The COVID-19 epidemic spread across Europe and the world, infecting millions of people and reaching hundreds of thousands of fatalities. During the most severe period of the pandemic, life stopped in most European countries with profound restrictions on the movement of people, confinements at home, commercial and industrial activity and social life reduced to historic lows.
In a word, Europe experienced (and still lives) a real scenario of war against an invisible and unpredictable enemy, which doesn’t choose ages, gender, social classes or countries.
The experience of the European Network of Places of Peace and of all the places in Europe that constitute it proves that the majority of conflicts and wars ended with the signing of Peace Treaties which, in many cases, led to periods of great political changes and great economic and social development during which peace was a fact.
However, the war against COVID-19 will not end with a Peace Treaty as we know it, and instead of development what is expected is rather a long period of economic recession and even social setback.
While it’s true that the response to the pandemic in many European countries was rapid and competent, and the respective public health services managed to halt its growth and minimize the number of infected people and fatalities, in others such as the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain, (4 of the 6 largest European economies) the response was not efficient and the number of infected and fatal victims revealed unexpected weaknesses in their health and civil protection systems, which even the solidarity shown by other more equipped countries was unable to hide.
On the other hand, it is important to highlight the exemplary role played by the vast majority of European citizens, materialized in numerous expressions of solidarity and good neighborliness, in popular mobilizations for mutual help and in the discipline of their behavior, a role that was (and is being) one of the essential factors in combating the pandemic and its immediate economic and social effects.
The European Network of Places of Peace, which includes public and private organizations representing various locations in Europe where Peace Treaties were signed, from Portugal to Romania, and is a bearer of the experience and historical memory of those places, considers this an opportunity to reinforce solidarity among all European countries, the exchange of experiences and mutual knowledge among all its peoples with the aim of responding to Europeans’ wishes for a Europe of Citizens and a Europe of Peace.
Therefore, both national governments and European institutions must work on the implementation of concrete measures that contribute to achieving this objective, namely in the field of public health, through a generalized and equitable increase in national and European health budgets, strengthening Universal and free National Health Services without prejudice to complementary private initiative, the generalized and equitable increase in all European countries in the number of beds available in hospitals as well as the European production of medical, diagnostic and treatment equipment and in support of research scientific approach to the prevention and treatment of epidemic outbreaks and chronic diseases;
In the field of education, through the introduction of educational content on this and other pandemics, on the effects of other wars but also on the effects and consequences of the Peace Treaties, educational content promoting solidarity, mutual aid and a culture of peace in all levels of education and with appropriate adaptations by age level;
in the economic and social fields, by promoting employment and income guarantees, by encouraging companies to produce European finished products, particularly in vital sectors such as health, communications and technology, by expanding or launching European programs in the areas of education and culture and, finally, the promotion of European Cultural Tourism, with a view to cultural exchange and better knowledge among European peoples.
All crises and wars have had terrible effects on the people who have lived through them, but they have also opened up opportunities for political, economic and social development and, therefore, Europe must enhance the opportunities this pandemic nevertheless also opens up.
April 24, 2020
The Members of the European Network of Places of Peace (in a videoconference meeting)