EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 08/04/2020

Financial Times – Sun Yu and Don Weinland / Wuhan’s liberation greeted with anger and anxiety

  • Seventy-six days after severing links with the outside world, the Chinese city at the centre of the global coronavirus outbreak has lifted its official ban on travel, ending the world’s largest mass quarantine. The “liberation” of Wuhan marks an important step in President Xi Jinping’s plan to declare an early victory over the crisis just as western countries are struggling to contain the outbreak.
  • Some 55,000 people on Wednesday alone are expected to leave Wuhan, the railway administration said. But for many of Wuhan’s 11m residents, the formal lifting of restrictions on movement is just the start of a long recovery for a city in severe economic distress and a population fearful of a second outbreak.
  • Many people eager to leave the city are still waiting for permission to do so and will end up in quarantine when they eventually arrive at their destination. Even more worrying, locals fear asymptomatic cases are spreading without detection as more people emerge from their homes.
  • Activity has picked up on the streets of Wuhan but many businesses remain shut. Scores of residential districts around the city are still sealed off, barring free movement. Locals in Wuhan have welcomed the opening of their city but point out that complete victory is still far off. On Wednesday morning, car horns blared across downtown Wuhan while on the outskirts of the city, traffic increased by 10 times overnight and authorities stopped checking temperatures of passengers.
  • New York Times – Raymond Zhong and Vivian Wang / China ends Wuhan lockdown, but normal life is a distant dream

Politico – Laura Greenhalgh / EU science chief resigns, slamming bloc’s coronavirus response

  • The president of the EU’s top science funding agency stepped down Tuesday, issuing a damning indictment of the bloc’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Mauro Ferrari, an Italian-American scientist who has led the European Research Council since January, said he had resigned following a dispute over the EU’s approach to the crisis — stating he has “lost faith in the system.”
  • As well as a failure to fund scientists to tackle the crisis, Ferrari cited a “complete absence of coordination of health care policies among member states, the recurrent opposition to cohesive financial support initiatives, the pervasive one-sided border closures, and the marginal scale of synergistic scientific initiatives” by the EU.
  • A spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed the resignation. Ferrari’s criticisms were disputed by German MEP Christian Ehler, the European People’s Party coordinator for the Parliament’s industry and research committee, who has also led negotiations over the next EU research program, Horizon Europe.
  • Ehler said in an emailed statement that Ferrari’s proposal to deviate from the council’s usual approach “was seen more as a window-dressing public relations stand on the coronavirus crisis and it was a contradiction to the legal basis of the ERC, which can and does in many ways contribute to the fight against COVID-19.”
  • Euractiv – Jorge Valero / Eurogroup fails to progress on economic response to pandemic

The New Yorker – Eric Lach / Why is Wisconsin holding an election during the coronavirus pandemic?

  • The situation in Wisconsin is this: with an assist from conservative judges at the highest levels of government, local Republican leaders are forcing their state to participate in an Election Day that will exacerbate a pandemic. The consequences that this will lead to have been apparent for weeks.
  • Citizens will have to choose between their health and their vote; tens of thousands will be disenfranchised; and, inevitably, people who go out to vote on Tuesday, and people who work the polls will get sick. The election forecasters and polling gurus might consider crunching the numbers on the likelihood that people will die.
  • This unfolding electoral tragedy is the product of a standoff between the politicians who run the state government there. On one side is Tony Evers, the Democratic governor. On the other are the Republicans who control the state legislature—who have resisted every step Evers has attempted to take to address the crisis.
  • On Monday, with more than twenty-four hundred confirmed cases, Evers ordered the election postponed in the name of public health. Vos and Fitzgerald ran to the state’s conservative Supreme Court, which overruled Evers hours later. The five conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court then stepped in to undo some of the relief the federal judge had earlier granted election administrators in the state.
  • The Washington Post – Ruth Marcus / Wisconsin’s debacle may be the most infuriating of the coronavirus failures

Bloomberg – Marek Strzelecki / Poland moves to force its first election by mail amid lockdown

  • Poland’s ruling party is pushing ahead with a plan to force the nation to hold an election by mail for the first time ever, steamrolling over calls to delay the May 10 presidential ballot as the country remains in lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The increasingly authoritarian government is betting that turning to an untried method of voting will help its ally Andrzej Duda remain president for another five years, with the lockdown having kept the opposition from campaigning. The last-minute changes and the uncertainty over the process also increase the risk of fraud, according to Poland’s human rights commissioner.
  • Lawmakers of the Law & Justice party approved the measure in the lower house of parliament late Monday. The upper chamber, controlled by the opposition, is expected to slow the process, but the government can override objections — meaning the changes could become law just a few days before the election.
  • The upper house said it would use the full 30 days it has to debate the legislation, meaning it would send the draft law back to the lower house just days before the election is due. With the legislation not fully approved, authorities can’t start printing ballots or launch other preparations. The state-run post service’s 27,000 delivery personnel will have just days to ensure ballots reach 30 million Poles eligible for the vote.
  • Politico – Zosia Wanat / Polish government rams through electoral system changes

Today’s flash news:

Further reading for the Easter holidays:

Note to our readers: the EsadeGeo Daily Digest will be next curated and published on 14 April 2020. Until then, we will be selecting the most important news during the holidays and sharing them on our Twitter profile. We invite you to follow us there!

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.

Política Internacional | Permalink

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 07/04/2020

Financial Times – Guy Chazan / Coronavirus crisis prompts German rethink on Eurobonds

  • Nine years ago, Michael Hüther, one of Germany’s leading economists, poured scorn on the idea that the eurozone could issue common bonds to deal with the burgeoning sovereign debt crisis. Such “eurobonds” would act as a “negative incentive”, rewarding southern European countries for their lack of budgetary discipline.
  • Yet with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Hüther has had a dramatic change of heart. Late last month he was one of seven prominent German economists who called on eurozone governments to issue €1tn in joint “European crisis bonds” to help the countries worst affected by coronavirus.
  • The first casualty of the crisis was the “schwarze Null” or “black zero”, the doctrine of no new borrowing relentlessly pursued by Angela Merkel’s government for much of the last decade that delivered six years of budget surpluses. This was abandoned in spectacular fashion last month when Olaf Scholz, finance minister, unveiled a €150bn emergency spending plan largely financed by new debt.
  • So far, the red line on common debt issuance is holding. Germany has always argued the idea would violate the “no bailout” clause in the EU treaty. Mr Hüther, meanwhile, has defended his change of heart. “Unless we can come up with a common crisis bond, I see a grim future for the EU,” he told the German daily Tagesspiegel. “It’s not about financing dams in central Italy. It’s a question of life and death.” 
  • Euractiv / Merkel warns on EU’s future as US braces for worst of virus

Foreign Affairs – Erik Jones / Old divisions threaten Europe’s economic response to the coronavirus

  • The European countries worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic—Italy and Spain, which have the highest death tolls in the European Union and face the strongest economic headwinds—are also among the principal beneficiaries of the new ECB policies. 
  • By purchasing Italian and Spanish bonds, the ECB has given Rome and Madrid leeway to focus on keeping their people healthy, without worrying about a domestic economic collapse. These bond purchases have also made a sovereign debt crisis of the kind the European Union last witnessed in the summer of 2012 less likely.
  • But the ECB’s recent moves have raised hackles in Germany and the Netherlands, where leaders fear that the bank’s actions will encourage governments to live beyond their means or avoid making painful adjustments once the crisis has passed. 
  • And the disagreements remain rooted in very real differences at the national level: by the end of 2019, Germany and the Netherlands had debt-to-GDP ratios of 59 percent and 49 percent, respectively; the ratios in Italy and Spain were far higher, standing at 136 percent and 97 percent, respectively.
  • Politico – Lili Bayer / EU budget won’t be corona-era Marshall Plan

The New York Times – Bethan Jones and Fabio Montale / Italy is sending another warning

  • Everyone knows Italy’s story by now. The first European nation to be hit hard by the coronavirus, it has become a harbinger for the rest of Europe and America. First, there was the lockdown. Then the sight of a health care system stretched to the point of collapse and the terror of a rising death count.
  • Now, nearly a month after the country went into lockdown, Italy is sending another warning. The economy is in trouble, bound for a major contraction. And the precariously situated workers — self-employed, seasonal, informal — are suffering the most. It’s not clear how much longer they can survive.
  • In Campania, the region of which Naples is the capital, 41 percent of people are at risk of poverty. Work is a problem: Last year, unemployment was around 20 percent and about that proportion of the region’s work force was underemployed. And for those who do have work, it is often informal, insecure — and particularly vulnerable to the crisis. An estimated two million people across the south have no formal contract.
  • The vulnerable workers of Naples, and the south more generally, need more help. The 400 million euros, close to $432 million, the government has set aside for food stamps is not enough. Now there is talk that the government’s next budget might include an “emergency income,” covering those so far overlooked. But the budget isn’t due until later in the month. For workers locked out of state support, that isn’t soon enough.
  • Politico – Hannah Roberts and Jacopo Barigazzi / Mafia plots post-coronavirus pounce

Project Syndicate – Joseph E. Stiglitz / Internationalizing the crisis

  • As has been obvious since the outset, the COVID-19 pandemic is a global problem that demands a global solution. In the world’s advanced economies, compassion should be sufficient motivation to support a multilateral response. But global action is also a matter of self-interest. 
  • The impact of COVID-19 on developing and emerging economies has only begun to reveal itself. There are good reasons to believe that these countries will ravaged far more by the pandemic than the advanced economies have been. These countries’ health systems are even less prepared to manage an epidemic than those of the advanced economies.
  • These developments are already being reflected in the yield spreads on developing countries’ sovereign debt. Many governments will find it exceedingly difficult to roll over the debts coming due this year on reasonable terms, if at all. Moreover, developing countries have fewer and harder choices about how to confront the pandemic.
  • When people are living hand to mouth in the absence of adequate social protections, a loss of income could mean starvation. Yet these countries cannot replicate the US response, which features (so far) a $2 trillion economic package that will blow up the fiscal deficit by some 10% of GDP (on top of a pre-pandemic deficit of 5%).
  • The New York Times – Paul Krugman / Will we flunk pandemic economics?

Today’s food for thought:

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.

Política Internacional | Permalink

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 06/04/2020

The Guardian – Rowena Mason, Peter Walker and Hannah Devlin / Boris Johnson admitted to hospital with coronavirus

  • Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital due to coronavirus after suffering 10 days of symptoms including a high fever, bringing doubts about his capability to lead the response to the pandemic despite No 10 insisting it was purely precautionary. Officials were keen to stress that this was not an emergency admission.
  • Johnson will remain in charge of government, and will be in regular touch with colleagues and civil servants. A government source told Reuters on Monday morning that Johnson had spent the night in hospital. If his condition worsens Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary and first secretary of state, is the designated minister to take charge.
  • Raab is expected to chair a 9.15am Monday meeting of the government’s C-19 committee, which leads the response to the pandemic. The pound fell against the dollar and euro overnight on Monday as foreign exchange markets took fright at the possibility of Johnson being out of action.
  • Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, revealed on Saturday that she had also been suffering from the virus but is recovering. While No 10 did not say what tests Johnson would undergo in hospital, experts said they would be likely to focus on assessing how the prime minister’s lungs, heart and other organs were responding to the virus.
  • The New York Times – Mark Landler / Boris Johnson hospitalized as Queen urges British resolve in face of epidemic

Financial Times – The editorial board / Virus lays bare the frailty of the social contract

  • If there is a silver lining to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that it has injected a sense of togetherness into polarised societies. But the virus, and the economic lockdowns needed to combat it, also shine a glaring light on existing inequalities — and even create new ones. Beyond defeating the disease, the great test all countries will soon face is whether current feelings of common purpose will shape society after the crisis.
  • Today’s crisis is laying bare how far many rich societies fall short of this ideal. Much as the struggle to contain the pandemic has exposed the unpreparedness of health systems, so the brittleness of many countries’ economies has been exposed, as governments scramble to stave off mass bankruptcies and cope with mass unemployment. Despite inspirational calls for national mobilisation, we are not really all in this together.
  • The economic lockdowns are imposing the greatest cost on those already worst off. Overnight millions of jobs and livelihoods have been lost in hospitality, leisure and related sectors, while better paid knowledge workers often face only the nuisance of working from home. Worse, those in low-wage jobs who can still work are often risking their lives — as carers and healthcare support workers, but also as shelf stackers, delivery drivers and cleaners.
  • Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.
  • Bloomberg – Viktoria Dendrinou and Nikos Chrysoloras / These are the options for Europe’s giant virus rescue package

Vox – Jen Kirby / The UK’s Labour party has a new leader: Keir Starmer

  • Britain’s Labour Party officially has a new leader. Keir Starmer, who previously served as the opposition’s shadow Brexit secretary, won the leadership contest with 56 percent of the vote, defeating two other candidates, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy.
  • Starmer’s election indicates that Labour is seeking a change after five years of Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing leader who agreed to step aside following the party’s crushing defeat in December elections. Starmer has promised to embrace some of the popular Labour policies, but is seen as someone who can appeal more broadly to the UK electorate because he’s not as left-wing as Corbyn.
  • Starmer, 57, is a human-rights lawyer who has served as the former director of public prosecutions and head of the crown prosecution service. He joined Parliament in 2015, and gained a lot of attention during the Brexit debate, serving as Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary and helping to temper Corbyn’s approach to Brexit.
  • In Parliament, he often articulated a case against the Conservative government’s Brexit plans more coherently than the Labour leader, Corbyn. Starmer supported remaining in the EU, though now that Brexit is complete, he’s urged the party to move on from the issue and to focus instead on a smooth transition out of the bloc.
  • Politico – Charlie Cooper and Emilio Casalicchio / 10 things to know about Labour’s Keir Starmer
  • The Economist / Bagehot: Labour’s new leader should beware of “war socialism”

Euractiv – Samuel Stolton / Leak: EU in push for digital transformation after COVID-19 crisis

  • EU member states and the European Commission should “thoroughly analyse the experiences gained from the COVID-19 pandemic” in order to inform future policies across the entire spectrum of the digital domain, leaked Council documents seen by EURACTIV reveal.
  • In particular, fields such as “e-Health, digital education, e-Government, data sharing and broadband connectivity,” should receive particular attention following the current coronavirus crisis, the draft Council of the EU conclusions on Shaping Europe’s Digital Future, note.
  • Moreover, the document, dated 1 April, states that EU should also move to ensure that member states are able to award 5G spectrum frequencies by the end of 2020. Several member states have already announced intentions to postpone frequency auctions as a results of the ongoing public health crisis.
  • The draft conclusions note the need of the EU to facilitate the “sharing of data amongst businesses and institutions, to gain critical mass and be successful in the data economy currently dominated by a few powerful players.” The Croatian Presidency now intends to discuss the draft conclusions in the Council Working Party for Telecoms, next meeting in May, dependent on any future restrictions imposed as part of the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Politico – Nektaria Stamouli / Coronavirus bundles Greece into the digital era

Today’s long read:

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.

Política Internacional | Permalink

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 03/04/2020

The Economist / Covid-19 presents stark choices between life, death and the economy

  • Imagine having two critically ill patients but just one ventilator. That is the choice which could confront hospital staff in New York, Paris and London in the coming weeks, just as it has in Lombardy and Madrid. Triage demands agonising decisions. Medics have to say who will be treated and who must go without: who might live and who will probably die.
  • Just now the effort to fight the virus seems all-consuming. Each country is striking a different trade-off—and not all of them make sense. In India the Modi government decided that its priority was speed. In Russia, Putin is more concerned with minimising political damage and suppressing information than leading his country out of a crisis.
  • How should you think about these trade-offs? The first principle is to be systematic. A second principle is to help those on the losing side of sensible trade-offs. A third principle is that countries must adapt. The balance of costs and benefits will change as the pandemic unfolds. 
  • By the summer, economies will have suffered double-digit drops in quarterly GDP. People will have endured months indoors, hurting both social cohesion and their mental health. The capacity of the economy would wither as innovation stalled and skills decayed. Eventually, even if many people are dying, the cost of distancing could outweigh the benefits. That is a side to the trade-offs that nobody is yet ready to admit. 
  • Politico – Barbara Moens / The cure for the coronavirus crisis: more trade or less?
  • Euractiv – Beatriz Ríos / Von der Leyen: EU Budget should be the Marshall plan we lay out together

Financial Times – Peter Millett / Foreign powers are blatantly flouting Libya’s arms embargo

  • While the world has been distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, Khalifa Haftar, a renegade Libyan general, has chosen to step up his year-long assault on Tripoli. With his military stockpile boosted by planeloads of munitions and equipment flown in from the United Arab Emirates, Gen Haftar’s forces have shelled neighbourhoods of the Libyan capital with renewed severity in recent days.
  • The offensive threatens to trigger a new phase of conflict just as Libyans are bracing for their own coronavirus outbreak. The north African state reported its first confirmed cases of Covid-19 last week, and its weak health system has limited ability to detect and treat the disease.
  • Military commanders from the Libyan parties met and agreed on a ceasefire. That led to a short period of calm, but both sides used it to receive large supplies of military equipment: the UN-backed government from Turkey and Gen Haftar’s forces from the UAE. The fighting has since escalated.
  • This war started as a Libyan conflict, driven by one man’s ambition. It is now a conflict fuelled by outside sponsors. The Emiratis, Egyptians and Turks have signed up to international statements calling for a ceasefire and respect for the arms embargo, yet have simultaneously ramped up support to their clients. This blatant flouting of the arms embargo is a scandal. Violations are well known, but have not been named and shamed.
  • EUobserver – Tarek Megerisi / EU’s ‘Irini’ Libya mission : Europe’s Operation Cassandra

Foreign Policy – Colm Quinn / The tourism industry is in trouble. These countries will suffer the most.

  • According to the nonprofit World Travel and Tourism Council, which represents the international tourism industry, travel and tourism contributed $8.8 trillion to the global economy in 2018 and was responsible for 10.4 percent of all economic activity. The council estimates that travel and tourism are responsible for 319 million jobs around the world.
  • Thailand and the Philippines rely on tourism for more than a fifth of their GDP. Two of the worst-hit countries in the coronavirus outbreak, Spain and Italy, also depend heavily on this sector. The country that relies on tourism the least—South Korea—is also handling its outbreak the best.
  • The most severe economic devastation, however, will likely be seen in the small island nations that have staked their entire economies on overseas travelers taking in their beaches and resorts. Of the top 20 countries most dependent on travel and tourism as a source of GDP, 15 are small island nations.
  • Iceland, whose economy suffered a deep decline during the 2008 financial crisis, stands to lose again, as more than a third of its GDP comes from travel and tourism. Andrew Fahie, the premier of the British Virgin Islands, has remained upbeat despite the expected downturn. “Our tourism industry has faced many crises before (…) and we have always come out strong on the other side,” he said.
  • Financial Times – Mamta Badkar et al. / Global lay-offs surge as 6.6m Americans file jobless claims

Foreign Affairs – Daniel Yergin / The oil collapse

  • The global oil market has never in history collapsed as precipitously as it has right now. The oil and gas industry, which provides almost 60 percent of the world’s energy, is engulfed in a double crisis that would have been dismissed as unthinkable at the start of this year.
  • A price war, with producing nations battling for market share, has become lodged in the larger crisis of the novel coronavirus pandemic and what will likely be the worst recession since World War II. The resulting collapse in demand will be bigger than any recorded since oil became a global commodity.
  • The nature and sheer scale of the current collapse and the geopolitical wrangling it has prompted present unique challenges for the United States and its energy sector—challenges that will have significant consequences for the U.S. economy and U.S. foreign policy in an already perilous moment.
  • Ending the battle for market share would reduce the surplus flowing into the market, take some pressure off storage, and have a positive impact on market psychology, which is one of the factors that shapes prices. With much of the global economy at a standstill, the oil crisis is going to get worse in the weeks ahead, and the damage will be felt well beyond the oil industry itself. 
  • The Guardian – Jillian Ambrose / Oil price rebounds on hopes Saudi Arabia and Russia will reach deal
  • Foreign Affairs – Amy Myers Jaffe / Emerging-market petrostates are about to melt down

Further reading for the weekend:

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.

Política Internacional | Permalink

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 02/04/2020

Euractiv – Alexandra Brzozowski / EU’s INSTEX mechanism facilitates first transaction with pandemic-hit Iran

  • The EU-Iran trading mechanism INSTEX, designed to allow Europeans to bypass US sanctions and continue trade with Tehran, has successfully concluded its first transaction. However, the humanitarian deal actually doesn’t appear to contravene EU sanctions.
  • France, Germany and the UK confirmed on Tuesday (31 March) that INSTEX has successfully concluded its first transaction to facilitate the export of medical goods from Europe to the pandemic-hit country. Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday (31 March) that the creation of the INSTEX mechanism has enabled the export of medical devices from Europe and thus completed the first transaction under barter system.
  • The EU-Iran Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) was born as the brainchild of France, Germany and the UK in January 2019 as a special purpose vehicle to help EU companies do business with Iran and facilitate non-USD transactions to avoid breaking US sanctions against the country.
  • The bloc is preparing to send €20 million of humanitarian aid to Iran, to mitigate the impact of the escalating coronavirus outbreak in the country. Borrell said Brussels would support requests for help made by Iran and Venezuela – also heavily sanctioned – to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • Al-Monitor – Bryant Harris / Intel: US stands down on Europe’s new trade mechanism with Iran

Foreign Policy – Amy Mackinnon and Robbie Gramer / Russia scores pandemic propaganda triumph with medical delivery to U.S.

  • As top American officials bash the Russian government for spreading disinformation on the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump is accepting a supply of medical equipment from Moscow. Russia is set to deliver a planeload of personal protective equipment and supplies to the United States on Wednesday.
  • “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice,” Trump said during a press conference on Monday—though the shipment had not yet been sent at that point. Overburdened U.S. hospitals across the country are facing a dire shortage of medical supplies.
  • But the delivery also represents a major optics win for Moscow as the worldwide delivery of medical supplies from competing powers takes on an increasingly geopolitical edge. The United States appears to have shed its traditional role of world leader in a global crisis, critics say, instead redirecting its focus on domestic needs.
  • “This is a PR coup for the Russians,” said Alina Polyakova, the head of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a think tank. “The United States has always had the reputation of being the global responsible first responder in moments of crisis and now … you have a situation where an authoritarian state like Russia is providing humanitarian assistance to the most powerful country in the world.” 
  • The Washington Post – Robyn Dixon / Trump called Russia’s coronavirus aid to U.S. ‘very nice.’ Putin may use it as a propaganda coup.

Financial Times – Anjli Raval / Oil prices rally on growing hopes for Russia-Saudi Arabia pact

  • Brent crude rallied nearly 12 per cent on hopes of a supply deal among major oil producers led by Saudi Arabia and Russia to alleviate a price collapse triggered by the coronavirus outbreak. US president Donald Trump said he had spoken in recent days with the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia and believed a deal to end a price war — that has taken Brent to the lowest level since 2002 — would be made in “a few days”.
  • Saudi Arabia had pushed for a deal to deepen and prolong production curbs ahead of a March meeting of oil ministers, but it was met with reluctance by Russia. This prompted Saudi Arabia to pursue a ‘pump at will’ strategy to shock the market, cutting prices for its crude and raising production to record levels.
  • Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, rose by $2.88 to $27.64 a barrel. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate climbed $2, or 9.9 per cent, to $22.31 a barrel. Saudi Arabia and Russia have both backed co-operation, yet it seems there is little sign of a strategy shift just yet. The kingdom raised production to above 12m barrels a day, its maximum level, on Wednesday.
  • Some market analysts have said the demand collapse is so severe, amid global lockdowns and travel bans, that any supply cuts from major producers would have a limited impact. Mr Trump also said he would meet US oil executives to discuss other measures by which to aid the industry that is suffering after an oil price collapse.
  • Bloomberg – Catherine Ngai / Trump’s meeting with drillers couldn’t give oil futures a boost

The Guardian – Jillian Ambrose and Fiona Harvey / Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow postponed until 2021

  • The UN climate talks due to be held in Glasgow later this year have been postponed as governments around the world struggle to halt the spread of coronavirus. The most important climate negotiations since the Paris agreement in 2015 were scheduled to take place this November to put countries back on track to avoid climate breakdown.
  • They will now be pushed back to 2021. A statement from the UN on Wednesday night confirmed that the meeting of over 26,000 attendees would be delayed until next year. It said new dates for the conference would be decided in due course.
  • The UK energy minister and president of the Cop26 conference, Alok Sharma, held crunch talks with the UN and several other countries on Wednesday evening to confirm the timing of the summit. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to delay the vital talks because of the widespread disruption caused by coronavirus, and will also delay a key preliminary meeting scheduled for Bonn, Germany.
  • Some campaigners believe there could be another advantage to delay, as the US presidential elections take place this November, just before Cop26 was scheduled to begin. With the summit delayed to next year, other governments will have time to adjust either to a second term of Donald Trump or a new president who is likely to support climate action.
  • Bloomberg – Jess Shankleman and Laura Millan Lombrana / Global climate conference postponed as world grapples with virus

Today’s self-reflection drivers:

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.

Política Internacional | Permalink

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 01/04/2020

The Washington Post – Edith M. Lederer / UN chief says COVID-19 is worst crisis since World War II

  • U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Tuesday that the world faces the most challenging crisis since World War II, confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country, one that will bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”
  • There is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict,” the U.N. chief said at the launch of a report on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.
  • Guterres called for a much stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the social and economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing. He stressed that this will only be possible “if everybody comes together and if we forget political games and understand that it is humankind that is at stake.”
  • “We are far from having a global package to help the developing world to create the conditions both to suppress the disease and to address the dramatic consequences in their populations, in the people that lost their jobs, the small companies that are operating and risk to disappear, those that live with the informal economy that now have no chance to survive,” he said.
  • Financial Times – Demetri Sevastopulo / Donald Trump warns of up to 240,000 coronavirus deaths in US

Politico – Paola Tamma / EU makes new push for solidarity with €100B unemployment scheme

  • Brussels is having another shot at forging European solidarity in the teeth of the coronavirus crisis and this time it will involve a pan-European unemployment reinsurance scheme worth as much as €100 billion.
  • EU leaders from French President Emmanuel Macron to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have urged the bloc to show greater unity in recent days, after the pandemic triggered outbreaks of “economic patriotism” across the Continent.
  • Doubling down on a pan-European financial response to the crisis, the Commission is now bringing forward a long-discussed proposal for EU-wide unemployment reinsurance to this week. Two people briefed on the proposal said the idea was for the scheme to have an upper value of €100 billion.
  • Countries would be in charge of issuing benefits, which would be aimed primarily at ensuring people are able to maintain their jobs with income support when their company folds, where the EU could act as a re-insurer. It would be open not just to employees but also to atypical workers and the self-employed.
  • Euractiv – Jorge Valero / Eurogroup to discuss EU-wide unemployment reinsurance scheme

Financial Times – Martin Wolf / The tragedy of two failing superpowers

  • History accelerates in crises. This pandemic may not itself transform the world, but it can accelerate changes already under way. One ongoing change has been in the relationship between China, the rising superpower, and the US, the incumbent. Being a superpower is not just about brute strength, it is also about being seen as a competent and decent leader.
  • After victories in the second world war and the cold war, the US was such a leader. Despite rising economic strength, China is not. But times can change. The coronavirus may accelerate the process. Global influence derives mainly from one’s own choices. China and the US have each made big mistakes. But the US failure to create widely shared prosperity at home, and its bellicosity abroad, are proving crippling.
  • The dismal presidency of a malevolent incompetent is one result. Now has come the virus. It casts a harsh light on the competence and decency of the superpowers. It has done the same on EU solidarity (or its absence), the effectiveness of states, the vulnerability of finance and the capacity for global co-operation. In all this, the performance of the US and China is of pre-eminent importance.
  • For those of us who believe in liberal democracy, US failures hurt. But the death of decency and competence in core western governments matters beyond even this. The arrival of the pandemic is a global moral challenge. It is necessary to tackle the spread of disease, manage financial shocks, stabilise the economy and help the weak. The US has to play a big part. There remains no alternative to its role.
  • Foreign Policy – Mattia Ferraresi / China isn’t helping Italy. It’s waging information warfare.

The New York Times – Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Benjamin Novak / E.U. tries gentle diplomacy to counter Hungary’s crackdown on democracy

  • The European Union’s written response to Hungary’s effective suspension of democracy omitted one important word: Hungary. “It’s of utmost importance that emergency measures are not at the expense of our fundamental principles and values,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said in a statement that made no mention of Mr. Orban or Hungary.
  • The European Commission on Tuesday reminded its members to respect rights. But it was a muted first response from the one institution that can take on Mr. Orban, and it appeared aimed at balancing the political imperative of cooperation in the era of the coronavirus with the risk of emboldening him.
  • European Union officials believe that the statement issued Tuesday, which came from Ms. von der Leyen personally, sent a clear message to Mr. Orban — even without naming him. European Commission lawyers are now closely watching how he enforces Hungary’s new measures, the officials said.
  • Mr. Orban’s hold on power was unparalleled by European Union standards well before Monday’s vote. Lengthy and cumbersome European Union legal proceedings could not stop Mr. Orban and his allies from taking over the Hungarian media landscape, weakening the independence of the judiciary, or levying a special tax on nongovernmental organizations receiving foreign funding.
  • Foreign Policy – Daniel B. Baer / The shocking ‘coronavirus coup’ in Hungary was a wake-up call

Today’s lessons from the past:

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, 31/03/2020

Politico – Lili Bayer / Hungary’s Viktor Orbán wins vote to rule by decree

  • The Hungarian parliament on Monday voted by a two-thirds majority to allow the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree without a set time limit. While the new legislation remains in place, no by-elections can be held and Orbán’s government will be able to suspend the enforcement of certain laws.
  • Plus, individuals who publicize what are viewed as untrue or distorted facts — and which could interfere with the protection of the public, or could alarm or agitate a large number of people — now face several years in jail. The new rules can only be lifted with another two-thirds vote of the parliament and a presidential signature.
  • In the vote, 137 members of parliament were in favor, 53 against and nine did not cast a ballot. Hungary’s president, János Áder, an Orbán ally, quickly approved the legislation. The legislation has elicited deep concern both among civil rights groups in Hungary and international institutions. Critics say that emergency measures to address the coronavirus crisis should be temporary and time-limited to allow for checks and balances.
  • The European Commission said that it was looking into the legislation, while politicians across Europe belonging to S&D, Renew Europe and the Greens have raised concerns about this measure. Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Orbán’s move was the final straw.
  • Financial Times – Valerie Hopkins / Orban handed power to rule by decree in Hungary

Foreign Policy – Florian Bieber / Authoritarianism in the time of the coronavirus

  • In times of crisis, checks and balances are often ignored in the name of executive power. The danger is that the temporary can become permanent. Initially, populist and autocratic leaders were ill-prepared for the pandemic.
  • A disdain for science and expertise, combined with nepotism and neglect of state institutions, including health care, made governments such as those of U.S. President Donald Trump, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro more vulnerable.
  • Before the health crisis became impossible to deny, government propaganda outlets or supportive media in these countries systematically downplayed the dangers posed by the coronavirus. Now, both dictatorships and democracies are curtailing civil liberties on a massive scale.
  • There is a serious risk that these efforts are leading to a new wave of authoritarianism. Liberal democracies have also taken unprecedent measures to monitor citizens, such as tracking their movement through cell-phone data. Confronting the coronavirus crisis will take extreme measures, but any infringement on civil liberties must be temporary and proportional.
  • The New York Times – Selam Gebrekidan / For autocrats, and others, coronavirus is a chance to grab even more power

Project Syndicate – Josep Borrell / Four priorities for a global pandemic strategy

  • There are four major priorities for global cooperation. First, we must pool resources to produce new treatments and a vaccine, which should be regarded as a global public good. Second, we need to limit the economic damage by coordinating fiscal- and monetary-stimulus measures and protecting the global trade in goods.
  • Third, we should be planning to re-open borders in a coordinated way whenever health authorities give the green light. Lastly, we must cooperate to fight disinformation campaigns. The outcome of the G20’s recent virtual summit points in this general direction.
  • As the virus spreads globally, we need to pay special attention to its growing impact on fragile countries. Just imagine what would follow if the coronavirus emerges in the region’s refugee camps, where sanitation and health services are already overstretched and humanitarian workers already struggle to deliver aid.
  • Then there is Africa, which is of paramount importance. In many developing countries, a large number of people often have no choice but to go out every day and make a living in the informal economy. This is a fight that will need funding to win. Coordination among central banks and international financial institutions is the only viable way forward.
  • The Atlantic – Francis Fukuyama / The thing that determines a country’s resistance to the coronavirus

Bloomberg – Dan Murtaugh and Jing Yang / China is using more coal again. This time it may be a good thing

  • China is burning more coal in yet another sign that the first country hit by a coronavirus outbreak is returning to a level of normalcy. Daily coal burn at select coastal plants has doubled from early February. The plants are responding to resurgent electricity demand as factories restart in the world’s second-largest economy.
  • China’s use of coal is usually cause for consternation. The country mines and burns about half the world’s supply of the dirtiest fossil fuel, and it’s the primary reason China leads the world in carbon emissions. In fact, China’s shutdown to slow the spread of the virus probably kept about 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, at least temporarily.
  • Still, with Europe and the U.S. now in the grips of a similar lockdown and the global economy in tatters, signs that China is stirring back to life a little over two months since the outbreak are a beacon to the rest of the world. Coal use by the coastal power plants of five major Chinese utilities reached 488,800 tons last week.
  • More than 90% of markets, shops and malls in China and 70% of small- and medium-sized businesses have reopened as of mid-March, according to consultancy IHS Markit. China Railway has resumed work on about 93% of its major construction projects.
  • The Economist / The epidemic provides a chance to do good by the climate

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.

Política Internacional | Permalink