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Covid-19 in Southern Europe: lessons from Italy and Spain

When the coronavirus outbreak hit Europe in early 2020, Italy and Spain were the first countries facing a serious health crisis. Images of overcrowded hospitals and lockdowns in Lombardy, Catalonia and Madrid symbolised the initial stages of the pandemic outside China and would soon be followed by similar scenes in various parts of the world, including the UK.

This Aston Centre for Europe and Foreign Policy Centre webinar will explore the question: what lessons can we learn from responses to Covid-19 in the two largest nations of Southern Europe? Identifying what has worked and what has not in their territorial approach to crisis management, with the aim to contribute to current policy debates in the UK.

Among the two countries’ key characteristics, one is particularly striking: they both rely on a regionalised system of governance, which significantly affects the way healthcare is managed and delivered. The difficulties experienced by Italy and Spain in the first phases of the crisis seem to provide evidence against decentralisation, particularly in its more ‘uncoordinated’ form. Generally, the pandemic has reopened discussions focusing on the distribution of authority between national and sub-national governments. Similarly, in the UK there is no clear consensus on how state functions should be allocated across different territorial levels. Tensions between devolved administrations and Westminster – but also between ‘combined authorities’ and central government in England – highlight the importance of centre-periphery relations in dealing with social and economic shocks.

Additionally, the two Mediterranean countries offer lessons on the political implications of socio-economic crises and austerity. In both contexts, different forms of populism have emerged and strengthened over the last decade, partly as a result of the Great Recession. Madrid and Rome have also been among the most vocal supporters of a recovery fund aimed at helping the whole EU bloc cope with the devastating economic implications of the pandemic. This raises important questions on how pressures coming from more vulnerable member states will affect European integration and the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

Listen to an audio recording of the event here and you can watch the video of the event here.

When November 18, 2020 4:30-6:00pm

The event will take place on Zoom.


Alberto Costa MP, Chair of the APPG on Italy

Dr. Peter Lachman, CEO of ISQua

Dr. Micaela La Regina, Clinical Risk Management at La Spezia public Hospital

Juan Luis Sánchez, Co-founder of El Diario

Dr Davide Vampa, Lecturer at the Aston Centre for Europe

Chair: Adam Hug, Director of the Foreign Policy Centre

Listen to an audio recording of the event here.


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