International experts recommend a decentralized management of crisis such as COVID-19

During the first Diplocat Digital Talk, organized in association with Catalonia's Centre for Contemporary Studies (CETC)

Diplocat has organized on Thursday 25 June the first debate of the cycle Diplocat Digital Talks - The world after COVID-19, together with Catalonia's Centre for  Contemporary Studies (CETC). The topic to be addressed were the strategies adopted by different countries to deal with the pandemic and if there are any positive lessons to be learnt for the future. The aim was also to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of centralizing policies as opposed to decentralizing ones.

Pere Almeda, director of the CETC and the magazine IDEES, introduced the debate and its aim to offer a comparative perspective on how different countries with different political systems had managed an unprecedented pandemic and extract good practices to be better prepared for the future.

The secretary of Foreign Affairs and the European Union of the Catalan Government, Eli Nebreda, reiterated the interest in learning lessons for the future and explained that the pandemic found governments unprepared, some even uninformed, so that they mostly acted in accordance with pre-existing institutions and infrastructures.

Laura Foraster i Lloret, secretary general of Diplocat, said that in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, especially in the United States and Europe, regional, local and sub-state entities set out their own recommendations and instructions, contrasting them with those of the central or federal governments, and that now, in the process of recovery, this dynamic is also interesting to observe because many of these sub-state bodies have competencies in economy, tourism and cultural dynamism.

Then the political scientist and professor at the Catalan online university UOC, Marc Sanjaume, in the role of moderator, gave the floor to the speakers.

Nicola McEwan, professor at the University of Edinburgh (UK), co-director of the Centre for Constitutional Change at this university and a great expert on multilevel politics and regionalism, explained that in the UK there have been three phases in the management of the pandemic and stressed that coordination in deescalation and recovery will decrease due to the management of the economy and Brexit.

Francesco Palermo, professor of Comparative Constitutional Law at the University of Verona (Italy) and director of the Institute of Comparative Federalism (EURAC), stated that the crisis has proven the lack of federal culture in Italy, as regions were not allowed to rule in their territory and the management was fully centralized, without taking into account the differences between territories. Palermo considers that the centralization and use of a single message for territories with different realities is problematic and can even affect fundamental rights of citizens.

Johanna Schnabel, professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Kent (UK) and assistant editor of the Swiss Political Science Review, pointed out that not all federal governments had acted in the same way, exemplifying this with the coordination and cooperation of Germany versus the centralism of the Swiss federal government. According to Schnabel, the most important thing is to understand when, how and in what way coordination between different levels needs to be implemented, and she warned that this cannot be carried out if coordination was already taking place before the crisis.

In the same vein, Mireia Grau, head of the Research Area of ​​the Institute for Self-Government Studies (IEA) of the Catalan government and PhD in Political Science, defended that no decentralized system is possible without previous institutionalized and regularly used mechanisms that really allow decentralization of power. Therefore, she believes that management centralization in Spain, which left the autonomous communities without any voice, should open a new debate on the distribution of powers, the existing coordination mechanisms and their future use.

At the end of the debate, answering the moderator's questions, the speakers concluded that the best model is decentralization, as long as it is accompanied by good institutional coordination, which enables dialogue between administrations in a fast, constant and effective way.