Blog - Connecting Ideas

Striving to understand the interconnected world we live in.


Response to COVID-19 Shows the European Union’s Commitment to Regional Cooperation


After initial slow reaction to the outbreak of COVID-19, the European Union (EU) has adopted a number of important measures to help contain the spread, support national health systems, and counter negative social and economic impacts of the pandemic. Yana Brovdiy delves into the "Team Europe" package and how, through its engagement with the EU's regional partners and neighbours, it demonstrates the Union's commitment to regional cooperation. 

Regionalism Under Stress: Europe and Latin America in Comparative Perspective


It is a time of great stress for regionalism in Latin America and Europe, exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis. Detlef Nolte and Brigitte Weiffen compare the stress factors facing both regions and explore how resilient they are to the strengthening forces of disintegration.

The Challenge of COVID-19 and the Need for Meaningful Inclusion


As confinement becomes a passing memory, and the dramatic nature of the situation we have undergone in the past few months fades, Orsolya Gulyás, Trisha Meyer, Diāna Potjomkina and Jamal Shahin ask questions about how our societies react to crisis and how we interact as individuals during these moments.  

COVID-19 in Pakistan: Reality Presents Opportunities


Pakistan is one of the countries where COVID-19 is currently wreaking havoc. As the number of cases increase exponentially and further burden systems, an opportunity to strengthen healthcare and public health approaches emerges with a call for better regional coordination in managing current and future outbreaks, argue Zoha Anjum and Ayak Wel

The EU and the UN: Partners for a Purpose


Fresh from his address to the UN Security Council, Josep Borrell argues that, with the stress on multilateralism exacerbated by COVID-19, the world needs a Security Council able to take the necessary decisions and not one that is paralysed by vetoes and political infighting, so multilateralism can deliver results for the people who need it most. 

COVID-19 and Its Effect on Conflict-Affected and Displaced Women: The Sudanese Case


The risk to women in conflict-affected countries is at an all-time high. Ikhlas Mahmoud looks at the case in Sudan, where women, already suffering from issues related to poverty and vulnerability caused by violence and conflicts in their communities, are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 as they simply often cannot comply with health instructions that prevent the spread of the disease, and offers a set of recommendations to help protect some of those must vulnerable.  

The COVID-19 Crisis and Regional Organisations: More Money, More Problems?


Despite the evident transnational dimension of Covid-19, most regional organisations across the world are struggling to emerge as key actors in the current crisis. Frank Mattheis looks at how, despite nation states jumping the gun, regional organisations might come out of the Covid-19 crisis with enhanced powers and resources, but warns more money may equal more problems.

What Role for the EU in a Post-COVID-19 Central Asia: On the Way Out or Right Back In?


The EU’s chequered response to COVID-19 has not only been detrimental for its image inside the bloc, but also externally, with a heavy toll to be paid in terms of its declining appeal abroad. Fabienne Bossuyt looks at the case of Central Asia, where both Russia and China were quick to position themselves as forces for good in fighting the pandemic, and puts forward the two options the EU has to maintain or increase its influence in the region post-COVID-19.  

Key Messages: COVID-19 and Informal Settlements


The COVID-19 pandemic will hit the world’s most vulnerable people the hardest, including the one billion people living in informal settlements and slums worldwide. This piece from UN Habitat outlines measures to build the resilience of informal settlements and slums to protect against the pandemic.

We Go Digital: The South Korean Case and Sustainable Digital Transformations


South Korea’s use of digital technology in the fight against COVID-19 has fostered great debate, drawing both criticism, for its privacy implications, and praise, for its effectiveness. JeongHyun Lee takes a closer look at the technologies used and asks how the digital transformation accelerated by COVID-19 can be sustainable in the long run.

Disrupted Latin American Integration: Challenges to Business as a Result of COVID-19


The full impact of COVID-19 in Latin America will not be known for some time yet, but there is one certainty – inequality will grow. Irma Vásquez, Nicol Cárdenas and Daniela Acuña delve into two of the big issues regarding business in the region, the informal economy and the capacity for innovation.

Hammer or Nudge? International Policy Options for COVID-19


While COVID-19 has seen scientific facts and evidence catch the ears of national policymakers, business leaders and the general public, over time it has become clear that  many of the science-based policies used to contain COVID-19 are first and foremost based on ‘hypotheses’. Luc Soete looks at the science-based policy advice during the pandemic and whether a ‘hammer’ or a ‘nudge’ is the best tool in this crisis.  

Is Lockdown the Same, Everywhere, For Everyone?


While a third of the global population is under lockdown because of COVID-19, the effects of these unprecedented measures are not uniform across countries. Rossella Marino looks at how the lockdown is affecting the Gambia, a nation that has a largely informal economic system and a heavy reliance on tourism, putting this new democracy to the political test and potentially driving more Gambians to migrate further afield.  


Will the COVID-19 Crisis Herald the End of Neoliberal Globalisation and the European Union’s Free Trade Doctrine?


Not so fast, write Jan Orbie and Ferdi De Ville. Neoliberal globalisation’s death has been announced during many crises over the past decades, only to come out unscathed, or even reinforced. Although neoliberalism is (again) challenged, its resilience cannot be underestimated, and the alternatives might not be as progressive and emancipatory as deglobalisation advocates have in mind. 


Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way: The Case for Greater Cooperation between Russia and the EU in Central Asia


The European Union and Russia may seem strange bedfellows in Central Asia given the ongoing geopolitical rivalry between them. However, as they both share an interest in a stable, prosperous and secure Central Asia, and have very complementary expertise and capabilities in areas in which they are both already active, Fabienne Bossuyt argues that there is significant opportunity for cooperation, and the underlying will to make it happen. 

East Asia and Pacific: Countries Must Act Now to Mitigate Economic Shock of COVID-19


The virus that triggered a supply shock in China has now caused a global shock and significant economic pain seems unavoidable in all countries. A new report from the World Bank looks at how countries in East Asia and the Pacific must take action now – including urgent investments in healthcare capacity and targeted fiscal measures – to mitigate some of the immediate impacts.  


COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Drives Sub-Saharan Africa Toward First Recession in 25 Years


Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to fall sharply from 2.4% in 2019 to -2.1 to -5.1% in 2020 due to COVID-19, the first recession in the region over the past 25 years. A new report from the World Bank provides analysis of the issues shaping Africa’s economic future. 


RIKS: A Forthcoming Structured Introduction to the Regional Bowls of Spaghetti  


For those unfamiliar with the “spaghetti bowls” that are Free Trade Agreements, navigating between various regional formats might seem challenging. This is where, argues Zane Šime, the forthcoming Regional Integration Knowledge System (RIKS) platform will come in handy, serving as a promising springboard for a deeper dive into the intricacies of multilateral consultations and collaboration. 


COVID-19: An Opportunity for Regional Cooperation in Latin America?


Health has long been defined as a policy problem to be addressed at the regional level by MERCOSUR, with COVID-19 set to put its past successes to the test. Andrea Bianculli examines the history of regional health governance in the region and why COVID-19 is more than just an opportunity for cooperation in Latin America.


The EU and the Unravelling of the World Order in Times of the COVID-19 Pandemic


Although one cannot predict what the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be on the world economy and on the geopolitical situation, at a minimum it will have profound effects overtime on the way the world is politically, economicaly and socially organised. Richard Higgott and Luk Van Langenhove posit that this could well be the tipping point that will eventually change the current world order, and Europe and the EU must be better prepared.



The Sobering Reality of Unpredicted Scenarios: COVID-19, Health and Regional Politics in Latin America


While the state still exercises undoubted and indisputable regulatory power over public health decisions and over societies within their own territorial limits, the scope and implications of health crises, as manifested in the COVID-19 pandemic, are and will be a cross-border and global problem. Pia Riggirozzi looks at how this crisis is being tackled across Latin America, and the tension between national and regional responses.   



“Not our problem…”: Building International Resilience for Refugee Protection


As the COVID-19 pandemic sends shockwaves across the world and as countries continue to shut down borders, ban visitors from highly infected countries and suspend flights, refugees caught up in overcrowded camps should be at the heart of the fight against the virus. Anicée Van Engeland and Sherine El Taraboulsi-McCarthy examine how we can enforce the right to health for the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Irresistible Rise of Health Diplomacy: Why Narratives Matter in the Time of COVID-19


As planes with medical supplies arrive "from Russia with love" and Cuban doctors touch down in Italy, the building of post-COVID-19 narratives has already begun. Domenico Valenza takes a closer look at the rise of health diplomacy, its history, and what High Representative of the EU Josep Borrell calls a “struggle for influence through spinning and the politics of generosity”.


Trade Policy and the Fight Against the Coronavirus


Beyond the terrible loss of life, the economic impact of the coronavirus will be dramatic and long-lasting. Oscar Guinea and Iacopo Monterosa look at what trade policy can do to support the fight against the coronavirus, beginning with removing the restrictions and tariffs that delay the purchase of medical equipment and make them more expensive.


When China Sneezes, Asia Catches a Cold


There is no doubt that the economic effects of China’s measures to tackle the coronavirus will ripple across the Asia-Pacific region. Mia Mikic, Jeong Ho Yoo, Richard Sean Lobo and Pedro Romao from UNESCAP examine which countries in the region may be most affected, and posit how in an environment of increasing protectionism and isolationism, COVID-19 is set to become a stress test to both China’s role in the global economy and the way in which nations cooperate to respond to external shocks.


Yes, Crises Do Happen: A Plea for Feeling More Vulnerable After COVID-19


Facing up to the surreal and unprecedented changes society is undertaking in response to the coronavirus, Elke Verhaeghe reflects on the washing away of the notion of being ‘untouchable’ felt by many in Europe prior to the crisis, and pleads that this sense of urgency remain post-coronavirus to tackle another crisis of our time – climate change.


What if Brexit is Good for the UK?


A question posed time and time again about Brexit, on both sides of the channel, is what happens if it turns out to be good for the UK? Samuel Standaert evaluates just how realistic this prospect is, given the level of economic integration and trade between the two parties, and outlines what he believes are the conditions that would allow a prosperous UK in a post-Brexit Europe.


What Can the Coronavirus Teach Us About Regional Integration in Health?


As countries around the world struggle to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a coordinated response at all levels is required. María Belén Herrero examines the lessons to be learnt from Latin America, and how South-South cooperation style policy, based on a horizontal relationship and peer cooperation, may hold the answers.


The Inadequate Debates on Migration and Society


While there is increasing exchange between researchers, politicians and social society actors on migration, writes UNU-CRIS Assistant Professor Ine Lietaert, the current debates fail to address the most pertinent question of all – is the path we’re on now leading to the kind of society we want?


Reconnecting in 2020


Newly appointed UNU-CRIS Director ad interim, Philippe De Lombaerde, previews 2020, what it means for the study of regionalism and governance at all levels, and how UNU-CRIS fits into what will be a year of reconnection.


Brushing the Dust Under the Return Migration Carpet?


Among the most pressing issues facing the new EU Commission, migration figures high on the agenda, however previous political unwillingness to bring about true, transformative migration policies at both the EU and national levels has resulted in the recycling of long-standing policy refrains and an overreliance on problematic remedies. Rossella Marino looks at the current return migration policy and its outlook in 2020 and beyond.


Camus, Revolt and Europe


While the trends of today appear to revolve around nationalism and a return to hard borders - in other words, towards disintegration - Filippo Blancato explores what French-Algerian philosopher Albert Camus and his work L’Homme Revolté (The Rebel) can teach us about conflict, history and the future of cooperation among men and nations, and how the EU can tame the forces that produce tension and separation.


Regions and Cities as Foreign Policy Actors: Between Reviving the Past and Implementing the Contemporary


California defies Donald Trump on the Paris Climate Agreement. Flanders opens a foreign office of its own and joins the UN World Tourism Organization as an independent member. A fresh push for a Scottish referendum in light of Brexit. These are all examples of paradiplomacy, writes Philipp Häntsche, an understudied, yet ever-present, form of international relations.


Brexit, the Irish Question and EU Disintegration


The Irish question has become one of the main sticking points of the Brexit negotiations, with 'backstop' entering the vocabulary of millions of onlookers throughout the process. With another deadline passed and a general election looming, Susannah Dibble asks how the European Union can best carry out the delicate task of disentangling its relationship with the United Kingdom while helping to maintain a Northern Irish peace built on regional integration.


The WTO’s Other Challenge


Civil society and UNCTAD call for a reform to the World Trade Organization in order to embed sustainability principles deeper in the organisation’s work. It is not going to happen immediately, posits Diana Potjomkina – but we should pay attention.


The African Union: Are Its Institutional and Financial Reforms Worth the Hype?


While the African Union's ambitious set of reforms introduced in 2016 took steps in the right direction, Nandi Makubalo asks the question - are these worth the hype or must more be done in order for it to realize the SDGs and Agenda 2063?


Of Trade, Regions and Power


With the US-China trade war showing few signs of abating, the EU-MERCOSUR deal in jeopardy and a rift between Japan and South Korea growing wider, it's clear the global trade and investment landscape is in a parlous condition. Filippo Blancato looks at what the current pushback against regional economic governance bodes for the future, and what the EU must do to reinvigorate the multilateral trade system.


What is Internationalisation?


Much has been said about this interconnected world, about common challenges faced by countries, and the relationship between the domestic and international spheres. Glaucia Bernardo and Leonardo Mèrcher look at internationalisation, a concept that has come to play a part in our daily lives, and in particular its impact on higher education. 


When the Amazon Burns


As the Amazon burns and the tensions between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and the international community grow, Elke Verhaeghe and Marjolein Derous look at the EU's chequered past when it comes to forest protection and sustainability, and what the new EU Commission can do to save the 'lungs of our planet'. 


The Coolness of Brexit


With Brexit looming large, UNU-CRIS founding Director Luk Van Langenhove looks at the questions it raises for regional integration studies, and why the field is garnering so much attention. 


A Tale of Two (Hot) Cities


On the hottest day ever recorded in Belgium, UNU-CRIS Director Ad Interim Prof. Dr. Luc Soete outlines why UNU-CRIS is hot - both in the setting of the historic Episcopal Seminary in which it is housed, and as the place to be for addressing intellectual challenges dealing with how to govern the big challenges of our time.