Back to how it was before or a new reality?

More and more European countries are beginning to ease their lockdown measures. Since Saturday Spaniards are allowed to go for a walk again at certain times of the day based on age groups. And the Greeks no longer need to show a permit sent by text message when they want to venture outside of their homes. Commentators reflect on whether life will now go back to how it was before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Open/close all quotes (GR) /

From now on we all suffer on our own again

Columnist Rea Vitali describes in Protagon what she will miss:

“ I will miss the drama we shared. Yes, we lived through that, a shared drama. It touches on the sarcastic definition of 'democratic'. From today on everyone will go back to living their own personal dramas, their own personal anxieties. ... I'll miss the corona walk too. What a walk that was! ... We saw the universe from a different perspective. How we admired nature! We examined flowers, we drowned ourselves in scents. Even the empty city was beautiful. A different city, like a painting by [metaphysical painter] De Chirico.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Everything flows

Rzeczpospolita tries to assuage readers' fears about the future:

“We should not be afraid of this crisis. It will likely bring changes that we were expecting anyway. We should enter the crisis as if it were a cold river and make our way across it to the other side as quickly as possible. Because another world really is waiting for us over there. The economy will not be the same as before. But don't panic, it will still exist. New companies, industries and professions will replace the lost ones. New jobs will be created. And thanks to digitalisation and mobility, which did not exist at the time of the global economic crisis, the whole process will happen very quickly.”

Webcafé (BG) /

Hugs make you happy, not cars and fashion

During the lockdown people had an opportunity to think about what really matters in life, Webcafé believes:

“Perhaps now we understand that the latest car or designer bag doesn't give meaning to our lives. Covid-19 had to come and separate us so that we could understand the importance of the little things that we would otherwise overlook. The new sexy leather jacket can't replace a good friend's hug, can it? … It would be naive to believe that the consumer society will disappear after the pandemic and that everyone will suddenly start living a different life. But we do now have the chance to make changes.”

Večernji list (HR) /

No more shopping on Sundays please

Croatia took the decision keep its retail sector closed on Sundays in the context of its relaxation measures. This has triggered a heated debate. Večernji list finds the criticism incomprehensible:

“The biggest supporters of open shops on Sundays, both among citizens and the wealthy elite, are those who have never worked on Sundays. ... They work five days a week and arrogantly claim that if underpaid shop assistants were paid fairly they would be desperate to work on the seventh day of the week too. These people should get down off their high horses and try to put themselves in the shoes of these women. But they won't do that. Why should they? Their work and that of their children are worth more than that of ordinary sales assistants and their children.”

Público (PT) /

The return of that cursed word

Público suspects that Portugal will not be able to escape austerity:

“Given its isolation and the combination of the rise in the deficit, which is expected to be around seven percent, and the increase in public debt or the deterioration in interest rates, there is no guarantee that the government will not be forced to cut spending on wages, pensions or other social benefits or to raise taxes. We can call this strategy 'adjustment', 'budget correction' or 'belt-tightening' to avoid the anathema of the cursed word. But it will remain a question of semantics. For the citizens it will always be the same old austerity.”

Novi list (HR) /

Existence check for the EU

Novi list argues that rather than making plans of their own the EU member states should join forces to develop a pan-European plan for normalising everyday life:

“The corona crisis is a crucial moment not only for the preservation of the EU but also for its very existence. Without a joint European response to the recession that will surely hit all the member states, its existence no longer makes sense. ... Only an agreement reached at the European level can bring the common economic area back to life. That means a fine-tuning of the whole mechanism, a maximum harmonisation of the policies taken at a national level, a starting-up of the economic motor where possible.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Social welfare states will survive

State models that focus exclusively on economic growth have had their day since the advent of coronavirus, Milliyet believes:

“It has become clear that neither the liberal economy nor state capitalism [as in China] can function. ... That is demonstrated by the fact that Western - that is capitalist - countries such as Britain, the US and France are enveloping their populations with their announced aid packages like socialist states do. ... One thing is certain: from now on it won't be states which focus on maximising GNP that excel but rather states and systems which stress participation and pay close attention to how they grow; states which distribute wealth fairly and strengthen their own resources.”

Wedomosti (RU) /

More hygiene-conscious but also deeply afraid

Ruben Enikolopov, rector of Russia's New Economic School, fears in Vedomosti that the post-corona world will be dominated by fear:

“People will behave differently after the crisis. One of the positive aspects is that they will take hygiene more seriously and wash their hands more often. However, if every stranger on the street is seen as a potential source of infection it can undermine the trust in society that is so important for a successfully functioning economy. In addition, the trauma of the second economic crisis in a decade is likely to make today's younger generation more cautious and less willing to take risks. There was such an effect in the United States after the Great Depression - and it continued to affect people's behavior decades after the crisis ended.”

Libération (FR) /

Humanism is the only way

The fact that in the crisis states are placing human lives above the economy proves that there is no alternative to solidarity, writes philosopher Francis Wolff in Libération:

“Solidarity between European states, and then between continents, is no longer just an ethical question but a matter of survival. Today's admirable cooperation between scientists around the world could be followed tomorrow by the distribution of masks and ventilators across Europe, or better to Africa, and then a vaccine or remedies for all. And the day after that - why not? - global health and social protection systems financed by a worldwide mutual insurance system. ... It's unrealistic, you say. But don't you see that today only the humanistic way is realistic?”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Enough of the political spin

We must find a sensible way of dealing with risks, demands ethics professor Peter Schaber in the Tages-Anzeiger:

“The world was not prepared for the coronavirus pandemic - some states even less so than others, but none of them was as prepared as they should have been. Yet a pandemic was always a possibility. ... Politicians are uneasy about drawing attention to such problems. They prefer to suggest that everything will be fine. We should reconsider our position and become more pessimistic. ... But we must not fall into a passive pessimism that sees the future as nothing but grim and suggests that nothing can be done about it, because at the same time we should be doing all we can to fend off the worst-case scenario.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Reform the entire social system

The last thing Rzeczpospolita wants is for everything to continue as it was before the crisis:

“The worst thing would be if we were to regard the current crisis as an episode that can quickly be forgotten, because nobody can convince us that healthcare is a subordinate sector of the state and society whose problems can be solved by privatisation and decentralisation of management. ... In order to change the system, the entire system of social solidarity, which is expressed in concrete terms for example through the tax system, must be rebuilt. The current crisis offers us the opportunity to undertake a serious reform of our state.” (UA) /

Time for a universal basic income

What we must conclude from the corona crisis is that the social systems need to be rebuilt from the ground up, TV presenter Savik Shuster says on, making a concrete proposal for how this should be achieved:

“An unconditional basic income implies everyone's responsibility towards their family and society. ... Spain has already decided to pay an unconditional basic income during and after the crisis. ... I believe that such a universal basic income is the most effective way to fight corruption. If we citizens are made responsible for what we receive from the state, we'll keep a close eye on bribable officials. Because all the money that's stolen will be coming from our own pockets. So I suggest that our politicians in Parliament, in government and in the President's office take this matter very seriously.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Avoid cultural collateral damage

Artists and cultural institutions are making more and more contents available online. But online experiences cannot permanently replace collective cultural enjoyment, Le Temps warns:

“Since the start of the lockdown we've all had the experience of discovering something online that initially seduced us, but then left us with a vague feeling of melancholy. This serves as a reminder that ever since Greek theater culture has revolved around collective emotion. The world after the pandemic must focus more on environmental protection than the world before it. It should also be human, even more so than virtual. When the time comes to take stock of the collateral damage caused by the virus, it would be tragic if the most fragile festivals and cultural institutions, which are an integral part of the social fabric of a region and don't dream of artificial paradises, were the most endangered.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Prisoners of our habits

Journalist Pál Szombathy warns in Új Szó that dramatic prognoses should be handled with caution:

“What are we to make of these pessimistic visions of the future predicting major upheavals? Perhaps it's worth reflecting on these arguments, but one should also take note of the emotions and fears behind them. In difficult times everyone is keen to say something interesting, and of course this leads to overdramatic statements. No one is immune to the effects of the changes in everyday life, but a little objectivity is essential to assess the situation. ... During such upheavals one should judge carefully. The virus may be gone one day, but we remain the same: prisoners of our habits. That's why I don't believe that the growth- and consumption-oriented world is a thing of the past yet.”