ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 19/07/2019

The Guardian – Julian Borger / Iran denies Donald Trump claim that US destroyed drone in Strait of Hormuz

  • Iran has denied that a US warship brought down one of its drones in the strait of Hormuz. The incident was first revealed by Donald Trump, who said that USS Boxer took defensive action after the drone came within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down.
  • “This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters. The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests, and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce,” said Trump.
  • “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [unmanned aerial system] by mistake!” countered the Iranian deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi.
  • The Pentagon said in a statement that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, had taken “defensive action” against a drone, but did not mention whether the aircraft was Iranian.
  • The New York Times – David E. Sanger / Iran’s foreign minister proposes modest deal to end impasse with US

Project Syndicate – Shlomo Ben-Ami / No economic peace for Palestinians

  • Last month, Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner unveiled an ambitious plan to strengthen the Palestinian economy, in the hopes that billions of dollars in investment will open the way for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement. The plan is divorced from reality and doomed to fail.
  • Kushner’s plan fails to mention, let alone address, some of the highest barriers to Palestine’s economic development, such as Israel’s arbitrary use of Palestinian natural resources and its security checkpoints, which stymie free movement and raise the cost of transportation.
  • But dismantling these barriers wouldn’t even be enough. The Palestinian national movement remains in its revolutionary phase, when economic considerations always come second to political aspirations.
  • For the Palestinians, accepting an economic deal that is not an annex to a convincing political solution would be tantamount to betraying Palestinian refugees – and, indeed, the dream of statehood – for a fistful of dollars. But, rather than rejecting such payoffs outright, the Palestinians should make an offer of their own.

Financial Times – Martin Sandbu / It has been a good week for climate change policy

  • This week, a joint statement by France’s Council of Economic Analysis (CAE) and Germany’s Council of Economic Experts showed a consensus at the highest echelons of the two countries’ policy economists in calling for a uniform carbon price levied on all economic sectors in all EU countries.
  • Both groups have contemplated a radical proposal (clearly in response to the political trauma of the gilets jaunes protests in France): that any revenues from carbon taxes be returned to the private sector rather than enter the government budget to be used for other purposes.
  • Moreover, both groups have raised the possibility of linking trade openness to trading partners’ efforts to combat climate change. A report by the German council envisages a “carbon border adjustment”. This would be a tax on the CO2 content of imported goods.
  • Even in the political arena, signs are good. In her pitch to the European Parliament, Ursula von der Leyen vowed to expand the coverage of the EU system of tradable emissions permits, to introduce a carbon border tax on imports, and to envisage a “just transition fund” to support “people and regions” most affected by climate change policy.

European Council on Foreign Relations – Ulrike Franke & Tara Varma / Independence play: Europe’s pursuit of strategic autonomy

  • The debate on European strategic autonomy remains overly focused on US criticism of the EU.
  • EU member states do not agree on the geographical and functional level of ambition they should adopt in pursuing strategic autonomy.
  • Member states have a conflicted approach to strategic autonomy: even those that do not fully support the concept argue that the EU should develop more capabilities.
  • Member states are unsure how Brexit will affect their strategic autonomy.
  • To fulfil its true potential, the EU needs to end its strategic cacophony and focus on capability building.
  • European strategic autonomy is – like European sovereignty and strategic sovereignty – one of many concepts that seek to promote a more capable, independent EU at a time of growing geopolitical competition.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 18/07/2019

Financial Times – Henry Foy / Russia throws weight behind EU effort to boost Iran trade

  • Russia has signaled its willingness to join Instex, an EU payments channel designed to circumvent US sanctions banning trade with Iran, but has called on Brussels to expand the new mechanism to cover oil exports.
  • “The full potential of Instex will only be able to be deployed if it will be open to the participation of countries which are not members of the European Union,” said the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Instex was launched in January but subsequently delayed by bureaucratic hurdles and the complications caused by the US sanctions. It only became operational last month. Just 10 EU states are members and the mechanism’s initial credit line is a fraction of EU-Iran trade.
  • Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy head, said that the trade mechanism “has always been conceived to be open to third countries . . . and we are already seeing interest by some of them to participate in that”. “The issue of whether or not Instex will deal with oil is a discussion that is ongoing among the shareholders,” she added.

Politico – Laurens Cerulus & Lauren Bishop / Europe’s 5G stumbles

  • The EU is on track to fall behind in the deployment of 5G — particularly as rivals in the East race ahead. European firms expect 5G to go live only in 2021-2022, while counterparts in the US and China expect to have the infrastructure in place before then, in some cases as early as next year.
  • Regulatory hurdles are accused of slowing 5G adoption in sectors like energy, health care and transportation. But many involved in laying out mobile networks in Europe point to the cost of spectrum — the airwaves mobile signals travel on — as the biggest hurdle to moving ahead.
  • Then, there’s the problem that not all countries can guarantee the same parts of the radio spectrum for similar services at the same time. The European Commission has pressured member states to correct this, but experts warn it could be years until 5G services seamlessly travel across borders.
  • About half of EU countries have yet to publish national strategies for adopting 5G. On the bright side, Europe’s largest operators say they will be rolling out commercial 5G networks in cities including London, Rome, Milan, Madrid and Edinburgh.
  • The New York Times – Marc Santora / 5 million Bulgarians have their personal data stolen in hack

Foreign Policy – Max Bergmann / Europe is back

  • The recent European elections have shown that the EU is here to stay. With the selection of Germany’s defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, to be the next head of the European Commission, the US should seize the opportunity to build a new lasting partnership with the EU.
  • If US rivals are seeking to divide and undermine the EU, shouldn’t the US be seeking to do the opposite? Instead, the Trump administration is mirroring Russia and China’s approach, which has been met with widespread disapproval in Washington policy circles and on Capitol Hill.
  • The Trump presidency has caused Europe to question the US’s dependability and spawned a vibrant debate. Washington should not ignore NATO or national capitals but, if it wants to have a voice in this debate, it needs to go where Europe’s center of gravity increasingly is, and that’s the EU.
  • A stronger EU will push back against policies the American right supports, such as withdrawing from the Iran deal, pulling out of the Paris climate accord, or, previously, invading Iraq. And the world, and the liberal global order, will be a better place for it. This will be a feature of Europe’s rise, not a bug.
  • European Council on Foreign Relations – Carl Bildt & Mark Leonard / From plaything to player: How Europe can stand up for itself in the next five years

Financial Times – Don Weinland / China to embed anti-corruption officers in BRI projects

  • The Chinese Communist party’s top graft inspector plans to expand its anti-corruption campaign overseas by embedding officers in countries participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Until now, the Communist party’s graft buster, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, has had limited involvement in Belt and Road projects. But the scale of BRI is pushing the corruption watchdog to expand its presence internationally.
  • Experts have warned that the flood of Chinese investment into countries across Africa, Central Asia and Latin America, where corruption is rife, runs the risk of suffering big losses connected to fraud and graft.
  • The conviction in a New York court of Patrick Ho, the former Hong Kong home secretary who headed the think-tank arm of Chinese conglomerate CEFC, has drawn attention to Belt and Road corruption. Ho, a top proponent of Belt and Road activity, was convicted of international money laundering, conspiracy and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act last year.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 17/07/2019

The Economist / Ursula von der Leyen is elected European Commission president

  • Yesterday, Ursula von der Leyen was elected the new president of the European Commission by the European Parliament. She won 383 of the 733 votes cast, clearing the margin for an absolute majority by just nine votes, and will thus become the first ever woman president of the EU’s executive.
  • Von der Leyen began the day with a competent and policy-rich speech aimed particularly at the centre and centre-left of the parliament. The goal was clear: von der Leyen wanted to be elected with a broad “grand coalition” of the political mainstream.
  • The vote was secret. But its narrowness suggests that without the votes of, say, Poland’s right-populist Law and Justice (PiS) MPs or those of Hungary’s authoritarian Fidesz, she would not have won. By contrast, none of Germany’s 16 Social Democrat MEPs claims to have voted for her.
  • Still, much of the media hyperventilation that greeted the close result was unwarranted. Law and Justice, like Fidesz, had and has no good reason to think that von der Leyen is particularly sympathetic to their world-view.
  • The urgent question now is the same one that would have arisen had von der Leyen’s majority been much larger: can she build bridges?
  • Deutsche Welle – Christoph Strack / Who is Ursula von der Leyen, the new European Commission president?

Financial Times – Don Weinland / WTO rules against US in pre-trade war tariff dispute with China

  • The WTO has said some US tariffs on Chinese goods do not comply with its rules, opening the door for Chinese retaliatory sanctions. The case was opened by China in 2012 in response to US tariffs aimed at goods that Washington said were unfairly subsidized by Chinese state-owned enterprises.
  • The final decision by the WTO appellate body accepts the US argument that Chinese state groups subsidized the costs of some materials. But it also stated that the US must accept Chinese pricing — not its own calculations on pricing — when calculating the tariffs.
  • “The WTO appellate report undermines WTO rules, making them less effective to counteract Chinese SOE subsidies that are harming US workers and businesses and distorting markets worldwide,” the office of the US Trade Representative said in a statement.
  • “The ruling of the appellate body once again proved that the US violated the WTO rules and repeatedly abused trade remedy measures, which has seriously damaged the fairness and impartial nature of the international trade environment,” said the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

Euractiv – Dave Keating / How vulnerable is Europe to conflict in the Strait of Hormuz?

  • On 10 July, three gunboats operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards attempted to steer a British oil tanker out of international waters and into Iranian waters, according to the British government. The incident was the first to bring an EU member state into the escalating conflict in the Persian Gulf.
  • Tensions may escalate further between Iran and the EU after it emerged today a French-Iranian academic has been arrested in Iran. It comes as the EU decided not to activate a dispute mechanism in the Iranian nuclear deal, after Iran started activities that violate the agreement.
  • The effect of the tensions on Europe’s oil supply may be muted – as long as things don’t escalate much further. 76% of oil that passes through the Strait of Hormuz is going to Asian countries. But would a long-term conflict effect global oil prices, causing higher energy prices for Europeans?
  • Analysts say even this would have a more muted effect than in years past, thanks to a more globally diversified oil market. This explains the relatively calm reaction to the recent incidents, which would have thrown the market into a panic 20 years ago.
  • Al-Monitor – Jack Detsch / Trump’s defense pick calls for US-led pact to deter Iran

Foreign Policy – S. Nathan Park / Japan’s trade war is as futile as Trump’s

  • Japan has announced changes in its rules on export approvals for fluorinated polyimide, photoresists, and hydrogen fluoride. South Korean high-tech manufacturers rely on Japanese companies to supply these chemicals. Tokyo also indicated that it may remove South Korea from the “white list” that gives exemptions from export licensing.
  • Initially, it appeared that the restrictions were in retaliation for a South Korean Supreme Court opinion ordering compensation for Korean workers who were forced to work in factories and mines run by Japanese corporations during World War II. Japan’s chief government spokesman denied this, saying that the export controls were for “national security reasons”.
  • Yet the official Japanese line has shifted, and the media began running stories (possibly leaked by Japanese officials) that the actual issue was South Korea shipping to other countries Japanese materials that could be used for producing weapons of mass destruction if they reached North Korea.
  • It can be concluded that Tokyo’s measures were a reckless fit of pique against the Korean Supreme Court’s decision. That means a democratic Japan is directing trade restrictions at South Korea, a liberal democracy and ally, in order to defend imperial Japan’s use of slave labor during World War II.
  • Foreign Policy – Keith Johnson / Why are Japan and South Korea in a trade fight?

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 16/07/2019

Euractiv – Georgi Gotev / Suspense: Will EU Commission nominee survive Parliament vote?

  • Ursula von der Leyen’s confirmation vote is scheduled to begin at 6:00pm and the result will be announced one-and-a-half to two hours later. If she fails – and today’s secret ballot could be close – then Europe faces a summer of institutional infighting.
  • And if her victory is secured thanks to eurosceptic lawmakers, von der Leyen’s position will be weakened. But von der Leyen has come up with a series of written promises to the main centre-right, socialist and liberal blocs that she hopes will get her the necessary 374 votes.
  • The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group is divided. The German SPD will vote firmly against von der Leyen. French socialists, for their part, are also sceptical, while the Spanish and Italians lean towards a conditional “yes”. Even parts of von der Leyen’s EPP appear to reject her candidacy.
  • “It will be a small ‘yes’,” said a well-placed European source. “She’ll be elected with fewer votes than Juncker was five years ago.” Juncker received 422 endorsements, and anything less than 400 would be seen as disappointing for von der Leyen, who announced she would step down as German defense minister regardless of the outcome.

Politico – Thorsten Benner / Why Europe should give up the IMF

  • On Wednesday, European leaders are expected to make a play to keep the International Monetary Fund in European hands. When G7 finance ministers gather in France, EU countries will likely unveil their candidate to succeed Fund chief Christine Lagarde.
  • That would be a grave mistake. Europe should instead relinquish its permanent claim to the IMF’s top job — for its own sake. EU members would be better off supporting an open search process for an outstanding non-European to be next IMF leader.
  • The great powers are not the relevant audience — but rather the many countries, from Argentina to South Africa, that are neither part of the old transatlantic club nor great powers. It’s the support of such countries that the EU depends on when looking for allies committed to multilateralism.
  • Arguing that given the eurozone’s troubles the IMF head needs to be a European — as Merkel did in 2011 — is ludicrous. No other country or region has ever made a similar argument. Before the global chorus gets even louder, it’s in the EU’s enlightened self-interest to give up this overcome privilege.

Project Syndicate – Gordon Brown / Boris Johnson and the threat to British soft power

  • Under a proposal now being explored by the transition team of the UK’ s likely next prime minister, Boris Johnson, the Department of International Development (DFID) would be absorbed into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
  • With this move, the new PM would be solving one problem – the neglect of the British diplomatic service – by sacrificing perhaps Britain’s greatest global asset today: the soft power it exercises on every continent because of its pathbreaking commitment to ending world poverty.
  • As other countries have discovered, incorporating their international aid efforts into their external affairs offices harms both diplomatic and development efforts. No one gains when development, which thrives on transparency and external scrutiny, is subsumed by diplomacy.
  • The FCO cannot easily replicate DFID’s unique role in bringing countries and the development community together. In the absence of a strong DFID, Britain will lack the status to lead in important global multilateral development efforts.
  • The Guardian – Rowena Mason & Jessica Elgot / Hunt and Johnson: the backstop is dead and can’t be in any EU deal

The New York Times – The Editorial Board / Follow the Emiratis’ lead, out of Yemen

  • The drawdown of troops from Yemen by the United Arab Emirates, the biggest outside ground force backing the Saudi-led intervention that has turned a civil war into a humanitarian disaster, should be an example for everyone else involved.
  • A shaky UN-mediated cease-fire in Hudaydah that came into effect last December provided the excuse and a reason to pull back. Those talks, which resumed on Sunday, offer a potential framework for real peace negotiations if other combatants followed the Emirates’ lead.
  • The swelling American disgust with the war provided further incentive for the UAE to distance itself from the Saudi-led intervention. At the same time, the rising tensions between the US and Iran prodded the Emiratis to bring home troops who would be needed should the saber-rattling escalate further.
  • The UAE’s withdrawal could also be the impetus for the Trump administration to start being part of the solution to the war, not an enabler, pointing the way for Saudi Arabia, the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels to follow suit.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 15/07/2019

Euractiv / Von der Leyen’s bid for EU top job in the balance

  • Ursula von der Leyen will learn on Tuesday (16 July) whether the European Parliament is ready to approve her bid to become the first female president of the European Commission.
  • The European People’s Party (EPP) will back her, despite seeing the candidacy of their leader Manfred Weber cast aside. But the centre-right’s 182 votes do not get her over the line, and the socialist S&D with 154 members and the liberal Renew Europe’s 108 are unconvinced.
  • The Greens say she will not get their 74 votes, and the hard-left GUE/NGL will also withhold their 41. The far-right Identity and Democracy, which includes Italy’s League, France’s National Rally and Germany’s AFD, says it is “unlikely” they will back her. Which leaves the right-wing eurosceptic ECR.
  • Von der Leyen might scrape in, but a weak majority would be a blow for efforts to build a pro-Europe coalition. If the German candidate is facing defeat the vote might yet be postponed, but if she is defeated Europe will need to nominate a new champion.

Politico – Jacopo Barigazzi / EU draws up measures against Turkey over Cyprus drilling

  • In response to Turkey’s gas exploration off the coast of Cyprus, which Brussels has condemned as “illegal,” the EU is prepared to cut pre-accession funding and cancel high-level meetings with Ankara, according to the text drawn up ahead of a meeting of the bloc’s Foreign Affairs Council on Monday.
  • The contentious part of the text relates to its final paragraph, which says that the Council asks the Commission and the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs “to continue work on options for targeted measures in light of Turkey’s continued drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
  • According to diplomats, the language is meant to allow for the possibility of further sanctions, which could include targeting companies and individuals involved in the drilling activity. Cyprus pushed for tough language, and the final compromise tilted toward this approach.
  • Yet diplomats say they are walking a tightrope — trying to support Cyprus while being careful not to alienate Turkey, with whom the EU maintains a deal designed to limit migration across the Aegean sea.

Foreign Policy – Jonathan D. Caverley, Ethan B. Kapstein & Srdjan Vucetic / F-35 sales are America’s Belt and Road

  • China has been criticized for using Belt and Road-related debt coercively. But the United States’ F-35 program goes far further. No other country has yet built a high-end fighter like the F-35 at any price. This makes a state’s very security reliant on the US for decades—and Washington uses that leverage.
  • In 2005, the US suspended Israel’s access to the program in retaliation for Israel selling drone parts to China. Turkey is even more dependent on the F-35 network, and will pay a high cost if its government crosses the US and persists in the purchase of Russian weaponry.
  • Relative to the fighter network, Belt and Road’s optimistic projections cover a larger landmass and more countries, and—crucially—the initiative brands itself as a generator of wealth and peaceful co-existence on a global scale.
  • However, adherence to the F-35 program provides its own benefits in terms of prestige, access to technology and subcontracts, and close security ties with the US. Perhaps Belt and Road wins out in the future, but the current reality favors the US version.

The Guardian / Chinese economic growth falls to 6.2% as global slowdown bites

  • Chinese growth slowed to its weakest pace in almost three decades in the second quarter with the US-China trade war and weakening global demand weighing on the world’s second-biggest economy, official data showed Monday.
  • The 6.2% figure released by the national bureau of statistics on Monday was in line with forecasts by analysts and down from an expansion of 6.4% in the first quarter. The GDP figures are within the government’s target range of 6.0-6.5% for the whole year.
  • Beijing has introduced measures this year to boost the economy, but they have not been enough to offset negative contextual factors. Exports to the world rose only 0.1% during the first six months compared with the same period last year.
  • Analysts widely expect Beijing will step up support for the economy in coming months and the prospect cheered investors in China, where stocks rose. But it was more of a mixed picture across the region, with Australian and Korean shares down.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 12/07/2019

The New York Times – David D. Kirkpatrick / Iran tried to block British tanker in Persian Gulf, U.K. says

  • Three Iranian boats on Thursday briefly tried to block passage of a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, according to British Defense Ministry, in the latest sign that Tehran is seeking any possible pressure point it can exploit in its escalating confrontation with the West.
  • This is the latest showdown, and happens less than a month after the downing of an American surveillance drone by the Iranian military brought the United States to the brink of a retaliatory missile strike, aborted by President Trump only moments before launch.
  • Iran denied having attempted to stop the tanker, but as recently as last Friday, a senior Iranian military officer had warned that its forces might try to seize a ship in response for the British impounding of an Iranian tanker last week off the coast of Gibraltar.
  • The United States military has said it will begin working with partners to escort more tankers through the Persian Gulf.

South China Morning Post – William Zheng / China hints at Xinjiang policy shift ahead of key summit chaired by Xi Jinping

  • Signs are emerging that Beijing may be preparing to hold a top policy meeting about the sensitive northwestern region of Xinjiang, where an estimated one million Uygur and other mostly Muslim minorities are reported to be held in internment camps.
  • According to Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, Xinjian is “the main battleground in China’s anti-terror war”, and current policy is regarded as “an interim success”.
  • The propaganda preparations for the next conference began as early as April, when official newspapers and television stations in Xinjiang began running a series of features commemorating the fifth anniversary of the second Central Xinjiang Work Conference, hailing it as a “great endeavour” and, again, describing “the interim success” of the past five years.
  • Fei-Ling Wang, professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs said: “The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is unfortunately caught between its two powerful ideological narratives about nationality policy: the traditional tianxia, the great idea of Han domination and assimilation, and the Stalinist practice of preserving multi-nationalities under the party.

The Washington Post – James McAuley / France adopts new tax on big tech, despite U.S. pressure

  • Despite pressure from the United States, the French Parliament on Thursday adopted a new tax aimed at tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. The reason behind this decision is that, according to French government, taxes on big tech firms should be based on where they do business, not just where they’re headquartered — as has been the case up to now.
  • The text has already passed in France’s National Assembly and was approved on Thursday in the French Senate. It will become law after being signed by President Emmanuel Macron, and it will be retroactively applied for 2019.
  • The tax will apply to tech companies with revenues of more than $850 million, with at least $28 million earned in France. It will affect about 30 companies. Washington announced an investigation under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act, which grants the president the power to impose retaliatory measures against U.S. trading partners.

The Economist / America’s expansion is now the longest on record

  • Investors, businesses and central bankers are grappling with a startling fact: at the end of July America’s economy will have been growing for 121 months, the longest run since records began in 1854, according to the NBER, a research body. History, on the other hand, would suggest that a recession would come soon.
  • Thanks to new regulations and the recent memory of the bust, there are few signs of wild mortgage lending, over-investment or reckless financial firms. Inflation is remarkably subdued. These forces mean that a placid expansion can continue well beyond historical norms.
  • Average GDP growth during this expansion has been a mere 2.3%, much lower than the 3.6% that was seen in America’s three previous expansions. That reflects some deep malaises. The workforce is ageing. Big firms hoard profits and invest less.
  • There are several remarkable problems. First, America’s glossy corporate champions have unfamiliar vulnerabilities. Although fewer make physical goods, most rely on global production chains that are being shaken by the trade war. The second risk is financial. Although house prices and the banks have been tamed, total private debts remain high by historical standards. The last danger is a political one. As the economy has trodden a narrow path, the boundaries of economic policy have been blown wide apart, partly out of frustration at a decade of sluggish wages.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 11/07/2019

The New York Times – Jason Horowitz / Audio suggests secret plan for Russians to fund party of Italy’s Salvini

  • A close aide to Matteo Salvini, Italy’s most powerful politician and the emerging leader of Europe’s nationalists, sat for more than an hour with a couple of Italian colleagues and some Russian officials.
  • In February, a report was published alleging that the meeting tried to achieve a complicated plan to secretly finance Mr. Salvini’s hard-right League party with Russian money. On Wednesday, BuzzFeed News published an audio that seemed to confirm the Italian report’s version of the meeting.
  • The recording was the second to come to light in just months that appeared to reveal how Mr. Putin has actively sought to destabilize the European Union by boosting nationalist, populist parties.
  • For now, Mr. Salvini appears immune to political injury, but it raised questions on Russian willingness to disturb the European Union.

Foreign Policy – Hilton Yip / Xi Jinping is Tsai Ing-wen’s best poster boy

  • Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen quietly achieved an important victory at home. Having trailed in the previous months, Tsai was in danger of being the first incumbent Taiwanese president since 2000 to suffer an embarrassing party primary loss. Instead of losing, Tsai won by 8.2% over a party challenger to represent the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) again in Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election.
  • Fear of mainland China and Tsai’s own underrated successes may yet ensure her reelection, but the prospects are tougher. During the election, she would have to face a populist figure or Taiwan’s richest person.
  • In the President’s primary, Tsai certainly got a boost from Hong Kong’s massive million-person rally and street protests on June 9 and 12 against a much-dreaded extradition bill, which would allow anybody arrested in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China if it passes.
  • The more ordinary things Tsai has done or said may not attract headlines or win her popularity, but they are vital for Taiwan’s future. She has also overseen the reform of cushy public sector pensions that brought on protests from indignant military veterans and retired civil servants, and she has overseen the passing of Asia’s first same-sex marriage law.

Euractiv – Karl Mathiesen / EU Commission nominee backs 50% carbon cut by 2030, fails to win Greens’ support

  • The nominee for the EU’s top political job said she supported raising climate targets, making aviation and maritime polluters pay and introducing a carbon border tax to make Europe the first climate neutral continent.
  • Moreover, she emphasized that “I want us, as the European Union, to be the first continent that is climate neutral,” the potential next European Commission president told the liberal Renew Europe bloc.
  • An increase to the EU’s 2030 target, which underpins its pledge to the Paris Agreement, has been backed by the outgoing climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and the European Parliament. The target proposed by the last parliament was 55%.
  • She will meet resistance from the Greens, who have made their support for von der Leyen contingent on a strong climate policy package. Moreover, she will have to surpass skepticism from the S&D and Renew Europe groupings.

Al Monitor – AFP / Trump warns Iran sanctions will ‘soon be increased substantially’

  • President Donald Trump warned Wednesday that sanctions against Iran would soon be “increased substantially” after Tehran said it had exceeded a limit on enriched uranium reserves under a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by Washington.
  • The deal promised sanctions relief, economic benefits and an end to international isolation in return for stringent curbs on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.
  • But Tehran says it has lost patience with perceived inaction by European countries more than a year after Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement, reimposing stinging sanctions.
  • As tensions rose, the United States dispatched a naval carrier, bombers and extra troops to the region to counter perceived threats from Iran. Trump said last month he had called off a retaliatory military strike against Iran at the last minute after the Islamic republic shot down a US drone that it said had crossed into its airspace, a claim denied by Washington.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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