(An interview with Dr. Zeno Leoni on a side of Vienna Process Conference)
Seventy-five years after the Victory Day and Nuremberg Trials, the Vienna Process has leveraged on the current time of crisis in order to empower a new process for further all-Europe integration that could put at its centre citizens and protect these from the socio-economic and security challenges of our times.
Among the speakers in the first of the three mesmerising conference panels, there was Dr. Zeno Leoni, an expert on the crisis of the Liberal International Order from the Defense Studies Department of King’s College London.
In his absorbing speech, he sought to address the need to rebalance state power and market forces after the market failures seen over the last twelve years.
Dr. Leoni, why it is important to celebrate the anniversary of Nuremberg Trials and what does it have to do with COVID-19?
Thanks for this question. Clearly, we are not at war anymore and especially in the Western world human and political rights are solid achievements.
Yet, the lesson of C-19 but also of the Great Recession of 2008 is that if at the end of WWII it was necessary to work on the values of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, in the 21st century we need a Nuremberg for social rights. We are facing a time of socio-economic instability and we need these rights to be secured if we do not want to see a social “carnage”, to use a language that draws on what happened eighty years ago.
What has been unveiled by the current pandemic outbreak?
Many countries have been slow to react or have not reacted at all. I wonder whether this is because we prioritize economic interests over life. During the pandemic, as the C-19 was putting under stress national health systems of different countries, EU institutions appeared to be more interested in approving the Mechanism for European Stability, while there was no sign of a coordinated effort to tackle this emergency. I am not arguing that eugenics is back in fashion but both the Great Recession and C-19 demonstrate that Darwinism, whether biological or social, is still among us because if you are strong you move forward but if you are weak you risk perishing.
Why has the West been so unprepared?
I think the pandemic has showed that Western societies live their lives not in a strategic manner. We have become a society that thinks short-term, in a consumerist manner, that looks for quick gains as opposed to long-lasting goods and effects.
In terms of strategy as science, we don’t stockpile anymore because why stockpiling for something – like masks – that has little market value? We do not have plans in place, either.
In terms of strategy as art, we don’t study anymore, we don’t draw lessons from what others do, we are not creative and we do not have skills for improvising.
From the viewpoint of strategy as modus vivendi we also don’t live strategically. We stopped being a healthy population over the last decades, we don’t value things like work out and diet as these have become subordinated to work patterns – this is a trend that we have seen among Mediterranean people, in particular, as they used to be the healthiest. A healthy population would have saved many lives given that we know C-19 tends to kill more those who have pathologies that can be attenuated by a good lifestyle.
How can we get out of this stalemate?
The simple answer for this is “with more state”. For too many years – first with Washington Consensus, then with EU-led fiscal rigour – the state in the West has retrenched. This is not good news, as we can see. We need a state to manage strategic sectors – like health – with the necessary amount of financial resources. But we also need the state to provide society with strategic vision at any level in order not only to face future threats but also to prevent them – as in the case of working towards a healthy, strong population.
What role can the EU play in this?
The EU could become a more integrated actor not merely concerned with fiscal rigour but also with a tangible, implementable strategy that could prepare us to deal, in a multilateral manner, with the future global trends – migration, urbanisation, climate change, pandemics, great power rivalry. However, it still is overly fragmented by three factors. Firstly, German self-interested leadership. Secondly, the US remains a centrifugal pole of attraction which does not allow a full process of integration in the continent. Finally, the backlash of globalisation has undermined the faith of people on the EU. Also, Brussels have to follow its own interest and urgently seeks recalibration, a new approach towards both Mediterranean and Russia – this is a Sine Qua Non, if we are any serious about future of this continent.
Germany and France before others have the power to lead this change but they must put their selfish interests aside.
* * * *
The first July day of 2020 in Vienna sow marking the anniversary of Nuremberg Trials with the conference “From the Victory Day to Corona Disarray: 75 years of Europe’s Collective Security and Human Rights System – Legacy of Antifascism for the Common Pan-European Future”. This was probably the first conference in Europe of large magnitude after the lockdown. It gathered over twenty speakers from Canada to Australia, and audience physically at the venue, and many more online.
The conference was organised by four partners; the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES), Modern Diplomacy Media Platform, European Perspectives Academic Journal, and Culture for Peace Action Platform, with the support of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna that hosted the event in its prestigious historical setting.
Wishing to turn this event into a lasting process, the four implementing partners closed the gathering by marking the start of the process, tentatively named – Vienna Process: Common Future – One Europe. The follow up event is already scheduled for early October in Geneva to honour the 75th anniversary of the San Francisco Conference. Similar call for a conference comes from Barcelona, Spain which was a birthplace of the EU’s Barcelona Process on the strategic Euro-MED dialogue.
About the Author:
Chloé Bernadaux is an International Security specialist (Sciences Po Paris), prolifically writing on the neighbourhood policy, Euro-MED relations, and disarmament affairs. She is the IFIMES newly appointed representative in Paris (UNESCO).