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Catalyst or crisis? COVID-19 and European Security

  • 22 Oct. 2020
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  • Last updated: 22 Oct. 2020 15:28

NDC Policy Brief 17-20


The COVID-19 crisis is teaching European countries that a pandemic can destabilize societies, the economy and political institutions to the same extent that military or hybrid threats do. However, while the pandemic’s impact on European security seems massive, it is difficult to isolate the COVID-19 factor: what is uniquely pandemic-driven, and what is the result of other elements, such as the lack of US leadership, is not always easy to determine.

Besides, (as the second wave underway in the autumn of 2020 shows) any analysis can only be a snapshot of an evolving situation: the pandemic is not yet over. Its longer-term impact will depend on its duration, on its economic, social and political consequences, but also on the accompanying trends in terms of national, EU and international reactions.

According to several indicators, COVID-19 has accelerated existing conflicts and international security developments. But European countries also face a temptation to concentrate on their own domestic problems. The result is a potentially critical situation, where international conflicts might intensify, while political attention to addressing them is in short supply.



* (back) Head, International Security Division, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin.

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