 infection and related responses in their countries of accreditation. This very informative briefing was attended by a wide range of MPs and Peers, including members from some of the European All-Party Parliamentary Groups, and members from both the International Trade and Foreign Affairs Committees, as well as BGIPU’s Executive Committee members.
Hearing about these different European experiences and responses prompted questions from members who were eager to understand the differing situations in each country, not least to provide a basis upon which to view the pandemic’s impact on broadly similar countries, albeit with sometimes very differing impacts. The Deputy Heads of Mission all noted that while each country had now progressed past their peak of infection, there was no definite way of predicting the ultimate trajectory of the disease in each country and moving forward there would be a time in each county to investigate specific responses and investigate which policy challenges were manged better than others as part of an important and necessarily longer-term process.
In making such comparisons, it was recognised that the economic, social and demographic situation in each country was distinct, including differing levels of population density and even societal norms, so no experience would provide a one-size-fits-all solution. All participants recognised the great tragedy the pandemic had created in all affected countries and paid tribute to the dedicated works of health care workers and other essential staff in their selfless response to the loss of life, illness and social impacts that have been created by these unprecedented events.
Overall, the exchange of information in a virtual forum proved once again the value of continued dialogue during the pandemic to learn more about how each country has coped and is now moving towards recovery, always conscious of the risks moving forward. The virtual roundtable gave MPs and Peers a unique experience to learn directly from UK Missions who have has valued and unique insights into the national experiences and responses of each of their respective countries of accreditation and they warmly welcomed this opportunity to engage with the UK’s brilliant FCO professionals who brought huge insight and personal perspectives to the discussion which was greatly appreciated by members.