Healthcare Workers are not heroes but models of civilization

Personification of a contemporary Aeneas, during the Covid-19 emergency healthcare workers have been models of pietas, adding a sense of duty to humanity.


It was a Spring of deaths. We brought blooming flowers next to the corpses. We brought flowers with our mind, of course, because it was forbidden to go outside. A Spring of suspense. The feeling no one could deny to have felt was the desire to plan, share, live. But during this stagnation something tireless, crucial – feverish stirred. The work of healthcare workers who, called to action, was being the backbone of a whole country.


During the lockdown and the following months, many words have been pronounced to thank doctors, nurses and all healthcare workers –  dutiful, well-deserved, proper words. Nevertheless, there is one – heroes – used as a simplistic summary of an experience of months. And I think that it depletes humanity underlying an exhausting work done in exceptional and dangerous circumstances. Moreover, it is likely to place vocation above sense of duty, heroes above men.

An episode in book II of Aeneid, which I had the chance to present on an evening in homage to the First Aid of Pesaro (Marche, Italy), helped me to spell out such a line of reasoning.

healthcare workers are modern heroes of literatures

Wanderings and storms haunt Aeneas’ escape from Troy and lead him to the court of Dido, queen of Carthago. There, the survivor tells what happened in that dark dreadful night when Greeks came into the city thanks to the famous Trojan horse.

Aeneas remembers the city on fire, clearly burnt by enemies’ fires and by the terror of massacres, but also the pain of not having understood earlier what was about to happen, the pain of have not listened to those who had made some hypothesis. He remembers a city burnt by the pain of powerless people who had to face the fear of losing loved ones or even themselves. Greeks get into Troy under a new unknown guise and assault it – almost the effect of the pandemic we lived and are still living: on the one hand, feeling frustrated as we were deceived, on the other hand, stubborn as we do not want to lose faith.

Aeneas tells about a very harsh, trampling and bloody battle that seems not to give way to the future. While chaos stirs around and death meanders into streets, everything he can do is just trying to get away. Everything he can do is just trying to save withstanding lives. Aeneas takes up the journey facing many dangers to himself and to others because he wants to take away from the tragedy his father, son, wife and even his servants.

Looking for salvation, Aeneas takes his father on his shoulders and his son by the hand. In this image that ties together three souls there is the thread of life summed up: weaken and fatigued Anchises on his son’s shoulders; little and unaware Iulo who, taken by the hand of his father, tries to follow him; Aeneas who is a son, a father and a man taking more care of others than of himself. Past and future are tied together by the present, which takes action, no matter what struggles, thanks to a hope: whether “danger is sole and common”, then “sole and common is salvation, too”.

During the emergency period, healthcare workers behaved as the personification of a contemporary Aeneas, taking on their shoulders and by the hand ill people, their families and the whole society. They did exactly this: they underwent the burden and tied together the split tatters of a country’s lives – they gave us an active, concrete and resilient demonstration of pietas.

Thanks to their pietas, healthcare personnel added a deep sense of responsibility to the love for their dearest ones, overshadowing their own needs, helping and taking care at the expense of their own health, standing by ill people in all the ways a man can stand by another man – being an example of civilization.

Brave and fearless in clashes with armed warriors, Aeneas shivers in front of the swishing wind when it comes to protect another life in a tragically exceptional circumstance. Aeneas is afraid; he suffers, he strains while he tries not to give up neither his duty nor his hope – to save what is mortal, fragile and precarious. Aeneas is a man above everything else, and only then he is a hero. So, that is why healthcare workers, like Aeneas, cannot be anything else than men and women who are able to put themselves to the service of the society despite fear, pain and danger. They are men and women we need to keep up hope. They are models to think about to behave responsibly until the future opens its arms to us. Also, we should remember Oriana Fallaci’s words in A Man

“spectacular behaviors and private heroisms never change reality: they are shows of individual and shallow pride, actions of romance that exhaust in their own sake because they stay closed within the borders of its uniqueness”.

Oriana Fallcai - A Man


A Man, Oriana Fallaci

Aeneid, Virgil


* All translations of quotes have been made by the author

Lack of healthcare personnel: is Europe ready?

The social and health crisis that has hit the world in the last few months has made more and more evident that National Health Systems (NHSs) are not sustainable for most of the world’s countries, both in the case of  public and universalistic or private and insurance-based systems[1].

Many factors are at play behind the overall consequences NHSs will face in the short term if no concrete actions are taken by every single country involved in the current crisis: lack of fundings, centralization of healthcare facilities in large urban areas, redefinition of fundamental assistance. Above them all, the one that might affect us the harshest is the lack of healthcare providers operating in public facilities in the near future.

According to the World Health Organization and United Nations forecasts, by 2030 there will be a shortage of more than 18 million[2] healthcare professionals, including doctors,nurses, biotech lab experts, social assistants and all other health-related workers.Despite the popular idea that this crisis will hit Third World and developing countries harder, European nations cannot feel safe from the health wreck coming from it.

The European Commission itself points out that already in 2020 we are facing a deficit of around 1 million workers in European NHSs.[3]

That can’t but have dramatic consequences on the quality that healthcare systems can offer to the national populations.

In Europe…

The uneven distribution of health professionals both inside each country and within different countries can only make things worse. The urbanization of high quality healthcare centers, usually college-based, has been leaving rural and suburban areas with an insufficient and underfinanced healthcare system[4] unable to respond the the health needs of an ageing population with chronic and non communicable diseases.[5] This is true not only in richer, but it has become a common phenomenon throughout Europe

At the same time, on a transnational level, better wages and working conditions act as pull factors on healthcare workers from eastern Europe toward those countries in the central and northern part of the continent.[6]

This results on the one hand in a shortage that their home countries struggle to compensate; and on the other in an excess of healthcare workers that NHSs are not able to absorb with obvious implications such as the widespread inequality.

Within European countries…

The consequences of such disproportions on the national healthcare systems of both areas are easily foreseeable.

in the past few years, various national and international associations and institutions have been focusing on finding realistic solutions to this puzzle. Although very little, if any, concrete implementation has been put into practice by national governments.

Looking at the Italian case we notice that, before the Covid-19 crisis, the country’s 2019 Budget Law contained a financing of 337,7 million euros for medical residencies for the five years between 2019 and 2023; plus 10 more million euros each year of the same timeframe for general practitioners’ education[7]. These investments are deemed as insufficient by many experts as they can’t provide for the number of doctors that would be necessary to replace the ones retiring from the italian NHS in the next 15 years[8].

These dynamics can be found all over Europe. Decades of expansionary policies had allowed Portugal to rely on a proportion between physicians and citizens higher than the European average (in 2017 the country had 497,6 physicians for each 100.000 inhabitants while the European average was of 372)[9]. These positive numbers are now at risk due to the reduction in the number of specialty spots offered by portuguese medical schools in more recent years. In 2019 the national call for medical residencies received 2641 applications[10] for 1830 spots[11], leaving 811 medical graduates unable to work in the portuguese NHS.

In a federative nation like Germany, the differences in healthcare delivery among the various regions get even stronger. Despite the existence of some guidelines developed by the central government regarding health workforce planning (Bedarfsplanungsrichtlinie), their implementation is left to local policies in each member state (Länder). The latter have the power to elaborate their own healthcare plans in terms of facilities-population ratio[12]. While at a first glance this might seem a proper strategy to ensure an adequate workforce planning, within the bigger picture the inequities among different states become much more evident[13].

The IFMSA is the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations. It is a NGO associating all Medical students.

The urgency and relevance of this catastrophic picture has been pushing medical students from all over Europe to advocate towards more competent institution that could provide efficient solutions. This would avoid further emergencies whose impact can already be seen in the recent events, but it would also require a forward-looking response on the planning and implementation of long term healthcare policies.[14]

All actors involved, from patients to health workers, students and institutions are nowadays fully aware of the consequences that the current situation will have on European healthcare systems.

Whatever the solutions to these problems will be, they will need to structurally reform the way we conceive our NHSs and guarantee continuity, efficiency and proficiency in the long term. They cannot be a temporary solution only to face the unprevented emergency situation healthcare systems have been facing for the last few weeks.

The future of each healthcare system in Europe depends on the proper education of future professionals. It cannot disregard an appropriate assessment of the required skills and competencies and the adequate number of health workers needed country by country.

All other solutions, such as the broadening of available positions in med schools without a coherent increase in funding for medical specialties/specializations, are pure demagogy that tries to deceive the population and it’s likely to make things worse in a future closer than we might expect.[15]

So far the  policies implemented by the EU and its member states appear pale and weak compared to the gravity of the crisis. They also proved ineffective when it comes to ensuring healthcare workers the right skills, at the right time and place and in the right amount[16] so as to meet the health needs of the whole population, regardless of their wealth or home address.

Matteo Cavagnacchi



[1] “Country Health Systems Surveillance Platform” – WHO Department for Health Statistics and Informatics (2010)

[2] UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development

[3]  Health 2020: the European policy for health and well-being

[4] Report Osservatorio GIMBE n.6/2019 “La Mobilità Sanitaria Interregionale nel 2017”

[5] The 2009 Ageing Report: Underlying Assumptions and Projection Methodologies for the EU-27

Member States (2007-2060), Joint Report prepared by the European Commission (DG ECFIN) and

the Economic Policy Committee (AWG)

[6] “Recruitment and Retention of the Health Workforce in Europe”, European Health Management

Association, April 2015

[7] Report Osservatorio GIMBE n.7/2019 “Il Definanziamento 2010/2019 del Servizio Sanitario Nazionale”

[8] La Programmazione del Fabbisogno di Personale Medico, Proiezioni per il Periodo 2018-2025: Curve di Pensionamento e Fabbisogni Specialistici – ANAAO AssoMed

[9]  Eurostat/Instituto Nacional de Estatística

[10]  Lista definitiva retificada de candidatos admitidos e excluídos ao Procedimento Concursal IM 2020 – Administração Central do Sistema de Saúde

[11] Mapa de Capacidades Formativas Nacional Procedimento Concursal IM 2020 – Administração Central do Sistema de Saúde

[12] User Guidelines on Qualitative Methods in Health Workforce Planning and Forecasting“Germany, Country Profile” WP6, Centre for Workforce Intelligence, United Kingdom. Fellow and Edwards 2014

[13] Kuhlmann, E., Lauxen, O. & Larsen, C. Regional health workforce monitoring as governance innovation: a German model to coordinate sectoral demand, skill mix and mobility. Hum Resour Health 14, 71 (2016).

[14]  International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) – European Regional Priorities 2019/2020

[15] Anelli F. “No all’aumento dei posti a Medicina senza aver prima azzerato l’imbuto formativo” FNOMcEO 2020


[16] Stokker, Judy & Hallam, Gillian. (2009). The right person, in the right job, with the right skills, at the right time. A workforce-planning model that goes beyond metrics. Library Management. 30. 10.1108/01435120911006520.

The pitfalls back of market growth

Financial markets continue their unstoppable growth. After the impressive recovery of April, also May disappointed the expectations of many short sellers[1] who were betting on a downward correction in the market. After a prolonged period of lockdown, the opening in all countries have generated a great euphoria on the financial markets, making the run-up to pre-coronavirus levels continue.

For a long time, we have relied on earnings as the main value driver in the stock market. Wasn’t the price / earnings (P/E)[2] ratio one of the main multiples for valuing stocks? So far, although most companies have reported earnings well below the levels provided by both guidance and analyst forecasts (except those in the technology sector, communications and stay-at home stocks[3]), the market is slowly returning to its pre-crisis level. The Nasdaq composite has returned to very few percentage points from the historical highs.

The numerous negative macroeconomic data amplify the paradox of this overview, almost one-way upwards. The International Monetary Fund estimates[4] predict negative GDP projections in almost all countries of the world, with rare exceptions such as China and India (respectively + 1.2% and + 1.9% in 2020) which in turn are far from the standard growth rate. In 2020, a 7.5% drop is expected in the Euro area with a 4.7% rebound in 2021. We wonder  how long it will take to return to the levels of GDP before the coronavirus.

United States-5.94.7
United Kingdom-6.54.0
United States-5.94.7
United Kingdom-6.54.0
Source: IMF. Pil outlook in percent change.

Additionally, the estimates on unemployment  in the United States reached 14.7% in April, more than triple from 4.4% in March[5]. We must keep in mind that about 70% of the consumption in the United States is due to the US families themselves. Who will consume in the USA considering that unemployment increases?

Together with the macroeconomic assessments there is  the total uncertainty concerning the vaccine too. Although some (few) trials have been successful, an effective vaccine seems to be far from being achieved. Nowadays, the most promising vaccines are being tested. However, it seems that investors have recently forgotten the main uncertainties that this health and economic crisis has caused: there are no effective treatments, we do not know if, and possibly when, profits will return to pre-covid 19 levels, we do not know the consequences of the reopening or if the autumn period could lead to a new wave. And I could continue with many other uncertainties.

So, where does all this optimism come from? The real question is to wonder if perhaps ‘there is no alternative’ market. In fact, alongside all these uncertainties, we have unquestionable certainties: the central banks continue and will continue to print money unceasingly, guaranteeing unlimited stimuli (two examples are the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan). The decisions of the main central banks to provide disproportionate liquidity on the market have probably favored a recovery in the short term, but its sustainability will have to be assessed. Inevitably, all these interventions have brought the returns on cash and bonds to such low levels as to generate an implicit investors’ willingness to expose themselves more on the stock market, in order to obtain a more satisfactory risk-return. Added to this is the so-called ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) by investors, or the fear of missing the opportunity at the time of the bullish trend to take advantage of the rally[6], which in turn feeds further rises. The problem remains, however, the macroeconomic context, which could lead to an upward trend only in the short term.

Another factor of extreme importance is the possible cold war between the United States and China which could further fuel uncertainty on the markets. The immediate reaction was naturally negative. Such contexts increase the risk-premium and endanger global development. Obviously, an increase in the risk-premium[7] leads, in most cases, to a decrease in the share price. Bear in mind that we are talking about the two major powers in terms of global GDP, and serious repercussions could, with a chain effect, involve all markets.

As for the European market and in particular the Eurozone, the main news concerns the Recovery Fund proposed by the European Commission which should guarantee 750 billion with an issue of thirty-year securities guaranteed by all countries, with a mix of loans and grants. Very complicated negotiations will open in the following months. We are finally approaching a debt mutualization at the European level (eurobond). The problem is that the funds will be accessible no earlier than 2021. Consequently, the instruments available in European countries will be, at least until the end of 2020, the Sure, the Esm and the purchases of government securities by the European Central Bank. These initiatives were taken with great euphoria on the markets, above all that of government bonds which saw a narrowing of spreads[8].

We cannot predict whether the stock rally will last much longer since we are in a truly anomalous market. In this context, investor sentiment seems to count far more than macroeconomic and microeconomic fundamentals. However, there is a crucial principle of the economy: in order to be sustainable in the long term, growth must be based on solid structures  and these, nowadays, seem to be very fragile. In the extreme case, there is the risk of creating a bubble which, if it explodes, would cause further negative consequences on the market.

Gianlorenzo Zeccolella


[2] Price over earnings is one of the most important multiples, used to assess the equity value of a company. When P/E = 15x, the stock price is 15 times its earnings per share.

[3]  Typical examples for stay-at-home stocks are Netflix or Zoom.



[6] In finance, a rally is a period of sustained increase in the price of an asset.


[8] The spread is the differential between the returns of two securities with the same maturity (typically 10 years). One of the securities compared is considered as a benchmark.

Eurovision: the extravagant killer of conformism


When the news of the cancelation of Eurovision was made public, it broke quite a few hearts of all music fans all over the world but mostly in Europe. The global pandemic of COVID-19 ended all the festivities of this year, 2020, even before they started, no European football Championship, no Carnival in Venice, no Fallas in Valencia, no Easter celebrations in Andalusia… the virus took away more than “just” a great number of human lives and while the most important thing is to remain safe in these uncertain times, we should also keep our spirit up and not give into all the negativity we are surrounded with on a daily basis.

“Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words, it speaks in emotion[1]

– Keith Reichards

Eurovision is an annual song contest that began on the 24th of May 1956 and has been celebrated each year ever since, except this year 2020 as we already mentioned. For the first time in sixty–four years, one of the most looking forward events of the year cancelled and there is still no official information as to the host of Eurovision 2021. In theory, it’s just a song contest but, in reality, Eurovision is so much more, it’s a pan – European tradition awarded with a Guinness Record[2]. The name itself causes a certain degree of misunderstanding because one would expect that only countries from the European continent could participate in the race, well… that’s not the case. In fact, a lot of countries joined in the following years of its creation like: Israel that joined in 1973, Cyprus in 1981, Russia 1994, Armenia in 2006, Georgia in 2007, Azerbaijan in 2008. In 2015 even Australia joined for the first time and has been sending singers ever since.

Eurovision is one of the most emblematic symbols of international music competitions and it perfectly embodies values of the European Union: Unity – through the universal language of music; Acceptance as well – everyone is welcome; respect for everyone’s culture – each contestant is encouraged to use their native language in their songs. Eurovision’s stage is also a safe place for LGBTQ representations, human rights warriors, new generations of rebels and above all it’s a platform to show the marvels of everyone’s uniqueness.

Our world is submerged in American movies and series, every now and then we see some other independent movie in a language different than English but we live mostly by Hollywood’s entertainment industry. Eurovision recalls the attention back to Europe and each May we could see how a united front of this part of the world concentrates their attention to productions that are being made with their culture in mind. There have been many jokes over the years as to the purposeful exclusion of the USA from everything that has to do with Eurovision and many spectators still prefer it that way, revelling in the confusion it causes for the people on the outside of the contest. To say it simply, Eurovision for the Americans is like Super Bowl for the Europeans, we watch the show but have no idea what is going on. Eurovision is also a way of healing for Europe, after two great wars on the continent, after the recent political tension with Brexit and especially with COVID – 19, music is undoubtedly the most effective remedy for the mind.

The songs that are presented at the contest have previously been selected in their home countries either through a national televised selection, or through an internal selection. For example, the winner of the Festival of San Remo in Italy qualifies to represent the country in that year’s Eurovision contest. One of the best things about Eurovision is that it permits the entries of both household named stars like ABBA (1974), Toto Cotugno (1990), Helena Paparizou (2005) and Eleni Foureira (2018) just like it allows the discovery of new talents without upper age limit.

the Buranovskiye Babushki from Russia took part to the Eurovision 2012 edition in Baku – Azerbaijan

One of the most confusing aspects of Eurovision however, is the voting system. As explained on the official Eurovision page “Voters [the participating countries] award a set of points from 1 to 8, then 10 and finally 12 to songs from other countries — with the favourite being awarded the now famous douze points[3]”. This year the countries competing were 41.

One of the most interesting rules, however, is that no country can vote for their own song. Despite the clear explications, the rules per se remain a mystery to most of the people that enjoy the show, so the official guidelines remind us that there are 3 shows in total, 2 semi–finals and a Final[4]. In the years, there have been quite a few changes in the rules but one of the most significant changes came in the year 2000 when the rule of the “Big Five” was announced, it granted direct position to the Final of the contest to the five biggest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The “Big Five” are always the same: the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy, and out of courtesy, the country hosting the event that year. The winner of Eurovision takes home a beautiful glass microphone trophy and the honour of hosting the next Eurovision event in their country.

In 2020, the country that was responsible for hosting the music festival was The Netherlands because they won the contest in 2019 when it was held in Israel because they in turn won it in Portugal in 2018 and so on. The country with most wins under its belt is Ireland, with a total of seven wins, followed by Sweden with six and France, the UK, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands – all with 5 wins each.


The Eurovision stage has seen numerous acts during its long history, but there are always some surprises that even though they didn’t win the glass microphone, they stole the public’s hearts, like for example: t.A.T.u with Ne Ver ne boysia (2003), Verka Serduchka with Dancing Lasha Tumbai in 2007, Buranovskiye Babushki – Party For Everybody in 2012, Conchita Wurst – Rise Like a Phoenix in 2014 (although that song did win the contest), Eleni Foureira – Fuego (2018).

In general, the more flamboyant the performance the better and the more extravagant the artist the more likable it will be even though they might not win first place, they’ll surely win the public’s hearts.

There have been several performances that became “trademarks” of Eurovision because there is at least one such act every year, like the pianos on fire and the vampire inspired looks (Cezar – It’s My Life[5], – Under the ladder[6], The Makemakes – I Am Yours[7]). Followed closely by the category of ballads or two teenagers on a first date that inspire many memes on the Internet (Amaya and Alfred – Tu canción[8], Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl – Sebi[9], Ben & Tan – Yes[10], Mørland & Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me [11].

Never the less, there are also two more categories that never fail to snatch the public’s attention, like the artistic rock and metal inspired performances: Lordi – Hard Rock Hallelujah (Finland 2005), Kabat – Mala Dama (Czech Republic 2007), O.Torvald – Time (Ukraine 2017) and of course the most recent, wild, bold and mind-blowing performance of Hatari – Hatrið mun sigra (Iceland 2019).

And the final category is the one where someone sings as if they are chanting spells and summoning a Viking spirit, an Egyptian pharaoh or a furious fairy: KEiiNO – Spirit In The Sky (Norway 2019), Efendi – Cleopatra (Azerbaijan 2020), Oto Nemsadze – Keep On Going (Georgia 2019), Jamala – 1944 (Ukraine 2016), Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankulov – Water (Bulgaria 2007).

Lights, extravagant performances and quality entertainment are at the core of the Eurovision song contest, making each May of the year more interesting and more emotional for the fans and even though this year we won’t live through all the drama of the voting, we can still listen to the entries and keep our spirits up. Because the moment we let COVID-19 affect our minds and not only our bodies, that’s the moment we lose the war, the psychological battle to stay human is just as important as the physical one to persevere, and what could unite us more than the universal language of music?

Evelina Tancheva

[1] Keith Richards




[5] Romanian entry 2013

[6] Ukrainian entry 2018

[7] Austrian entry 2015

[8] Spanish entry 2018

[9] Slovenian entry 2019

[10] Denmark entry 2020

[11] Norwegian entry 2015

The Sky is Blue

No more planes shadow up in the sky.

It’s been a few evenings since I left home on the twilight, and I still notice this unusual lack up there, several kilometres above my head. Even if I lay upside down in the garden, I can’t even see the shadow of planes, niet. It is the 36th day of lockdown, a spring breeze makes me tremble, and even looking up in the sky there seems not to be exciting news.
Plane travels, that fantasy world in which I was first projected almost 15 years ago. I remember it as a dream, as something I had only seen in movies and instead, at that moment, I became the protagonist. With the eyes of a student, that simple attempt to emulate birds and stand as leaders of the Universe was itself the reason for enormous excitement. I passed that journey so happy only a few other times in my life, and I was disappointed when I had to leave that blue and white sphere with the Ryanair writing that stood above my head. Since then, from that Pisa-London Stansted, many leaves have fallen and many trees have grown, as well as many flights I have left behind. I wondered about them the other night while looking at photos of a trip to the Pyrenees. If I’m not mistaken they are almost 200 but my memory, on days like these, could legitimately fail.

A Ryanair aircraft leaving from Sofia airport

Those journeys, those places, those people who within a few years have populated my life and made me grow inside a universe that I could never have imagined in its greatness. If I merge the time I spent travelling and living abroad, I realize how much I have always been in perfect balance between these two worlds. Travelling displayed to me what is beyond my garden, it made me realize dreams and break down prejudices. I learned the languages and customs of peoples with whom I have always felt in harmony, realizing the importance of having one’s own culture, strong, rooted, and being able to share it peacefully with others. I understood that peoples, their customs and their rules, exist, condition us, give us a compass to guide us within the human race, without which it would be difficult to make sense of our steps, define our identity. Who knows what happens now in a deserted Louvain-la Neuve, where the coming and going of students leaves room for an unreal silence. Who knows how the Sevillians are living it, deprived of the most beautiful week in the world, that Semana Santa that only from the photos makes you tremble like the first kiss.

An aereal view over the Spanish region of Castile la Mancha

But among all those places, those people and those cultures, one comes back to me with renewed insistence. Like a dear voice, like a childish caress that drives bad thoughts back. The only place where, paradoxically, Covid-19 has produced negligible effects, given its isolation in Northern Spain.

If I close my eyes, memory travels back a few years, and when I reopen them I always find myself there, in the heart of Biscay, admiring one of the most fascinating hermitages in the world. In these moments San
Juan de Gaztelugatxe comes to mind with all its strength, with the mystical soul that surrounds it. There, where the Atlantic lashes at every hour of the day and night, the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks never stops. The noise of Nature, the silence of the Absolute.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, February 2018

Maybe it’s a signal. Perhaps that of silence is truly teaching. It is the memory of when this Zeitgeist is so pervaded by words, poses, messages, that he ends up closing himself in a Babel where no language is more comprehensible. If we stopped looking obsessively at screens, data and statistics, rising to virologists, climatologists and conspiracy theorists, perhaps we would understand life a little better.

We will know, above all, to love people and not things, to live in terms of what is necessary and not in terms of accessories. We will perhaps live a bit lighter, without needing to always know everything, to take a stand, to scream without even knowing who we are fighting against. How beautiful it would be if in the silence of our intimacies we formed thoughts, words, feelings, without the need to print them, protest them, erect them as a fetish of what we would like to be and from which, conversely, we move inexorably away.
When I focus, I sometimes feel those waves on the Atlantic inside my own, like a mantra that relaxes me and connects me to my heart.

I open my eyes. It’s ten past two.

The coffee is ready, and the pause for my reflections is running out in a few moments. I recover for a moment, and I pretend indifference to the thoughts of a moment ago. I move the curtain and look out the window, before my grey hour of a break from work runs out and sends me back to basic needs.

There are still no aircraft trails. But if I look closely, there is a thinner, almost invisible thread that we are all afraid of pronouncing in our hearts but that stands out well in the space between the clouds and the sky.

That thread is called Hope.

Alessio Vagaggini
Marciano della Chiana, 14/04/2020

The digital trend, live events industry and covid-19

Digitalisation has been embedded in the realization of events for years now, but covid-19 has speeded up and expanded such trend. What is the kind of evolution expected?


                      Locked down in our houses for about two months, we have all experienced the power of the online as – trait d’union -, not only between people but also between people and institutions, services, brands… In brief, during the quarantine, the digitalisation became a sort of glue and a tool for the communication of emotions, ideas, information, goods and services. It became the primary channel of people’s participation to the world, the only possible “place” where to conceive, realize and spread events. Let’s give some examples: gyms started online trainings; delivery services got many more requests; although it is a bit restrained by restrictive measures,  the e-commerce made a leap forward, at least in terms of awareness; public figures and experts of any kind offered free courses; not to mention distant-learning and smart-working. Without neglecting some impactful real time marketing campaigns, such as the digital solidarity[1] offered by the government, the shared screen on Netflix or the remotely-shot Vodafone’ spot. Our daily life has been digitalized and it has turned – I’m taking the freedom to say it – into a sum of events.

However, if we want to speak of events, we should turn our attention to other, more interesting, ones.

We can think of cultural initiatives such as #Prendiamolaconfilosofia[2], a live streaming festival organized by Piano B in collaboration with Tlon that connected Italian and international philosophers and influencers. With the same format they also realized the celebration of the Earth Day and that of the Liberation Day (from Fascism), allowing the intervention of the spectators with an open live webcam[3]. We can also think of the launch of new products in an absolutely innovative and unconventional way as the performance of American rapper, Trevis Scott, for his new single inside the video game Fortnite[4]. Or again: the European Council of 23 April, the celebration of Easter, the tribute of Pesaro musicians to Mirko of the iCamillas band[5] – these are just some of all the events that have been digital reconverted. As a direct and, I would say, predictable consequence of the quarantine, this has led to further consequences in a sort of chain effect that calls for reflection on the future.

the tribute of Pesaro musicians to Mirko of the iCamillas band, who died of Covid-19

April 2020 Digital Report available on We are social aims to give a global overview about the trend of this “digitalisation” (the report is based on surveys carried out in almost all over the world, considering users from 16 to 64 years old[6]). The report highlights the widespread and constantly increasing use of the online with respect to both the number of users and the amount of time spent on devices. Digital activities range from the most popular, such as watching streaming movies and using social networks, to relevant others, such as using messaging platforms and listening to music. Then, there also are gaming, videomaking, podcasting. Concerning contents, the digital feature is closely linked to the possibility of information; nevertheless, some of the most required contents are tutorials, funny videos, memes and replicas of tv shows and sporting events. Interesting is the fact that many users intend to carry on the new behaviours at the end of social distancing, impacting both social relations and the type of entertainment and communication sought and requested.

At the threshold of the “Phase 2″ where it is now clear that no gatherings will be allowed, these data are more important than ever for rework and re-think of events, respecting the rules and satisfying the demand. Taking advantage of the digital trend, it will be necessary to develop a proposal with valid content and tailor-made, engage users and keep costs reduced, preparing for a reversal of the trend of some current behaviours, such as video calling and online spending, and to face greater challenges to the reopening, such as the climate change problem. Creativity and pragmatism will have to guide the creation of new formats – as Live Streaming 24 and Interactive Events 24 of 24OreEvents[7] – and new methods of fruition, in an attempt to plug the problems related to the monetization of digital events and the cancellation of others, such as concerts, impossible to reproduce with compromise solutions. In general, it will tend to maintain the line of social distancing both on the short-term – turning sports into e-sports or promoting branding values instead of the promotional one – and on the long-term – starting to design private live experiences or new contactless methods.

Can all this be enough to let the live events industry survive?

Of course not, even because this industry keeps together many different realities (including cinemas, theatres, exhibition spaces, etc…) with equally different needs. But they have a common element: the live experience, impossible to give through digital tools. The problem arises from the fact that the live experience is still a dream right now. So, what to do while waiting for the reopening but lacking certain dates and official indications to reassure, especially economically, the thousands of workers in this sector?

Data from AstraRicerche, available on ADC Group website, highlight that 30% of events has already been cancelled, 21,5% is at risk to be and only 14% has been postponed. Also, the reopening will not happen before October, provoking a loss of 50% of turnover for 74% of those involved[8].

In this regard, an initiative has been created and promoted by the Club of Events and the Live Communication, Events & Live industry #Italialive[9], which intends to make the voice of the live-events industry heard by the Government[10]. It is, in fact, a strategic sector of the Italian economy that must be valued in all its forms: about 1 million small and big events are organized every year, moving 56.4 million people who participate. Yesterday, 27 April, an open letter has been sent to the Government and signed by all those who joint #ItaliaLive, aiming to suggest and make certain a series of proposals available on their website. In the next weeks, we will see if and when this initiative, largely spread on social media, takes any effect. And now, let’s go to enjoy another live speech on Instagram!

Livia Corbelli

Links to further readings and contents (in Italian):

– music industry move together:

– Marco Jannarelli, Presidente Next Group, on live entertainment industry:

– Salvatore Sagone at SkyTG24 talking about live entertainment industry:


[2] The Italian for “be philosophical”, “take it easy”

[3]  ,

[4] ,







What is the meaning of negative oil prices?

Investors should get used to distortions in the market every time we face a crisis. Going back in time, until the financial crisis in 2008, we learnt that interest rates could not be negative. Why should I lend money if in the future I will receive a smaller amount? The tremendous crisis suffered during that time has altered one of the fundamental laws of economics and, from then on, investors accustomed to the idea of interest rate below zero. The oil crisis has changed another cardinal concept of economics: price must be positive. Who is willing to sell a product paying customers? On the 20th of April, we observed another historical change: the WTI (West Texas Intermediate) futures price[1] of contracts expiring in May turn negative in the evening, touching the level of $-40.32 per barrel of oil. However, the problem principally stemmed from a very technical issue concerning the dynamics of the derivative contracts[2] (we will explain it later). Before going into technicalities, it is necessary to briefly outline the oil price context and pinpoint the macroeconomic background.

Until the outbreak of the coronavirus, in 2019 the daily production of barrels of oil amounted at around 80.6 mln bbl/day (read barrels per day). The United States was the top producer with around 15 mln bbl/day, followed by Saudi Arabia and Russia[3].

With the OPEC+ agreement, extended to other countries, it was decided to cut the oil production of 9.7 mln bbl/day. Still, it was probably not enough to handle the global shock in the demand deriving from flights drop of around 90%, reduction of car traffic, slower production of chemicals products and so on. Indeed, the most essential commodity has been rapidly losing value since the persistent oversupply overcomes the world’s crude tanks, pipelines, and supertankers. The consequence was that the US oil price crashed and for the first time we saw a price below zero. For producer it is more convenient to pay someone to get rid of the barrels of oil rather than either shutting down the production or finding a location where to temporarily store the excessive supply. Most of them are concerned about closing down wells because the inactivity can create some damages, making the business unprofitable for the future. Another crucial detail is that oil is traded with futures contracts with physical delivery[4]. The buyer must take the delivery of the underlying asset in a specific location at expiration (for example, for the WTI, the location is Cushing, Oklahoma). However, in the futures market, there are traders who buy contracts just to speculate on price swings, but they have absolutely no willingness to take physical delivery. In extreme cases of a deep reduction of price, they may decide to look for a place where to store the barrels.

The problem was that the pandemic has created an excessive oversupply which made storage capacity very limited and expensive. Thus, most traders decided to sell at a loss. This is basically the reason why for the first time we saw a negative price on the financial market. It must be pointed out that it was related to the futures contracts expiring in May and that the ones expiring in June did not have the same behavior. We do not have to be very surprised if in the upcoming future we will encounter again in a similar situation. Despite that, the behavior has impacted also June contracts, which lost part of their value, and other types of oils such as Brent. However, being the Brent a seaborne crude, traders were able to ship it around the world in areas with higher demand. In the worst case, companies rent some tankers and fill them waiting for positive periods. Vice versa, for the WTI this solution is more expensive since it is not extracted next to the sea.

We mentioned the two widely used benchmarks in the oil prices, namely Brent and WTI. The main difference between these two types of crude concern composition. Both are classified as sweet light crudes, a term linked to crude oil containing less than 1% sulfur and that are less dense than other crude oils. WTI has a sulfur content of 0.24% while Brent of 0.37%[5]. Moreover, respectively, they count 39,6 and 38 of API gravity[6]. Clearly, another difference regards the extraction location. WTI is extracted from oil fields in the United States, in Texas, Louisiana, and North Dakota and is then transported via pipeline to Cushing, Oklahoma for delivery. Brent crude is extracted from oil fields in the North Sea.

* The chart takes into account future contracts roll over (the maturity of a position is extended forward for the same underlying asset at the current market price). Monthly prices.

The different properties and geographies explain the price differential between Brent and WTI, technically defined as quality spread. Despite that, as we can see from the chart, prices are perfectly correlated[7], and the lack of demand influences all types of oil. The consequences may impact the surrounding multi-billion market.

Oil producers are suffering large losses (the last to report was Eni, with a €2.9 bln loss[8]) putting a strain on liquidity and solvency risk. The plunge in price exposes the weaknesses of the most indebted companies in the US and a potential spillover effect on other sectors must not be excluded. Currently, a large part of high yield bonds is under the distressed area[9] in the Oil&Gas industry. Companies are trying to reduce cash out, cutting for example dividends and new investments, but, if the crises will protract for a longer period, some oil companies will struggle to survive, especially in a deeply oversupplied market. Rating agencies may start the ripple effect by downgrading these companies. In the future, if many firms will be rated in the non-investment grade area, the new debt issuance might be costly and complicated in a period of credit restrictions.

Unfortunately, the first way to remain competitive on a market with compressed demand is to lay off workers, radically the fastest way to reduce costs and survive in a very turbulent market. Oil price is also the main towing to maintain inflation in a positive area. With a so cheap price, we may expect a possible deflation or very low inflation. The Wall Street Journal has analyzed the possible spillover effects of the oil crisis highlighting that the Real Estate sector is already suffering in Houston due to the oil crisis. Furthermore, some banks, mainly the ones close to the extraction area, lent an important portion of their capital to Oil&Gas companies which now are very close to default (there are more than one thousand producers and most of them are relatively small). Credit Default Swaps[10], a sort of insurance that investors try to obtain against the failure of a company, on oil firms have exponentially widened their spread providing a very negative signal about financial stability. Likewise, bid-ask spread on corporate bonds, an indicator of market liquidity, has widened. Trading has become more difficult since liquid instruments have transformed into illiquid instruments.

The plight to have a domino effect is real, people do not have to underestimate the financial crisis that the oil price might trigger. The failure of some companies in this industry might generate some troubles for other sectors. The default risk is imminent, and oil producers, together with government, must take unidirectional action to support prices because, at the current state, it is risky for the entire economy. Possible effects? credit contraction, unemployment, defaults, deflation, and finally recession.

[1] Agreement to trade an underlying asset at a predetermined price and time



[4] It differs from the cash settlement where it is only transferred the net cash position.

[5] The lower the sulfur content the ‘sweeter’ the oil and the easier it is to refine

[6] The gravity of the oils is rated on a scale from 10 to 70, where the higher the number the less dense the oil.



[9] Financial distress is a situation in which a firm is not able to meet its financial obligations, it might unable to payback its debt or just a portion of it


Lights and shadows of the Asian Giant: Human Rights in China

The human rights situation in the People’s Republic of China is still today extremely controversial. Despite the economic openness and reforms of recent years, many international human rights associations continue to brand the Chinese legal system as “arbitrary, corrupt and unable to provide the proper safeguard” due to the numerous violations of international norms. [1]

The Coronavirus emergency has underlined even more clearly the existing flaws in terms of protection of fundamental rights, exposing China to the inquiring gaze of the international community. As stated by Nicholas Bequelin, Director of Amnesty International for Asia, the measures launched by Beijing against the virus inevitably implied the limitation of important fundamental rights: the right to healthcare, first of all, in terms of free access to medical care, information and freedom from medical treatment without consent. Moreover, freedom from arbitrary arrests, freedom of movement and expression. [2] In the weeks of the crisis, in fact, Wuhan’s medical staff complained about the shortage of resources for managing the increasing infections. Local media told about patients rejected by many hospitals because of lack of beds, medical facilities without access to basic diagnostic tests, people unable to reach hospitals quickly due to the halt of public transport. Moreover, local media reported the impossibility of taking out of the home the bodies of people who died of the virus. [3]  These issues, it is important to underline, have pointed out the fragility of all the countries affected by this health emergency, including Italy. What weighs further on China, however, is a political dimension that has often exposed the leadership to accusations of lacking transparency and mystification attempts. The closedown imposed on many metropolises, starting from the Hubei province, has been accompanied by draconian measures such as stringent control systems, mandatory filing of citizens and censorship of destabilizing news. People who have tried to share information about the Coronavirus have been targeted by the authorities: a symbolic case is that of the doctor Li Wenliang, the first who launched the alarm, accused of having “spread false information on the web“.[4] As Bequelin states “Censor legitimate information in newspapers or on the social media is not functional to any public health objective (…) limiting freedom of information and suppressing free debate in the name of stability has serious risks and can be very counterproductive“.[5]                                                                       

Chongqing, south-west China, photo by Antonella Iavazzo

The absence of a democratic system and effective human rights’ protection in China seems to be a consequence of the so-called “Chinese specificity”, aspects of the traditional political culture and national civilization. [6]  This has been also highlighted by the scholar Antonio Cassese, according to whom Socialist countries do not consider human rights to be inherent to individuals nor to pre-exist the State, human rights are granted by the State who can, therefore, limit them if necessary. [7] This cultural influence, combined with the Maoist heritage that still weighs on the country, show us up that the legal protection of human rights in China is a relatively recent phenomenon. Until the 1980s, in fact, judicial activity was carried out arbitrarily by the Red Guards and revolutionary committees, strenuously following the imperative of “politics first” and “supporting the leadership of the Party“.[8] The same expression “human rights” (renquan) 人权 had a derogatory connotation, as an expression of the capitalist ideology used in the West to mask the exploitation of man by man. [9] Only the gradual liberalization and openness inaugurated since 1978 has encouraged the leadership to respond more appropriately to the need for human rights protection. From the regulatory point of view, Beijing has made clear efforts to adapt its laws and ensure increasing respect and protection of these rights, as they are recognized by the international community of which China is a full member. [10] The 1982 Constitution, for example, guarantees citizens a wide variety of political, personal, economic, social, and cultural rights. In 2004, art. 33 of the Constitution was amended with the addition of the paragraph “the State respects and protects human rights” and, in 2010, the publication of the first National Human Rights Action Plan sanctioned the principle of universality of human rights. At the same time, China has joined numerous international Conventions regarding thorny matters such as torture, minors’ and workers’ rights. [11]                                                                                                                             

Chongqing, south-west China, photo by Antonella Iavazzo

The signs of progress that have been made, however, cannot hide the fact that the protection and exercise of these freedoms remain extremely limited, not only because of the vague definitions of these rights but also due to the inclusion of numerous exceptions. As clarified by art. 51, in China the exercise of citizens’ rights and freedoms is conditioned by the collective interest. Human rights, in practice, are not considered in absolute terms but concerning the growth and well-being of the community, especially in areas susceptible to strong tensions where the public interest is a priority over that of individuals. [12] Regarding the Convention against Torture, for example, although the Chinese leadership has strengthened the prohibition of torture also providing sanctions for possible abuses, an absolute definition of the concept of torture is still missing. This allows the possibility of easily limiting these rights in favor of maintaining internal order and stability. [13]  The Amnesty International 2017/2018 annual report illustrates the Chinese authorities’ continued tightening of their power of dissent and censorship through the formulation and application of new national security laws. The establishment of civil society organizations still clashes with the strict limits placed on associative activities. In January 2017, the new law on the management of foreign NGOs authorized non-registered NGOs’ ban of their bank accounts, the sale of their spaces and the detention of their staff, without any kind of protection for privacy, freedom of expression and against arbitrary detention. Also, many activists have been repressed by the Chinese government:  they have been arrested or convicted of “subversion of state power” and subjected to torture and ill-treatment during detention. [14]                                                                                                                                                                

Chongqing, south-west China, photo by Antonella Iavazzo

The leadership also exercises extensive control over every aspect of religious practice: the organization and worship of unrecognized religions are violently repressed. The 2018s has encouraged a revision of rules and regulations on religious issues, to limit “infiltrations and extremism”: religious minorities such as the Tibetan Lamaist and Uyghur Muslim, although been recognized, are subject to severe restrictions due to their potential connection with the separatist currents in the Tibet and Xinjiang provinces. [15] Talking about freedom of expression, the Party’s strict control over information is well-known, thousands of websites and social networks are still blocked, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Since 2017, China has been conducted an inquiry on the main internet service providers such as Tencent’s Wechat, Sina Weibo and Baidu’s Tieba, identifying on their platforms user accounts that “disseminated information dangerous for national, public and social order security“.[16]  Even about personal freedom and dignity, the main idea is that personal choices must give way to the public interest. An example is the right to reproduction, severely limited by the “one-child” policy which imposes a duty on couples to practice family planning, punishes off-plan births with financial penalties and takes advantage of instruments of psychological and social pressure. Even Chinese criminal law remains characterized by vague rules strictly connected to political control, such as crimes of opinion, chimes against State secrets or those generically defined “against public safety and the Socialist economic order of the market”.[17] The Chinese leadership still continues to conceal the real extent of the use of the death penalty.

This reflection shows that Chinese citizens’ subjective autonomy has grown enormously compared to the past. As a leading actor in the international community, China is willing to search for shared solutions and to become more familiar with the protection of human rights and the ethical assumptions underlying them. However, limits exist to this adaptation process: tools of power management that the Chinese leadership considers indispensable, despite contrasting with human rights. These trends, although explained according to the priority of national order and stability, demonstrate that there is still a long way to go before the full affirmation of the human rights and the consequent abolition of the death penalty.

written by Antonella Iavazzo







[7] Cassese Antonio, I diritti umani oggi, Economica Laterza, Bari, 2009.












EU needs a joint reaction against the covid crisis

The covid-19 pandemic hit Europe violently. The new coronavirus, which infected the first human in the Chinese region of Hubei, is changing our lives, subverting the political and economic framework. In the initial phase, the response of the European countries was scarcely coordinated and, often, late. The impact of the virus has been particularly severe in the economically most developed regions: Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto in Italy; the Community of Madrid and Catalonia in Spain; the region of Paris, Ile de France; Bavaria, North Rhine Westphalia and Baden Württemberg in Germany; the Stockholm’s county in Sweden; Flanders in Belgium. Inevitably, the deep integration among the economies of the various EU countries was also an efficient vehicle of transmission for the virus. In absence of a joint strategy for the reopening, at European level, the risk of new spreading of the infections through these paths will be even higher in the next weeks.


Here you can see the diffusion of the virus on the interactive map


The most affected countries, Italy and Spain, have adopted very strict measures. They allowed to continue to carry out the production only to the companies producing essential goods and services or involved in strategic activities for the management of the crisis. On the other hand, the majority of EU countries chose a softer lockdown, closing commercial business in contact with the public, leaving most of the production companies open[1]. However, these restrictions, necessary to reduce the sanitary emergency, risk to undermine the European economy. The dimension of the crisis will diverge country by country. Indeed, the strictness of the measures, the direct and indirect damages of the epidemic and the financial capacity of each country to support its economy will make the difference. A precise and punctual intervention from the State is needed, providing the required liquidity to make it through the crisis.


The necessity to finance the spending with debt and its critical issues.


The main sources of financing for a State are taxation and the issuance of bonds on the markets. In the midst of a pandemic, a short-term increase in taxation is not a sustainable tool. The objective is to safeguard firms and to keep the productive and economic system alive. Instead, it is inevitable to increase the public debt to reduce the impact that an announced economic recession will have on every citizen’s life. As they demand loans on the markets to finance their spending, the States issue debt securities. Like any other loan, also government bonds embed the market risk – a reduction in the market value of the bond may cause losses to the holder – and, in extreme cases, the risk that the capital lent will not be completely reimbursed.
Generally, the more investors – banks, financial institutions, pension funds and households – will find it likely that the loan will not pay off, the more they will demand a high yield for the risk they are bearing. At the same time, the cost of the debt for the State will increase as the risk perception of the investors increases. Political and economic events together with the amount of debt outstanding affect the finances of the States. Moreover, they influence also the investors’ expectations and bond yields. A typical unit to measure the risk on public debt is the spread between a safe asset – usually in EU the reference is the German bund – and another government bond. Besides, to evaluate the dimension of a public debt it is common to use the Debt/GDP ratio (this topic was also discussed here).

The current situation of Public debt in the main EU countries;jsessionid=3EE7A0FCAD10FF1B716097B51DEA188E

It seems clear that the European States are not all in the same condition. Spain and Italy currently are facing the hardest consequences from the pandemic, but they are also the States with the highest debt. In the last years Italian GDP grew slowly[2], and its debt reached 134% of GDP in 2018[3]. Similarly, Spain had a Debt/GDP ratio equal to 97.6%[4] in the same year. However, recently Spanish GDP had a consistent growth, 2% in 2019 and an average growth of 2.8% per year since 2015[5]. Nonetheless, before the financial crisis in 2007 Spain had a debt/GDP ratio equal to 35%[6]. The huge increase in debt due to the crisis forced the Spanish government to reduce the public spending and to enforce several additional reforms to increase its competitiveness and maintain the possibility to raise funds issuing debt on the markets.


Therefore, Spain and Italy are caught in the crossfire. On one side they are facing an unprecedented sanitary crisis, on the other they have to spend massive amount of money for the reconstruction of their economies. In addition, they may not be able to benefit of cheap borrowing on the markets.


Already as 21st April, the yield on 10 years Italian government bond (BTP) was 2.02%[7]. The equivalent yield on Spanish bonds was 0.97%[8]. As a comparison, it is interesting to see that the yield on 10-years German bonds is negative, equal to -0.481%[9]. Germany had a Debt/GDP ratio of 61.9%[10] in 2018. While, Netherlands has a yield of -0,177%[11] and France has 0.06%[12]. Following the increase of these debts, also the related yields will grow. The cost of financing will increase for all the EU countries, but this effect will be much bigger for the States that already have a high debt.;jsessionid=3EE7A0FCAD10FF1B716097B51DEA188E


The debate about the EU measures against the crisis


The sanitary crisis is a global emergency. In front of covid-19, there is no virtuous country, nor vicious. It makes no sense to blame the most affected countries with moral judgements. This crisis is symmetric, differently from the financial crisis of 2008. Notwithstanding, its impact and the timing will be different country by country. Since the beginning of the emergency, there has been a hard debate in the EU. The two factions were the supporters of a joint issuance of debt as common response to the crisis – among them Italy, Spain, France – and the opponents – among them Germany and Netherlands. At least in the initial phase, the opponents, confident on their ability to face the economic crisis on their own, were available to help the other countries only under strict conditions. Their proposal involved rigid rules on the repayment of the public debt and on the duration of the loans – European Stability Mechanism (ESM) with enhanced conditions credit lines.
Meanwhile, the European institutions gave their support to the most damaged countries with the specific Pandemic Emergency Purchasing Programme (PEPP) of the European Central Bank (ECB). So far, this intervention allowed to all the countries to maintain a low yield rates on their bonds. This is especially true for Italian BTP. Additionally, EU allocated other 540 billion euro to support the economy (more info here). Unfortunately, the dimension of the crisis requires further interventions. Issuing common debt – Eurobond or European recovery bonds – to finance the economic reconstruction can be the correct solution. Eurobonds would allow to the countries in difficulty to borrowing low cost from the market, making a step further in the European integration process.


Why a joint intervention is in the interest of the whole EU?


It’s not only a matter of European solidarity. Facing a recession of Eurozone GDP estimated as 7.5% by the IMF[14], no one is stable. There are not solid countries and individualism is not a feasible option. Furthermore, the European Union is a supranational organization that has shared for many years the benefit of being an open economic area. Freedom of movement for workers, goods and capital generated an interdependence among the member States. This is also confirmed looking at the destination countries for the export of Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany and Italy in the figures below.;jsessionid=3EE7A0FCAD10FF1B716097B51DEA188E

The export is a fundamental component of the GDP for all the countries above. Especially for Netherlands that accrued an export/GDP ratio of 82.5% in 2019. Instead, Germany had a export/GDP of 46,9%[15]. Analysing the destination of this export it is extremely evident that the biggest share is directed to other EU countries. Italy is the fifth country for the percentage of goods and services received by the Netherlands and the sixth for Germany. While, Spain is the seventh destination country by dimension of export for Netherlands and the eleventh for Germany. Moreover, Germany and Netherlands are also destination of a significant share of Italian and Spanish export[16].

The European economies are deeply connected. Now it’s time for the European leaders to find an agreement for common and strong measures against the crisis. It will take time. It may require changes in the treaties and the EU budget has to be increased with additional contribution from every single country. This is in the interest of all the member States. Otherwise, the economic crisis will follow the same paths as the epidemic. The risks are an economic depression and the rise to the power of Eurosceptic parties, which may lead to the end of the European project.


Michele Corio



































EU and the virus: what did actually happen?

Dear readers, at this moment in history it is very difficult to keep a clear head and analyse facts with reason. It is difficult not to be influenced by natural concerns, which in some cases evolve into real family dramas. However, I believe that, today even more than yesterday, it is necessary to make a critical effort and evaluate the facts outside of rhetoric or, even worse, propaganda.

Italy’s relationship with the European Union in these weeks of health emergency has been severely questioned and Eurosceptics are on the rise [1]. Undoubtedly Europe plays a fundamental role in the society in which we live, as well as in the political and economic current affairs of our beautiful country, whether we like it or not [2].

©️ Comitato Ventotene
Italy export worth 533 billions €, of these 52% is towards EU, 2% Russia, 3% China, 5% UK, 9% USA, 20% other countries, 9% towards countries that have commercial agreements with EU

Since the beginning of the crisis, the European Union has responded in a fragmented and inconsistent fashion. For this reason, last Thursday the President of the European Commission publicly apologized to Italy on the behalf of the European Union as a whole. A powerful as much as a necessary political gesture. In the last two months, there have been unpleasant episodes, not up to a Union whose founding values are respect and solidarity between peoples. Let us think of the case of the medical devices blocked at the border by Germany and France, the unfortunate phrase Mrs. Lagarde said that sent the FTSE MIB index nosedive, or the inappropriate comments from the Dutch Finance Minister [3]. It is clear that the European Union project is still far from being completed.

In the same way, however, we cannot forget everything that has been done at the European level to help Italy and how much is now under study. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the EU has proposed the suspension of the Stability Pact and it has given the green light to state aid. Both initiatives have been widely approved by the Eurogroup. Moreover, the European Central Bank has launched the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme for an amount of 750 billion euros, substantially lowering interest rates [4] on Italian treasury bonds. In addition, the re-use of unused European funds in 2019 has been authorised, freeing up a fund of 37 billion for businesses in the fight against the virus. All this while Germany started receiving Covid-19 patients in its hospitals, taking care of transportation, and becoming the first country in the world to help the Lombardy region (even before many other Italian regions). Sure, an airplane with the Chinese flag printed on the side is more impressive, but the EU has never been very good at communication (perhaps because of the bad memories that propaganda evokes among its Member States).

Picture by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0 The European Parliament in Strasbourg

Let’s now turn to the proposals that are being prepared and the negotiations underway in Brussels.

On 9 April, the Eurogroup approved a coordinated response at the European level for about 540 billion, with the commitment to implement a Recovery Fund for the future economic restart which would amount to about another 500 billion once this first phase is over. The first tranche of aid approved is divided into 200 billion for companies to be disbursed through the European Investment Bank, 240 billion through the European Stability Mechanism (with the only condition of being spent on the health emergency) and 100 billion of a European fund to support workers who risk losing their jobs (the SURE fund). Once we sum these instruments to the responses taken at the national level by individual member states, we obtain an amount of 430 billion in fiscal stimulus and 2,240 billion in liquidity injections [5].

As Adriana Cerretelli writes on -Il Sole 24, April 15th edition- “In simple terms, this means that Europe is ready to help Italy with 80-82 billion in loans from the EIB (20), Sure (15), unused structural funds (10-11) and Mes (36, with savings of 1.5 billion interest rates). All of this while waiting for the European relaunch plan which, with or without Eurobonds, it is known that it will take time to build. Hard not to call it solidarity.”

But let us return for a moment to the instruments agreed by the Eurogroup. Last April 17, the European Parliament approved both the Recovery Fund and a new credit line of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), while it was said no to the Corona Bonds. As Carlo Cottarelli points out in the press, these instruments (SURE and EIB loans included) are all based on a concept very similar to that of the Corona Bond. That is, the disbursement of common debt, guaranteed by a fund made available jointly by all Member States, basically a mutualisation of debt. This is also written black and white by the Italian Office of the European Parliament [6].

Last Friday’s vote is also important for another reason. With its vote against Corona Bonds, the League party has made its position clear before the eyes of the Italian electorate. After weeks of bitter controversy over the ESM, the League refuted any doubt that the problem is not the ESM, but solidarity within the European Union. For a certain kind of rhetoric to continue, the EU must show no signs of solidarity. Not even if such gestures are directed towards our country. Unfortunately, the idea of blaming Europe for all Italian evils and the nostalgia for a weak currency, which would be catastrophic for Italy at this time, remain very much in vogue among many Italian voters – and the two main opposition parties are well aware that such beliefs must not be contradicted -. Their political future would be at stake. Be very well aware, dear readers, of alleged economists who call for a return to monetary sovereignty and at the same time speculate on the condition of political instability in our beautiful country, perhaps while they are in government [7].

To save itself from this health emergency, which is quickly turning into an economic drama, Italy must instead hope for a stronger, more supportive and more united Europe. Within this European Union we not only have our shoulders covered by a central bank that is doing our interests and a single market that will soon allow us to return exporting without duties and customs, but also, and above all, the political and economic support of 26 other friendly countries thanks to which we can jointly face the difficulties we are facing. Of course, some of these countries are not living up to the enormous crisis that has hit us. That is why we hope that we will continue to work towards the development and profound renewal of the European Union, which is an enormous guarantee for the well-being of all of us citizens. We should probably take as an example the 136 teams of international researchers who, funded by the EU, are joining their forces in trying to synthesize a vaccine against the virus.

I do not know what will be decided at the European Council on the 23rd, but I know for certain what to hope for.

Giovanni Sgaravatti

Chronicle of the EU and its approach to the coronavirus

  • On January 29th the first two cases of Coronavirus were reported in Italy (in Rome)
  • On 21 February, the first cases of local broadcasting (from people who had not recently travelled to China) were recorded
  • On March 4, the painful threshold of the first 100 deaths is crossed
  • On 6 March at an extraordinary European Council the Italian Minister of Health denounced some countries, including France and Germany, to prevent the export of health equipment
  • On 6 March the EU announces a package of 140 million, of which 47.5 million for 17 research projects involving 136 teams of scientists focussed on the development of a vaccine and 50 million for Italian companies producing medicinal products
  • On 9 March the Prime Minister signed the decree (Dpcm) “I stay at home”, asking all Italian citizens not to leave their homes except for compelling reasons
  • On 10 March the EU allocates a 25 billion euro fund to counter the emergency (10 billion SURE guarantee).
  • On March 11 the President of the European Commission publicly condemned the behaviour of some Member States to restrict the free movement of goods and in a video she addressed the European citizens saying “Today we are all Italians”.
  • On March 11 China sends a team of doctors to Italy
  • On 12 March Lagarde says that it is not within the ECB’s mandate to decrease spreads (the Italian spread soars)
  • On 13 March, the European Commission announces 37 billion in public investment using EU structural funds
  • On 15 March, the single market returns to be a de-facto single market again and shipments are allowed to transit freely
  • On 16 March the Eurogroup meeting happens online
  • On 16 March the “Cura Italia” was approved, with which the government authorized 25 billion in debt to deal with the emergency
  • On March 17, the USA NGO Samaritan’s Purse installs a field hospital in Cremona with 60 beds, 8 of which are equipped for intensive care and 60 doctors and health personnel
  • On 18 March the European Central Bank launches the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme for an amount of 750 billion euros (the spread returns to normal levels)
  • On 19 March, the European Investment Bank announced that it was working on a pan-European investment plan worth 250 billion euro for companies and especially SMEs. The underlying guarantee should be a fund of 25 billion euro
  • On March 20, the Stability Pact is suspended
  • On March 22, the government closes all non-essential production activities
  • On March the 22nd, 52 Cuban doctors land in Malpensa
  • March 24th, Germany is the first country in the world to receive COVID-19 Italian patients
  • 24 March, the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs confirms that the member states that will be able to use European funds to deal with the emergency 
  • March the 25th, China sends 30 lung ventilators, 20 sets of health monitors, 3,000 protective suits, 300,000 masks (plus another 20,000 of type N95) and 3,000 face shields
  • On March 26, 120 doctors, equipment and pharmaceutical products and 122 military personnel arrive from Russia. A journalist from “La Stampa” is later threatened by a spokesman of the Russian Ministry of Defence via Twitter for an inquiry into the type of aid granted and the reasons behind it
  • On 26 March the European Council meets to put in place a joint fiscal response to the pandemic. The first opponent of this response is the Netherlands, whose Finance Minister asks why countries like Spain cannot respond independently after 7 years of economic growth in the eurozone. The Portuguese Prime Minister will label the phrase as “repugnant”
  • On March 27, French President Macron gives a series of interviews to Italian newspapers where he publicly sides with Spain and Italy in favour of the Corona Bonds
  • March 28th Von Der Leyen gives an interview to the German newspaper DPA where he defines the Corona Bonds a slogan
  • 29 March, Albania sends a medical-health team to Italy to reciprocate gestures of solidarity of the past
  • On 2 April the European Commission formally proposes the SURE, a 100 billion euro fund to support unemployment caused by the emergency.
  • 8 April, Mauro Ferrari leaves the European Research Centre
  • April 8th, Schroder opens Eurobonds
  • 9 April, the Eurogroup agrees on the measures to be taken (ESM, SURE, EIB, Recovery Fund)
  • 10 April, Conte announces that Italy will be locked-down until the 3rd of May
  • On 17 April, the European Parliament approves the Recovery Fund and the new ESM credit line, no to Coronabonds

[1] Coronavirus: Is Europe losing Italy?

[2] Economics – Let us trade



[5] Economia | Commissione europea)


[7] Italy’s Top Euroskeptic Made Hefty Profit From Salvini’s Bad Bet

Further readings

Riprende l’export di mascherine verso l’Italia: Germania e Francia costrette a piegarsi alla Ue


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