leonard53_Michael Kappelerpicture alliance via Getty Images_borisjohnsonmerkelmacron Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

Leadership in a Time of Contagion

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been compared to the 2008 financial crisis, the two episodes are quite different, not least in their cast of leading characters. Unlike the previous generation, today's European leaders have been shaped by a decade of austerity, refugee crises, and America's denouement as a global hegemon.

BERLIN – Google “Europe” and “crisis” and you will turn up 784 million results. So often do the two terms appear together that they might as well be a compound noun. With each new eurocrisis, commentators wring their hands over the question of whether the European project will survive.

On the surface, many eurocrises seem similar. European governments go through different phases of grief – from denial and anger to reconstruction and acceptance – and eventually blame the usual suspects. For northern Europeans, the problem always lies in southern Europe; for southerners, the Germans are the bad guys, and China is a potential savior.

But, of course, there are fundamental differences between the generation of leaders who steered Europe through the 2008 financial crisis and those now grappling with COVID-19. That became apparent this month when former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown embarked on a media tour to share the lessons from his own time in office.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading and receive unfettered access to all content, subscribe now.



Unlock additional commentaries for FREE by registering.