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7th Jun 2020

Coronavirus

Borrell: Coronavirus has 'blown up' global order

  • According to the EU's foreign affairs chief, the bloc can only play a role in rebuilding the 'new world order' if it has internal unity (Photo: Josep Borrell Fontelles)

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has issued a stark warning about the increasing tension between China and the US and the resulting global geopolitical disorder that the coronavirus outbreak has engendered.

"The coronavirus has ending blowing up the model of global multilateral governance that has been functioning over the past few years," Borrell told a group of reporters on Thursday (7 May).

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"A key factor is the growing rivalry between the US and China - which the pandemic has not diminished but increased," he added.

Tensions between the two nations are longstanding, but since the beginning of the pandemic there has been a notable 'blame game' full of conspiracies, misinformation and criticism - mainly focused on Beijing's alleged culpability and lack of transparency.

"Both global powers are unfolding what I called a few weeks ago 'the battle of narratives'," said Borrell, adding that Europe should stand aside and not get involved.

However, the EU's top diplomat foresees that "there is an opportunity for Europe in the 'new world order' to be built out of the global disorder - where the EU could play a role that will depend on its internal unity".

"Europe cannot be strong in the world if there is no internal unity," warned Borrell, pointing out that this is the time for the EU to learn from key lessons, embracing greater integration and face nationalisms, such as Brexit.

This follows the new momentum to debate the EU accession process that the EU-Western Balkans Zagreb summit opened this week.

For Borrell, this encounter was a reminder that the EU must be the "main partner" of the Balkans - despite the growth of Chinese and Russian influence in the region.

"The future of these countries is in Europe," he said.

Montenegro and Serbia have started accession talks, Albania and North Macedonia are expected to start theirs shortly, but Kosovo and Bosnia are trailing behind.

Meanwhile, however, the EU is heading for a historic economic recession due to the coronavirus pandemic that puts the euro and the single market at risk.

"Europe is the region that will be most affected by the international economic crisis because we are the great merchants - with China," Borrell noted.

Added to all of this is the recent ruling by the German Constitutional Court, which Borrell said he was "logically worried" about, since the ruling questions the independence of EU institutions and legal hierarchy in the bloc.

Earlier this year, Borrell warned there was a battle of narratives within Europe - for which the EU should be "armed with facts".

Populist 'losers'

However, according to the EU's top diplomat, the populist agenda will be one of "the losers" of this crisis, with a resurgence of people's trust in experts and scientists.

"Populism has tried to minimise the danger of the virus. But if we had followed populists instead of scientists we would have more deaths everywhere," he added - saying that this crisis has also shown that health policy should have a clear European dimension.

A new surge of populism or nationalisms will directly depend on what the EU does and what it does not do.

"Europeans will judge Europe at the end of this crisis, [in terms of] whether Europe has protected them or not," Borrell stressed.

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