Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, European Commission
In dialogue with Guntram Wolff, Director, Bruegel, Belgium and Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli, Financial Times
The Covid-19 pandemic has put Europe to the test in an unprecedented manner, impacting both public health and the economy. From the magnitude of this challenge stemmed a resolute response: over the last months the EU has adopted unparalleled measures for confronting the crisis, from agreeing to recovery and economic support packages, to funding research for treatment and vaccines, to making steps towards a European Health Union. But the pandemic also acted as an accelerator for geopolitical trends that were already underway. These trends are likely to outlast the present-day crisis: a shift in perception of China, heightened tensions in an (already souring) transatlantic relationship, problematic relations with Russia, and growing instability in the Southern Neighborhood. The socio-economic consequences of the pandemic in the EU Southern neighborhood, in particular, represent a major area of concern for the EU: for most countries in the Middle East and North Africa, forecasts predict the largest contraction in the past 20 years, raising fears of mounting social unrest that could lead to further political instability and state fragmentation. Exactly ten years since the start of the Arab spring, a new wave of protests could once again rock the neighborhood, thus making it increasingly urgent for Europe to act in line with its newfound geopolitical vocation.
Paolo Gentiloni is an Italian politician serving as European Commissioner for the Economy in the von der Leyen Commission since 2019, following his time as the 57th Prime Minister of Italy from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2014 to 2016, and as Minister of Communication from 2006 to 2008, and as the spokesperson for the Mayor and Commissioner in the City of Rome between 1993 and 2000. Gentiloni is also a former professional journalist, as well as a founding member of the Democratic Party, of which he became President in March 2019. He graduated in Political Sciences from the Sapienza University of Rome.