The EU, between the USA and China in redefining the global power centres

The first MDAE seminar examined the effects of crises on local governance

On Tuesday 30 June, Diplocat hosted the first seminar in the series on COVID-19 and its global and European impact in conjunction with the Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals (IBEI) as part of the MDAE alumni network. The seminar was entitled COVID-19, Crises and Changes in Global Governance.

The seminar was introduced by Bernat Solé, Minister for Foreign Action, Institutional Relations and Transparency. Solé stressed that in order to be able to make major changes in the future, we have to make major decisions today. The minister also expressed his interest in training human capital in order to expand Catalonia's presence abroad, which at times like this has been shown to be substantial.

The next speaker to take the floor was Jacint Jordana, director of IBEI, who emphasised the importance for IBEI of staying in touch with its alumni to continue learning and strengthening the bonds both among students and among the participating institutions.

Laura Foraster i Lloret, secretary general of Diplocat, stated that one of the entity's main strands of action is training in the field of the internationalisation of Catalonia. In this regard, she said that right now many in-person contacts have been replaced with digital contacts, and that this is the need that inspired this series of online seminars.

Montse Daban, a graduate of the 4th edition of the Executive Master's in Diplomacy and Foreign Action (MDAE), the scientific and international relations director of Biocat and the head of international relations at the Secretariat of Universities and Research of the Government of Catalonia, served as a moderator of the event. The seminar was taught by Nico Krisch, professor of international law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva and an expert in local and international governance.

In his talk, Krisch explained the effects of economic and security crises caused by war on global governance. He stated that even though not all crises bring about changes, as in the 2008 economic crisis, the majority do end up having effects on the international system because crises cast doubt on or change the previous power and governance structures, allowing for changes that would have been unimaginable before the crisis.

Krisch also noted that the current crisis is defined by previous international trends, especially the lack of interest in multilateral institutions and instruments and a trend towards mistrust and detachment from institutions, and he cited as an example the African Union withdrawing from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the creation of informal instruments and the fact that contributions to the different international organisations are voluntary, and the will of the major donors ends up defining the main avenues of action.

Krisch highlighted that a continuation of these trends could lead to three possible post-COVID-19 scenarios: the shift of power from the USA to China because of the scope of economic dependence and Chinese investments to deal with the crisis, along with the major economic problems that COVID is causing the American leviathan; international organisations' ending up being primarily financed by private funds in response to states' budgetary cutbacks, thereby responding to the interests of large companies; and finally, changes in states' sovereignty because of the impetus of populist movements on both the right and the left, which tend to be nationalistic, not international, which would lead to a more intense decline in the multilateralism-based international system forged after World War II.

To conclude his talk, Professor Krisch emphasised that crises may also be opportunities for change, and that the current crisis is revealing more the interest in cooperation among EU countries with the common bailout funds. There are also emerging trends towards the need to base decisions on science and trust in scientific institutions like the World Health Organisation (WHO), along with the possibility of creating new parallel informal institutions which have more support.

To conclude the seminar, the floor was opened to questions. Montse Daban outlined the specific problems in the world of scientific and medical research in terms of cooperation and the global exchange of information to solve the health crisis. In this sense, Krisch stressed the importance of countries' sharing scientific information with each other in order to deal with potential new crises. Also asked about the role of the EU in the midst of the power struggle between China and the USA, Krisch defined it as an opportunity to consolidate European power over the Southern countries with an agenda unlike those of the two economic giants, while remaining neutral in their struggle.

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