ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 27/07/2018

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Financial Times – Cecilia Malmström / The EU will stand up for rules-based trade

  • The international trading order is confronting its deepest crisis to date. Some now believe it is time to pull the plug on 70 years of trade diplomacy and pursue trade goals by other means. If this happens, it will be the public that takes the hit.
  • But the World Trade Organization has been unable to address ongoing problems, such as growing state involvement in trade, market-distorting subsidies and other uncompetitive behavior. It has been paralyzed by conflicting interests and stiff procedures.
  • First, the blockage of the WTO appellate body should be addressed by introducing changes to make the dispute settlement system work better. Second, the WTO is in need of tools to deal with uncompetitive and unfair behavior quickly. Third, the WTO’s decision-making and negotiating processes must be improved.
  • In the future, WTO members should be free to move at different speeds and to integrate and meet criteria at different times, allowing for progress in key areas.

The Guardian – Timothy Garton Ash / A humiliating Brexit deal risks a descent into Weimar Britain

  • Over the next year or two – especially if the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal – we may witness the emergence of a British society riven by domestic divisions and economic difficulties, let down by its ruling classes, fetid with humiliation and resentment. Any such country is a danger both to itself and to its neighbors.
  • Such a Britain could also arrive more slowly, if the other 27 member states of the EU impose a humiliating divorce deal – a milder, peacetime, bureaucratic version of the punitive Versailles treaty imposed on Germany after the first world war.
  • Comparisons between today’s UK and Weimar Germany are of course an exaggeration. But we should not underestimate the dangers for the whole of Europe that flow from Brexit – especially a mishandled Brexit.
  • To avert the worst possible outcome, the UK will need pragmatic realism, a credible democratic process, and robust civility. And European leaders should be firm, but not punitive. It is imperative for them to think strategically about how the cross-Channel relationship might look in five to 10 years’ time – which necessarily means thinking about how the EU itself will then look.

The Economist / Spain’s democracy is about to turn 40. How well has it worn?

  • The 1978 Spanish Constitution has helped to bring Spain the best years since its Golden Age in the 16th and 17th centuries. Spain has managed to transform itself into a stable and prosperous democracy. The past decade has been difficult, but a new, more outward-looking, higher-value Spanish economy is emerging.
  • However, Spain is suffering “a crisis in the governance of representative democracy”, according to former Prime Minister Felipe González. This has given rise to “the politics of rancor”. The indignation has been at its most virulent in Catalonia, and former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy paid little attention to it.
  • Continuing political deadlock would come at great cost. Spain needs further reforms. It suffers from skills mismatches, a flawed education system, a generation gap and an ageing population. Its public administration, at all levels, is marred by cronyism and inefficiency. Above all, Spanish politicians must deal with Catalan separatism.
  • Catalonia poses questions that matter for Europe as well as for Spain. It represents a clash of two conceptions of democracy. The one defended by former Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont is plebiscitarian and based on popular mobilization, whereas Spain’s constitutionalist politicians defend a representative democracy that is anchored in the rule of law and respects minority rights.
  • International law recognizes a right to self-determination only in cases of colonization, invasion or gross denial of human rights. None of these applies in Catalonia.

European Council on Foreign Relations – Julien Barnes-Dacey / Mad maximalism: The fight to dislodge Iran from Syria

  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s international enemies no longer seriously entertain the idea of ousting him; they have de facto accepted that he will remain in power. The US government and its Middle Eastern allies now focus on ridding Syria of Iranian forces.
  • But the pursuit of maximalist ambitions is only likely to meet with an equally uncompromising response from Tehran and, eventually, wider conflict. This would perhaps create new space for the Islamic State group (ISIS).
  • The US and Israeli approach is fundamentally flawed: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Assad are neither willing nor able to force a significant Iranian exit from Syria. These countries share an ongoing desire to resist perceived US attempts to shape the regional order. And, in any case, both Russia and Assad lack the resources to remove entrenched Iranian forces.
  • For the US and Israel, core security interests do not require that Syria be cleared of every last Iranian. Instead, they require a way to sufficiently curtail Iran’s presence, particularly along Israel’s immediate border. Europeans should do more to support this incremental track.

Bloomberg – Shannon K. O’Neil / The coming US-Mexico blow-up

  • Initial niceties between the Trump Administration and Mexico’s President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador paper over deep chasms in priorities, positions and domestic politics. A blow-up may not be far away.
  • López Obrador has made clear that the solutions to bilateral challenges of migration, security and commerce depend on Mexico’s economic advancement. But he is likely to be turned down or ignored on the economic issues that matter most to him.
  • Likewise, López Obrador is unlikely to be the Nafta partner Trump is looking for. There is also little common ground on Central American migration. Diplomatically, cooperation on an imploding Venezuela (let alone Nicaragua or Cuba) is also about to fade.
  • As the 2020 elections approach, Trump will be tempted once again to demonize Mexico. With his own base to feed, López Obrador will be hard pressed not to respond in kind.

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, 26/07/2018

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Politico – Rebecca Morin & Megan Cassella / Trump says no new tariffs against EU after parties agree to trade negotiations

  • US President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that his Administration will pause its plans to impose new tariffs against the EU.
  • In a joint statement, Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also announced that the two trading partners will work to eliminate tariffs on all non-auto industrial goods, increase cooperation on energy purchases and work together to reform the World Trade Organization.
  • In exchange for commitments from Trump to “reassess” the steel and aluminum tariffs and “hold off on further tariffs,” the EU will boost its purchases of US soybeans and build more terminals to import liquified natural gas from America, Juncker said.
  • The big win for the EU, Juncker added, was that Trump agreed to not increase tariffs on cars so long as the EU and US are on negotiating terms. But Marietje Schaake, a liberal Dutch member of the European Parliament, noted that Juncker’s failure to secure a commitment from Trump to remove the “unjust” steel and aluminum tariffs should be viewed as a failure.

Euractiv / Energy, EU reform on the agenda as Macron heads to Spain and Portugal

  • France’s Emmanuel Macron makes his first visit as president to Spain and Portugal, starting today, in his push to overhaul the EU, with the two southern allies seeking French help to connect their energy grids to Europe.
  • In particular, Macron is trying to win support for a eurozone budget, which he sees as a symbolic step towards closer European integration.
  • Madrid and Paris are broadly aligned on how to handle the thousands of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. Both countries support the creation of “disembarkation platforms” outside the bloc to process refugee applications.
  • On Friday, Macron will attend an EU summit on improving the Iberian Peninsula’s energy links with the rest of Europe. While lacking in oil and gas, Portugal and Spain have raced ahead with developing renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, and hope to sell their surplus electricity beyond the Pyrenees.
  • But officials in Macron’s office speak only of increasing electricity links, whereas Madrid and Lisbon want to link up gas pipelines as well.

The New York Times – Jack Ewing / Wages are rising in Europe. But economists are puzzled.

  • In the decade since the financial crisis, much of the global economy has recovered and is back on stable footing. Wages in most developed countries, however, have barely budged.
  • Europe may offer an exception to that trend. Wages in the eurozone are rising again after years of stagnation.
  • When official data last month showed that hourly wages in the eurozone rose 2 percent in the first three months of 2018, the European Central Bank got the signal it was looking for. It announced it would end its main stimulus measure at the end of the year. At its meeting on Thursday, the Governing Council is expected to reaffirm that plan.
  • However, given that officials don’t know for sure why wage growth recovered in the eurozone, they can’t be sure it’s sustainable. In recent years, the relationship between growth, wages and inflation has become much harder to understand.

Project Syndicate – Richard N. Haass / Summing up the Trump summits

  • The principal reason summits are back is that they constitute Trump’s favored approach to diplomacy. Trump views diplomacy in personal terms. He is a great believer in the idea that relationships between individuals can meaningfully shape the relationship between the countries they lead.
  • Traditionally, summits are scheduled only after months, or even years, of careful preparation, and the potential for surprise is kept to a minimum. But Trump has turned this sequence around. He prefers free-flowing sessions, even if they are at risk of ending in recrimination and no agreement.
  • A summit that ends without a detailed written accord may initially seem successful, but with the passage of time proves to be anything but. Both the Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un and the Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin fall under this category.
  • The absence of any authoritative, mutually agreed record of what was said and agreed to is a recipe for future friction between the parties and mistrust among those not present.
  • There is a danger in expecting too much from summits, especially in the absence of sufficient preparation or follow-up. In such cases, summits merely increase the odds that diplomacy will fail, in the process contributing to geopolitical instability and uncertainty rather than mitigating it.

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, 25/07/2018

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Washington Post – Ishaan Tharoor / Pakistan’s military has its fingerprints all over the elections

  • Pakistanis will cast their ballots on Wednesday in national elections that have been clouded by acrimony and violence. The run-up to the election has been defined by “blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts to manipulate” the result, declared Pakistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission.
  • The apparent beneficiary of much of those efforts has been the once-fringe party of Imran Khan, a cricket star turned nationalist politician. And the hidden power believed to be paving the way for Khan’s victory is Pakistan’s military.
  • Much like India’s Narendra Modi or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Khan channels the exasperation of the country’s conservative middle classes and trains his ire on secular elites.
  • But even with the scales now tipped in his favor, Khan is no shoo-in. The Pakistan People’s Party of late prime minister Benazir Bhutto is expected to do reasonably well in her native Sindh province. And Nawaz Sharif’s incarceration — and the abiding sense that the military is still calling the shots — has galvanized support for his party.

Euractiv – Jorge Valero / EU tones down hopes of Mercosur deal by September

  • The European Commission did not endorse Mercosur’s target to reach a political agreement on trade by September, as substantial gaps remain between the two sides.
  • French Finance minister Bruno Le Maire: “We are waiting for the South American countries to find an agreement between themselves, and come back to us so that we can move forward.”
  • One of the most controversial topics is the list of geographical indications that the EU wants recognized as part of the deal. The Union’s list includes 357 products, of which around 50 are seen controversial, including manchego cheese, cognac and rioja wine.
  • An EU-Mercosur deal would be eight times the size of the trade agreement reached with Canada (CETA) and four times the volume of the recent deal signed with Japan, which is currently the EU’s largest.

Financial Times – Mark Leonard / The Chinese are wary of Donald Trump’s creative destruction

  • In the west, most foreign policy experts see US President Donald Trump as reckless, unpredictable and self-defeating. But though many in Asia dislike him as much as the Europeans do, they see him as a more substantial figure.
  • Few Chinese think that Trump’s primary concern is to rebalance the bilateral trade deficit. If it were, they say, he would have aligned with the EU, Japan and Canada against China. They think the US president’s goal is nothing less than remaking the global order.
  • In Chinese eyes, Trump’s policies are a form of “creative destruction”. He is systematically destroying the existing institutions as a first step towards renegotiating the world order on terms more favorable to Washington.
  • Once the order is destroyed, the Chinese elite believes, Trump will move to stage two: renegotiating America’s relationship with other powers. Trump would rather deal with them one at a time rather than through multilateral institutions that empower the weak at the expense of the strong.
  • The Chinese see Trump as Henry Kissinger in reverse. In 1972, the US nudged China off the Soviet axis in order to put pressure on its real rival, the Soviet Union. Today Trump is reaching out to Russia in order to isolate China.

The Guardian – Marie Mendras / Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a creaking ship. Don’t fall for the propaganda

  • The Kremlin’s narrative hinges on the notion of a “patriotic” Russia constantly overcoming a minuscule opposition, depicted as a “fifth column” that is activated or manipulated by external forces. It is tempting for foreign observers to adopt such a black-and-white vision.
  • In fact, there are three Russias. The first is Putin’s Russia, built on an oligarchic power structure and its massive propaganda machine. The second is the average man’s Russia, with its many facets but also its common problems. The third is of the professional elites and upper-middle class, who benefited from the economic boom of the 2000s and now have much to lose.
  • Behind his bombast, Putin fears a combination of both grassroots and elite mobilization. Popular complaints can become a threat if they’re amplified by intellectuals, journalists and opposition politicians. The exceptional popularity of Alexei Navalny and his anti-corruption foundation shows a new politics in the making. Putinism as a formula for stability has run its course.
  • The regime tries to deflect attention from a depressed domestic economy by provoking confrontations with the west, but it is costly, unproductive and not very popular. Putin will stick to this course, though, rather than take the risk of liberalization and accountability.

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, 24/07/2018

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The Guardian – Tom Phillips / Daniel Ortega rejects blame for Nicaragua bloodshed in rare interview

  • In an unexpected and rare television interview, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega attempted to wash his hands of responsibility for the recent killings in the country and to play down the scale of the uprising, claiming the situation in Nicaragua was returning to normal.
  • Ortega distanced himself from the masked paramilitaries behind many of the attacks on demonstrators, claiming, improbably, that they were bankrolled by drug traffickers or political enemies rather than his own administration.
  • Ortega rejected calls for him to step down and said bringing elections forwards from 2021 as demanded by the opposition would only bring more instability and insecurity to Nicaragua.

The New York Times – Choe Sang-Hun / North Korea starts dismantling key missile facilities, report says

  • According to a 38 North report by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., North Korea has started dismantling a missile-engine test site at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, as US President Donald Trump said the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, promised he would during their historic summit meeting in Singapore.
  • Bermudez said that North Korea has also started dismantling a rail-mounted building at the Sohae station where workers used to assemble space launch vehicles before moving them to the launchpad.
  • However, it still remained unclear whether North Korea planned to raze the entire Sohae site in the country’s northeast, which has been vital to its space program.
  • North Korea officially says it no longer needs nuclear or missile tests because it has completed building its nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles and begun mass-producing them. Some Western officials and analysts still doubt that the country has mastered the technologies needed for launching a reliable long-range missile to a target across an ocean.

Politico – Adam Behsudi / Trump: US ready to ‘do something’ about EU auto imports

  • Trump on Monday threatened Europe’s car exports ahead of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s visit to Washington later this week. “They’re coming in to see me Wednesday and we’ll see if we can work something out … Otherwise we’ll have to do something,” Trump said.
  • The US president is weighing a 20-percent tariff on imports of automobiles and auto parts under a law that allows the executive to impose tariffs and other trade restrictions if the Commerce Department determines that imports of certain goods threaten national security.
  • Trump has consistently targeted the EU for maintaining a 10 percent tariff on imported vehicles while the US has a 2.5 percent tariff on imports of passenger vehicles.
  • Trump also mentioned Mexico and said he had talked with President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador at length. “We’re talking to them about doing something very dramatic, very positive for both our countries,” he said, mentioning trade and NAFTA without bringing up Canada.

Foreign Affairs – Suha Maayeh & Nicholas A. Heras / The fall of Daraa

  • In July 2017, Jordan, Russia, and the US agreed to create a “de-escalation zone” covering Daraa (the rebel stronghold where the uprising that sparked the Syrian civil war began), Quneitra, and Sweida. The de-escalation zone more or less held for most of the year, as Bashar al-Assad’s forces carried out offensives elsewhere in Syria.
  • But throughout this period Assad continued to keep an eye on Daraa. At first, Assad tried to win back southwestern Syria through Russian-led talks. When the opposition balked at the proposed terms, Assad decided to retake southwestern Syria by force, with Russian and Iranian support.
  • ETANA, a Syrian-led research organization based in Amman, counted 352 civilians killed and over 630 wounded as a result of the offensive, and the UN estimated that more than 720,000 residents of southwestern Syria were at direct risk of being displaced by the fighting.
  • Despite the military setbacks and the humanitarian crisis, many of the rebel leaders in Daraa tried to remain defiant. “It is impossible for anyone who has fired one bullet against the regime to remain alive. If it doesn’t kill him, he will be tried on terrorism charges and then killed,” said one armed opposition commander based in Daraa.
  • Ultimately, the rebels only managed to slightly delay the inevitable conclusion of all the fighting: Assad won, and the regime is returning to Daraa with a vengeance.

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, 23/07/2018

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Foreign Affairs – Dina Esfandiary & Ariane M. Tabatabai / Will China undermine Trump’s Iran strategy?

  • For the better part of two decades, Iran’s leadership has been hedging against international isolation by developing deeper ties with China and Russia. China has announced it will likely continue importing oil from Iran, even after the US moves to cut down Iranian oil sales down to zero by November.
  • China’s efforts to become less dependent on the US dollar by using the yuan to pay for oil imports are intended to create a bulwark against US economic pressure. This means that Chinese-Iranian economic ties and trade will likely continue, even as the Trump administration levies new sanctions.
  • China will also play a significant role in ensuring that the provisions of the Iran nuclear deal continue to be implemented. With Washington out of the equation, Beijing is now in the driver’s seat on the redesign of a key nuclear facility, the Arak Heavy Water Reactor. It is also poised to complete two nuclear reactors in Iran in the years to come.
  • China’s willingness to continue trading with Iran will stymie US-led efforts to isolate the country and make sanctions less effective than they were in the past. In the long run, this will greatly diminish US efforts to forge a new deal.
  • BBC / Trump and Iran’s Rouhani trade angry threats

Financial Times – Anne-Marie Slaughter / Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin want to create a new world order

  • Putin supporters in Russia and Trump supporters in the US are ideological allies, working together to elect like-minded parties across Europe and to support leaders, from Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel to Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, who embrace the same values and methods.
  • Trump and Putin support a return to an era of unfettered state sovereignty. They would dismantle international and supranational organizations of all kinds and return to multipolar “Great Power” politics, in which alliances shift and are transactional.
  • The response to Trump and Putin has to be more than defending the status quo. We must begin sketching an affirmative counter-vision of state and non-state institutions that empower their members more than they constrain them and solve problems effectively together.

Al-Monitor – Maxim A. Suchkov / Moscow steadily promoting its ‘Helsinki agenda’ in Syria

  • In the wake of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Putin, Moscow has made a series of moves regarding the situation in Syria aimed at reassuring allies and delivering on guarantees made to each: security for Israel, cooperation with Iran and engagement with the West.
  • After a major victory over opposition militants in the south who have agreed to surrender terms, President Bashar al-Assad is close to recovering control of the Syrian border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
  • Russia is moving steadily toward gradual implementation of its vision for the Golan Heights, while conveying to Iran that these policies are the least painful solutions to the interests of the Islamic Republic when measured against disincentives of a larger regional war.
  • In parallel, a new meeting between the heads of Russia, Iran and Turkey is being prepared. The trilateral summit will most likely occur at the end of the summer or in early fall. This will be the third meeting between Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Economist / The idea of Eurasia is once again the subject of geopolitics

  • The Chinese efforts to create infrastructure links with Europe are only the most notable of many modernizing impulses that are beginning to mesh Eurasia into something resembling a whole.
  • The most original case for Eurasia having new meaning is made by Robert Kaplan in his new book, “The Return of Marco Polo’s World”. Kaplan argues that the interplay of globalization, technology and geography is leading “the Eurasian supercontinent to become…one fluid and comprehensible unit. Eurasia simply has meaning in the way that it didn’t used to.”
  • Kaplan goes on to argue that, in a land mass historically dominated by China, Russia, Persia (modern-day Iran) and Turkey, a half-hidden tradition of empire is striking back. Nowhere is that more evident than with China and its Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Eurasia, according to Kaplan, will prove a curious mix of connectivity and anarchy. The Chinese and Russian empires are themselves vulnerable to groups empowered by communications.
  • In short, Kaplan’s book depicts a new medievalism—a world in which empires, not nation-states hold, sway, and where local identities and grievances breed instability and unrest.

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, 20/07/2018

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Foreign Policy – Keith Johnson / With Trump going soft on Nord Stream, Congress moves to kill the pipeline

  • Lawmakers in the US Congress are rolling out a new slate of sanctions that could kill the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and boost US energy exports to Europe.
  • Republican Senators John Barrasso and Cory Gardner introduced a bill that would make mandatory US economic sanctions on companies building the Nord Stream pipeline. The bill also seeks to streamline the export of more US natural gas to allies such as Japan and members of NATO.
  • Separately, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said Thursday that he will introduce a new bill to put teeth into the existing but still unused sanctions on Russian energy.
  • “Nord Stream 2 has now advanced to the stage when it could be stopped only by US sanctions,” said Vaclav Bartuska, the energy ambassador for the Czech Republic. “Otherwise it’s going to be built.”

Financial Times – Najmeh Bozorgmehr / Trump sanctions bolster influence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

  • The US decision in May to cease implementation of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) has strengthened the hand of hardline Iranian factions, in the clerical and judicial establishment as well as in the Revolutionary Guards, who always said it was a mistake to strike a deal with the US.
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has had no choice but to get closer to the Guards. His change of tone was evident during a recent visit to Switzerland, when he raised the possibility of Iran disrupting the transit of tankers in the Gulf if Tehran was hit with oil sanctions.
  • This prompted Brigadier General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Guards’ elite Quds Force, to praise Rouhani for talking “like the man I knew before”, even offering to kiss the president’s hand.
  • For now, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appears to be backing Rouhani to stay in power in order to maintain stability. But he may not allow the president to pursue another international deal.
  • Foreign Policy – Mahsa Rouhi / Iran hawks should be careful what they wish for

South China Morning Post – Jason Furman / The evidence is clear: anti-immigration is bad for economic growth

  • The toxic nationalism that is spreading in many of the world’s advanced economies will exacerbate the economic slowdown that fuelled its emergence.
  • The evidence on this issue is clear: immigration makes a strong contribution to economic growth. Moreover, immigration is more necessary than ever, because of population ageing and lower birth rates.
  • Immigrants boost per capita gross domestic product by increasing productivity. The reason is that immigrants are much more likely to be entrepreneurial and start new businesses.
  • In addition, the evidence suggests that immigrants do not reduce wages for native-born workers. In fact, it is more likely that immigrants increase wages overall.
  • Turning the current vicious circle into a virtuous one will depend, at least in part, on making immigration more compatible with inclusive forms of nationalism.

The Economist / As inequality grows, so does the political influence of the rich

  • In a recent study, Derek Epp and Enrico Borghetto find that political agendas in Europe have become less focused on redistribution even as inequality has risen. Though both inequality and public concern about it are increasing, politicians seem less interested in grappling with the problem.
  • Rather than increasing pressure on politicians to do something about skewed income distributions, rising inequality might instead boost the power of the rich, thus enabling them to counter the popular will. Epp and Borghetto call this phenomenon the “negative agenda power” of the rich.
  • An analysis of US campaign donations carried out by Lee Drutman found that fewer than 30,000 people account for a quarter of all national political donations from individuals and for more than 80% of the money raised by political parties.
  • Walter Scheidel argues that, across human history, inequality inevitably rises until checked by disasters like wars or revolutions. However, this may be too pessimistic. The rich are not all-powerful, or uniform in their determination to keep distributional policies off the agenda.

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, 19/07/2018

POLITICO Europe – Mark Scott, Simon van Dorpe & Thibault Larger / With record antitrust fine, Europe lands blow against Google

  • Margrethe Vestager announced a record €4.3 billion ($5 billion) antitrust fine on Wednesday against Android, the search giant’s popular mobile software. It comes just over a year after the Danish politician announced a separate €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion) financial penalty linked to some of the tech giant’s search services.
  • As part of Wednesday’s decision, Vestager highlighted complex contractual agreements that Google demanded phonemakers sign if they wanted to access the company’s popular digital services, including its app store, known as the Play Store.
  • Europe’s competition czar has repeatedly claimed the investigations are not unfairly targeting U.S. tech firms in order to level the playing field for European rivals. But Vestager’s critics have been quick to focus on how she has slapped several of Silicon Valley’s largest names with sizable fines despite European firms also feeling the brunt of her regulatory powers.
  • The friction between the Commission and some of the largest U.S. tech names comes as tensions also build between Brussels and Washington over an escalating trade war. Moreover, the timing of the Android announcement had been complicated because of Trump’s visit to Brussels last week to attend a NATO summit.
  • Not everyone, though, backed Europe’s latest push against Google. Many app developers claim that the search giant has created a one-size-fits-all digital ecosystem that makes it easy — and cheap — for even the smallest of companies to build services that can reach a global audience.

 

Foreign Policy – Stephen M. Walt / Why Trump Is Getting Away With Foreign-Policy Insanity

  • [Trump’s] behavior is still hard to fathom: A guy who is trying to convince us that he isn’t Putin’s puppet and likes to portray himself as tough, strong, and “like, really smart” ended up exposing himself (again) as inarticulate, ill-prepared, gullible, and seemingly incapable of standing up to his Russian counterpart. If this were any other presidency, he’d be toast.
  • The response to Trump’s performance was immediate, overwhelming, and almost entirely negative. Even well-known GOP grandee Newt Gingrich joined the chorus of critics, calling it “the most serious mistake of his presidency.”
  • Trump is correct to say that U.S.-Russian relations are in a bad place and that it would be better if they could be improved. [...] And let’s be honest for a second: The United States is hardly blameless when it comes to interfering in other countries’ internal politics. Nor is it a passive innocent in the world of cyberespionage.
  • Yet none of these considerations require a U.S. president to ignore the possibility that another state actively interfered in America’s own electoral process and continues to do so today. The fact that the United States interfered in other countries in the past is not a reason to excuse another state interfering there—that would be like saying it’s perfectly OK for an adversary to bomb Los Angeles because the United States has bombed Berlin or Baghdad.

 

Haaretz – Jonathan Lis & Noa Landau / Israel Passes Controversial Jewish Nation-state Bill After Stormy Debate

  • The Knesset passed a controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and asserts that “the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people,” with 62 lawmakers voting in favor of the legislation and 55 opposing it.
  • The nation-state law also includes clauses stating that a “united Jerusalem” is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country’s official language. Immediately after the law passed, Arab lawmakers tore copies in protest, and were subsequently removed from the Knesset plenum hall.
  • Initially, the bill was intended to significantly limit the discretion of Supreme Court justices’ decisions, requiring them to set the state’s Jewish character above its democratic character in rulings where the two clashed. This clause was removed from the bill already in May.
  • On Monday, Netanyahu said the bill was “very important to guarantee the foundations of our existence, which is Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people” – though critics say he is mainly keen to drum up support before the next Knesset election, due by November next year.

 

Washington Post – Ishaan Tharoor / Nicaragua is on the path to becoming the next Venezuela

  • Forces loyal to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega deepened their crackdown on the country’s opposition on Wednesday, appearing to take full control of a rebel stronghold in the city of Masaya. A day earlier, heavily armed police and paramilitary fighters stormed the neighborhood of Monimbó, killing at least three people and taking 40 others into custody.
  • The violence there brings the death toll in Nicaragua to around 300 people since mid-April, when an unpopular pension-reform proposal sparked protests against the Ortega government. Those demonstrations escalated in the weeks that followed, with protesters setting up barricades in cities across the country.
  • July 19 happens to mark the 39th anniversary of the victory of the Sandinistas, the left-wing revolutionary movement that overthrew the brutal, U.S.-backed dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. Now Ortega, a 72-year-old former Marxist guerrilla, increasingly resembles the tyrant he and his comrades once toppled.
  • Nicaragua faces its own Venezuelan moment. “[Ortega] worked from the Chávez playbook: manipulating electoral laws and eliminating checks and balances by controlling the national police; co-opting the Supreme Court and legislature; curtailing freedom of expression and repressing independent media; and harassing and hounding opposition forces and other critics”, wrote former US diplomat Otto Reich.

Daily Beast – Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian / China Built an Army of Influent Agents in the U.S.

The Brookings Institution – Tana Johnson & Andrew Heiss / Liberal institutionalism—its threatened past, its threatened future

 

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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