The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 25/09/2017

Politico—M. Karnitschnig / Angela’s ashes: 5 takeaways from the German election

  • Merkel won, but support for her party fell by more than 20 percent compared to 2013. As a response to that, look for the chancellor to inch to the right on migration and questions related to “German identity.”
  • German patience over Europe’s lack of solidarity on the refugee front was already wearing thin. After Sunday’s result, look for outright confrontation with countries like Poland and Hungary.
  • The inclusion of the far right in parliament will make German politics louder and nastier. The coming years won’t be pretty, but Germany’s democratic foundations are robust enough to withstand the populist onslaught.
  • With the option of a grand coalition now off the table, France and Germany may agree to establish some form of budget and an oversight position for the eurozone with the title of finance minister, but the reforms will not have the scope the French had been hoping for.

France 24 / French conservatives retain Senate majority as Macron’s party suffers setback

  • French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en marche (LREM) suffered a setback in Senate elections on Sunday.
  • Initial results from the vote to renew 171 of 348 Senate seats were expected to leave LREM with only 20-30 senators.
  • Les Républicains, on the other hand, were looking at holding around 150 seats after the election, up from 142 presently.
  • French senators are elected by local and national lawmakers, not the general public, which put LREM at a significant disadvantage because the party is not yet present nationwide.
  • Despite the poor showing, Sunday’s election outcome is not expected to undercut Macron’s ability to push through his economic reform agenda since it is the lower house that has the final say on legislation. The outcome will however make it harder for Macron to reform the French Constitution.

Financial Times—T. Mitchell & D. Sevastopulo / Wang Qishan’s Bannon ties fuel talk of second term

  • The recent “secret” meeting between Wang Qishan –the Chinese anti-graft tsar—and Steve Bannon was consistent with Beijing’s rapidly growing interest in US economic nationalism.
  • Although people familiar with the arrangements for this month’s encounter –initiated by Wang—said Bannon travelled to Beijing as a private citizen and not as an unofficial envoy for President Trump, it echoed earlier instances of secret diplomacy between the US and China.
  • Some observers have questioned why the party would allow its anti-graft tsar to speak to Bannon rather than another senior official, such as premier Li Keqiang or vice-premier Wang Yang, who are officially responsible for economic and trade issues with the US.
  • This has also stoked speculation that Wang, though at 69 already past the assumed retirement age for senior Communist officials, may be tapped by President Xi Jinping for a second five-year term at the Politburo Standing Committee, or even be appointed Premier.

Al-Monitor—M. Gurcan / As EU ties chill, UK-Turkey defense cooperation thrives

  • “Just as in 1580s, when England and the Ottoman Empire entered into economic and security cooperation against the Catholic bloc in continental Europe, today the same dynamics stimulated the cooperation between Turkey and England,” said a senior British diplomat in January 2017.
  • Defense, the aerospace industry and security are the most visible fields of cooperation between Turkey and the UK, especially after relations between Turkey and Germany in these fields deteriorated.
  • Turkey has never before developed and manufactured a warplane. Lacking the experience and human resources for such a monumental project, Turkey needs an experienced partner such as the UK.
  • London has been closely monitoring the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt and expressing solidarity with Turkey while other European countries remained aloof. Turkey’s Deputy Defense Minister recently emphasized Britain’s support for Turkey’s efforts against terror and the Fethullah Gulen movement.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

Política Internacional | Permalink

The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 22/09/2017

Politico—T. McTague / Theresa May’s Florentine gambit

  • In a speech on Friday afternoon in Florence, British Prime Minister Theresa May will announce that her government wants a time-limited transition period –lasting no longer than two years—once the U.K. leaves the bloc.
  • This would not be an “implementation period”, but instead a grace period to prevent a regulatory cliff edge.
  • European diplomats insist that EU law must remain in place during a transition. A two-year transition is, in many respects, Brexit delayed until 2021.
  • For Brexiteers, the unpleasant medicine of transition was washed down with a spoonful of Euroskeptic sugar — a promise not to pursue an “EEA minus” final destination. But without freedom of movement and large annual payments to Brussels, EEA membership is a non-starter.
  • Michel Barnier has insisted that the U.K. can take its pick from the different models of EU association available, but it cannot pick and choose elements of several of those options.

Bruegel—S. Tagliapietra & G. Zachmann / Reinforcing the EU energy industry transformation: stronger policies needed

  • The European energy system is going through a profound transformation as two trends reshape it: decarbonisation and digitalisation. The latter can be an important catalyst for the former.
  • Increasing digitalisation also enables the European energy system to become more decentralised, with greater interaction between services (electricity, heat, transport, data) that used to be largely separate.
  • To fully unleash the transformation of oil and gas companies, even stronger policy signals are needed, such as a meaningful carbon pricing. Otherwise, these companies might decide to continue in a business-as-usual mode, at best just refocusing their activities on gas.
  • The ongoing structural transformation of the European energy system requires a parallel structural transformation of the policy framework. This should become a priority of the EU Energy Union initiative.

The Guardian—J. McCurry & J. Borger / Japan braces as North Korea threatens hydrogen bomb test in Pacific

  • North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, said Pyongyang could respond to Trump’s recent threat of military action by testing a powerful nuclear weapon in the Pacific.
  • “It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” said Ri, who is due to address the UN general assembly at the weekend.
  • An atmospheric nuclear test of the kind that has only ever been conducted by the US and China could pose a risk to aircraft and shipping, even if the North declares a keep-out zone.
  • In a response to Donald Trump’s UNGA speech, Kim called the U.S. President “mentally deranged” and “a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire.” “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire,” added Kim.
  • The North Korea leader is thought to be the first of three generations of the Kim dynasty to publicly read out a statement aimed at the international community in his own name.
  • The statement came just hours after Trump issued a new executive order that expands US sanctions on North Korea’s shipping, banking, ports and manufacturing. Trump also claimed China’s banking system had shut down business with the country.

Foreign Policy—S. Walt / Great powers are defined by their great wars

  • Major wars have powerful and long-lasting effects on a nation’s subsequent foreign or military policy, independent of the country’s relative power, regime type, or the character of particular leaders.
  • For most of the major powers, the last great war is still World War II. Its enormous impact still reverberates in countries like the UK, Japan, Germany, Russia and also the US.
  • World War II reinforced the notion that America was the “indispensable” power that must lead everywhere, even if this notion ignores the far greater role played by the Soviet Union in defeating Germany.
  • In the case of China, however, World War II is not the dominant historical event shaping its behavior today. The Century of Humiliation plays a more important role.
  • If events like Hurricane Harvey become the norm rather than the exception, maybe coping with recurring natural disasters will become how states and societies define themselves and their heroes from now on, instead of wars.

 The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

Política Internacional | Permalink

The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 21/09/2017

The New York Times—J. Kanter / Europe renews offensive on Silicon Valley with tax reforms

  • Officials in Brussels are considering a raft of proposals aimed at increasing the amount of tax paid by digital titans like Facebook and Amazon.
  • The new proposals broadly aim to tax internet companies in the countries where they generate their business, rather than allow them to shift profits to jurisdictions with lower rates.
  • The Commission aims to tax companies based on their revenue rather than their profits, allow national authorities to tax payments made by consumers to digital businesses, and allow individual countries to tax revenue generated from advertising by internet companies.
  • While several major countries like France have pushed for a crackdown, others do not want to change a system in which some of them can attract corporations with tax incentives. A reform requires unanimity among EU member states.

Brookings—T. Chhabra / Why Trump’s “strong sovereignty” is more familiar than you think

  • The fundamental struggle between state sovereignty and universal ideals has persisted throughout the U.N.’s seven decades. Recent U.S. presidents have used UNGA’s global pulpit to favor universal values, perhaps with the exception of Richard Nixon.
  • At his UN address, President Trump certainly tilted Nixonian, but his emphasis on “strong sovereignty” did not break with this tradition. He didn’t present anything similar to President Bush’s “freedom agenda.” But it also wasn’t the standard Russian, Chinese, and “non-aligned” sovereigntist discourse.
  • To be sure, there were plenty of contradictions in Trump’s speech. “A great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism” has, historically, not been a recipe for “harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife.”
  • When the teleprompter goes dark, Trump seems to be an unreconstructed sovereigntist. He has been highly selective in his condemnation of rights-abusing regimes, and even celebrated some of the worst offenders.

Politico—M. Karnitschnig / Why labor loves robots

  • In Germany, the fear that robots will supplant the legions of workers now making Volkswagens and other industrial wares has subsided. The only way to shape the inevitable change, union leaders have decided, is to embrace it.
  • To survive — and to protect the country’s workers — unions will not just have to adjust to the new species of digital worker; they will have to do more to ensure their members stay employed.
  • Union officials say Germany’s tradition of “social partnership,” which creates a framework for worker and employer representatives to resolve problems, is the only way to address the challenges of the digital era.
  • From an economic perspective, Germany could end up much better off if it manages to make the digital transition. Technological advances are typically the fastest way to improve productivity, which the German economy has not managed to do consistently in recent years.

Foreign Affairs—C. Michel / The United States’ problem with financial secrecy

  • Over the past decade, a handful of states in the U.S. –primarily Delaware, Nevada and Wyoming—have undermined the federal government’s efforts to combat crime and grand corruption. These states have made it easy for criminals to use U.S.-based shell companies to protect their loot.
  • The U.S. is becoming a global offshore haven. The country is now one of the most important destinations for offshore ownership vehicles, enabling tax evasion, corruption, and crime.
  • In 2015, it was estimated that some $800 billion in offshore wealth was held in the United States. That number trails that of Switzerland, which is home to trillions of dollars in offshore wealth.
  • The main issue is that the U.S. does not force registering companies to identify their so-called beneficial owners, or those who will ultimately benefit from the company’s business or holdings.
  • Recent pro-transparency measures in the world’s traditional offshore havens, such as the Cayman Islands and United Kingdom, will soon send those seeking to hide their money in search of new homes. It will be far too easy for them to relocate to the U.S.
  • If the problem is not addressed, those states will be inadvertently furthering the aims of the autocrats and criminal groups that undermine U.S. foreign policy.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo.

Política Internacional | Permalink

The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 20/09/2017

Financial Times—E. Luce / Trump defies spirit of co-operation with America first message

  • In contrast to previous American presidents, in his UN address Donald Trump eschewed calls for the global spread of democracy in favour of an “awakening of nations”.
  • On five occasions he called for a world of “strong, sovereign nations” in which each country would first look to its own interests.
  • Then came his near declarations of war on two of the most sovereign nations in the world — North Korea and Iran – and called for the “full restoration of democracy” in Venezuela.
  • There was a core tension between the world of sovereign, transactional nations Mr Trump desired and his calls for collective action against rogue states, which he dubbed the “scourge of our planet”.
  • Like his “clash of civilisations” speech in Warsaw, Mr Trump’s UN address was written by Stephen Miller, a young aide who holds the torch for the America First agenda. To judge by this speech, we should not read too much into Mr Bannon’s departure.

Brookings—J. A. Bader / Diplomacy toward North Korea: Some good news

  • China has visibly tilted against North Korea. It supported the strongest ever U.N. Security Council resolution that for the first time opens the door to constraints on exports of crude oil to North Korea, a position that Beijing and Moscow have strenuously resisted in the past.
  • Beijing also has ordered its major banks to refuse to open new North Korean accounts, striking at financing of trade.
  • Chinese experts have said that for North Korea to conduct its latest nuclear during the BRICS summit represented a fundamental challenge to Beijing, and Chinese policy would never again be the same.
  • But if capitals interpret Trump’s threats as meaning the United States is more likely to initiate conflict than North Korea, international diplomatic efforts could shift away from degrading the North Korean threat toward containing Washington.

Foreign Affairs—P. Hockenos / The role of the small parties in Germany’s elections

  • Assuming that Angela Merkel’s CDU will win the German elections on Sunday, the surest bet in terms of coalition-building may initially look like a renewal of the “grand coalition” between the CDU and SPD, which has governed Germany for 8 of Merkel’s 12 years in power.
  • That would be Merkel’s preference, but The SPD’s leaders realize that they must remove the party from Merkel’s shadow.
  • Merkel may have to resort to Plan B, which would mean a coalition with either the Greens or the Free Democrats (FDP).
  • Although there would be issues to overcome, the CDU-Green coalitions on state level have worked out admirably, and the Greens would be ideal partners to support Merkel in negotiating a deal with President Macron to fix the eurozone.
  • Today, the FDP poses as the acceptable face of the German right. Still, the FDP’s hard-right views on immigration, EU reform, euro policy, diesel, and renewable energy, would make Merkel’s negotiations with Macron and other EU allies all the more complicated.

Foreign Affairs—N. Danforth & I. Toygur / How to dull Turkey’s autocratic edge

  • The arrangements that have historically anchored the EU’s and the US’s respective ties with Turkey—the promise of Turkey’s eventual EU accession and its military alliance with the US—no longer seem capable of handling President Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian and anti-Western stance.
  • In the US, Erdogan’s provocations have heightened the appeal of a more assertive response. If Erdogan knows that he needs the US, the thinking goes, Washington can take a tougher line with him and secure more cooperative behavior.
  • In the EU, some officials worry that if the current framework is abolished without a replacement, it would strip the EU of the little leverage it still holds over Turkey and break Europe’s connections with Turkish democrats who seek closer ties with the EU.
  • However, the EU’s credibility as a force for responsible governance suffers when it does not speak up against breaches of the rule of law and violations of basic freedoms.
  • Without threatening to abandon or isolate Turkey, the United States and Europe should make it clear that they will significantly scale down important forms of military and economic cooperation if Turkey continues to move in a dangerous direction. Such an approach would be most effective if European and U.S. leaders resist the temptation to accompany it with overly self-righteous rhetoric.

 The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

Política Internacional | Permalink

The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 19/09/2017

South China Morning Post—Bloomberg / Trump’s top negotiator brands China an ‘unprecedented’ threat to global trading system

  • “The sheer scale of their coordinated effort to develop their economy, to subsidise, to create national champions, to force technology transfers and to distort markets in China and throughout the world is a threat to the world trading system that is unprecedented,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Monday in his first major public speech.
  • According to Lighthizer, the World Trade Organisation and the rules that underlie the international trade arbitrator were not designed to deal with China’s current approach to its economy.
  • While Trump has backed down from labelling China a currency manipulator and eased the gas pedal on slapping tariffs on steel imports, Lighthizer said on Monday that changes are coming to a system that leads to trade deficits and fails workers.
  • Lighthizer repeated that the Trump administration prefers bilateral deals to multinational accords.

Foreign Policy—A. Wilson / Is Russia practicing a dry run for an invasion of Belarus?

  • The Russian-led “Zapad” military exercises are being held in the northwest of Belarus, which voted for the nationalist Zianon Pazniak, and not for Aleksandr Lukashenko the last time Belarus had a real competitive election (1994).
  • Zapad is directed as much against an “internal enemy” as against NATO powers, namely nationalists backed by the West. And that, worryingly, is the same scenario that Russia claimed to detect in Ukraine in 2014.
  • The fear in Belarus is that Russian troops might manufacture an excuse to stay behind. In which case, the same scenario of nationalist extremists could be used as an excuse to “save” Lukashenko or even depose him.
  • The West would be wise not to treat Belarus as a potential belligerent but rather as an increasingly reluctant ally of Russia. Lukashenko has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s idea that Belarus is part of the “Russian world.”
  • Putin himself has taken a moderate line with Lukashenko, but Russian nationalist critics of the Belarussian leader are being given a lot of media space.

South China Morning Post—Jun Mai & Choi Chi-yuk / Xi Jinping’s political thought will be added to Chinese Communist Party constitution, but will his name be next to it?

  • The constitution of China’s Communist Party will be amended during the 19th party congress next month to include the political thoughts of President Xi Jinping.
  • The inclusion of a personal political philosophy in the charter is an honour bestowed on all of Xi’s predecessors, but the big question now is whether the addition will also carry his name.
  • “Once Xi’s name is incorporated in the constitution, his status in the party will be comparable to that of Mao [Zedong] and Deng [Xiaoping],” said the political analyst Zhang Lifan. “If it is not, Xi will be regarded in much the same way as his predecessors Jiang [Zemin] and Hu [Jintao].”
  • Beijing has yet to make public the official name of Xi’s political philosophy.

Brookings—D. Victor, et al. / Why the wiring of our brains makes it hard to stop climate change

  • Humans aren’t well wired to act on complex statistical risks. We care a lot more about the tangible present than the distant future. Many of us do that to the extreme, which makes it particularly hard to grapple with something like climate change.
  • Except for a small fraction that are highly motivated, most voters know little about the ins and outs of climate change, or the policy options relating to it. Instead, voters’ opinions about such things derive from heuristics such as political party affiliation and basic ideology.
  • When it comes to climate change, this sort of brain-driven behavior tends to create churn in political leadership rather than the continuity needed for long-term planning. It ejects whoever happens to be in office, rather than the real culprits.
  • Investments in new energy technologies bring costs down and also create new interest groups that can keep policy makers focused on controlling emissions when voters’ minds drift.
  • We’re likely to do better with policies that generate immediate and tangible benefits, while also surveying climate impacts on a regular basis, so that each extreme storm is less a novel event and more a part of a pattern that needs sustained policy attention.

 The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

Política Internacional | Permalink

The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 18/09/2017

The New York Times—S. Sengupta & R. Gladstone / What we’re watching at this year’s United Nations General Assembly

  • On Monday, Mr. Trump will host a meeting to discuss what his UN ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, has described as badly needed reforms at the United Nations to make it more efficient and responsive.
  • Also on Monday, Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, is scheduled to lead a meeting of foreign ministers on Myanmar. China, Myanmar’s main patron, is reluctant to issue any statement calling for an end to military operations.
  • On Wednesday, many UN members are expected to sign a new treaty that would outlaw all nuclear weapons.
  • Also on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, a meeting of the parties that negotiated the Iran deal will take place. There is no expectation that Mr. Rex W. Tillerson will meet his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Politico—A. Karni / Tillerson heads to UN gathering with challenger waiting in the wings

  • The UN General Assembly is being viewed as an opportunity for Tillerson to reassert himself or risk being overshadowed by Haley on the most high-profile stage to date.
  • Haley is expected to attend almost all of the bilateral meetings with Trump and Tillerson, an amped-up role for the ambassador.
  • While Tillerson has not spoken openly about departing, speculation in White House circles about who might replace him has focused on two candidates: Haley and CIA director Mike Pompeo.
  • Haley, whose speeches are more in line with the hawkish takes of Republicans like John McCain, has won praise from conservative outlets that have been outright hostile to Trump.

South China Morning Post—Bloomberg / China, EU step up ties to fight climate change

  • According to Frans Timmermans, first Vice-President of the European Commission, Europe and China are stepping up coordination in the fight against global warming.
  • “People are suffocating in the cities in parts of China. They know they need to do something urgently about this. And in some areas they’re moving at incredible speed,” said Timmermans.
  • With China intensifying its fight against air pollution and the EU helping Beijing to design a nationwide cap-and-trade programme, investors are awaiting political signals about a future link between the two systems and closer cooperation on clean energy technologies.

Financial Times—L. Lewis / Shinzo Abe considers snap election for Japan to shore up power

  • Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, is weighing the option of an autumn snap election, as the opposition Democratic party is battling single-digit ratings and leadership chaos.
  • Mr Abe’s popularity, on the other hand, appears to have bounced as the nation looks for strong leadership during the North Korean crisis.
  • Mr Abe might dissolve the lower house of Japan’s parliament when it convenes on September 28. That could open the way to an election either on October 22, or in mid-November after a planned visit from President Donald Trump.
  • Any setback — especially one that ended Mr Abe’s two-thirds majority in the lower house — would derail his most cherished ambition of revising Japan’s constitution.

Financial Times—FT View / Catalonia’s referendum is no basis for statehood

  • “In [the existing] circumstances, and keeping in mind the passionately contested legality of the vote, any proclamation of an independent Catalonia would be bereft of political legitimacy.”
  • None of the conditions for independence that could be found in the cases of Québec, Scotland or the Baltic countries applies with respect to Catalonia and Spain.
  • The secessionists may hope that the Spanish government will clamp down so hard on the secessionists that they will have a chance to paint themselves in ever louder colours as victims of political repression.
  • Whether or not the referendum takes place, the essential step for both sides is to open serious negotiations on an updated version of autonomy for Catalonia.

 The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

Política Internacional | Permalink

The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 15/09/2017

The Economist / Almost everybody is against a Kurdish referendum

  • On September 12th, General Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force, Iran’s foreign legion, Douglas Silliman, the American ambassador to Iraq, and Brett McGurk, Donald Trump’s envoy to the coalition against IS, urged Kurdish leaders to defer the referendum on independence they have scheduled for September 25th.
  • Israel is the only country in the region to back a Kurdish state.
  • Even if it disapproves of the referendum, it is hard to see America abandoning the Kurdish autonomous enclave it fostered in 1991 and has backed ever since.
  • By contrast, Iranian officials sound increasingly anti-Kurdish. Some fear they will dam rivers, hold up pipelines and close border crossings. They could also withdraw their support for Kurdish rule of Iraqi territories beyond their official enclave.

Foreign Policy—J. Winter & D. De Luce / Iran nuclear deal critics push plan for ‘global economic embargo’

  • According to a document that has been circulating on Capitol Hill and in the White House, opponents of the Iran nuclear deal are pushing a proposal that calls for President Donald Trump to declare that Tehran has failed to comply with the agreement and to threaten an unprecedented economic embargo.
  • “This would be a 21st century financial version of [John F.] Kennedy’s Cuba quarantine,” says the unsigned memo written by Richard Goldberg, a former Republican congressional aide who has long advocated tough action against Iran.
  • However, some White House and Defense Department officials are deeply concerned about the potential risks of Iranian retaliation against thousands of U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Syria who are in close proximity to Tehran-backed militias.
  • Colin Kahl, who served as Joe Biden’s national security advisor, warned that unilateral U.S. sanctions would be opposed by European allies.
  • “This is precisely a scenario that the hard-liners in Iran might love,” Kahl said. “That is, using the fact that the U.S. is out of step with the rest of the international community to drive a wedge between us and Europe, between us and the Chinese and the Russians on this issue.”

Foreign Policy—E. Groll / U.S. navy investigating if destroyer crash was caused by cyberattack

  • The U.S. military is examining whether compromised computer systems were responsible for one of two U.S. Navy destroyer collisions with merchant vessels that occurred in recent months.
  • The U.S. Navy has no indication that a cyberattack was behind either of the incidents, but is dispatching investigators to the USS John S. McCain to put those questions to rest.
  • If hackers breached the McCain’s digital defenses, it would represent a startling development in naval warfare.
  • American intelligence officials have theorized that hackers working on behalf of an enemy state could conceivably hack into a ship’s computer systems and blind its commander by, for example, displaying an inaccurate location of the ship on its charts.

South China Morning Post / Getting to grips with North Korea in 15 graphics

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

Política Internacional | Permalink