The ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 19/06/2017

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Foreign Affairs—A. Goldhammer / Macron’s party wins a parliamentary majority

  • Macron’s win has given a new lease of life to the Fifth Republic, whose institutions were designed with a powerful President in mind.
  • Aware of Hollande’s shortcomings, Macron, with surprising sure-footedness for a political novice, has thus far availed himself of every opportunity to project images of strength.
  • French citizens had become accustomed to the idea that reform was impossible. Now, even if they do not like the change Macron represents (and the disappointing turnout in the legislative elections suggests that the new president could face some nasty bumps), they actually see opportunities ahead.
  • The somewhat stronger-than-expected showing of the opposition parties in the second round may prove to be a blessing in disguise for the new president, who might otherwise have let his guard down prematurely.

Financial Times—A. Barker / Brexit talks: what to expect on day one

  • Today, the UK and the EU embark on the first day of formal Brexit negotiations, aiming for a constructive and orderly launch.
  • The complex negotiating process is expected to stretch to November 2018 with ever increasing pace and intensity.
  • David Davis, Britain’s Brexit secretary: “While there is a long road ahead, our destination is clear — a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU. A deal like no other in history.”
  • Davis also said that the “row of the summer” would be over sequencing — the European Commission’s insistence that trade talks only start once Britain gives assurances on a gross Brexit bill of up to €100bn and settles questions over the rights of 4m migrants caught out by Brexit.

Reuters—A. Sytas / NATO war game defends Baltic weak spot for first time

  • US and British troops have carried out the first large-scale NATO defensive drill on the border between Poland and Lithuania (in an area known as Suwalki Gap), rehearsing for a possible scenario in which Russia might try to sever the Baltic states from the rest of the Western alliance.
  • Russia denies any plans to invade the Baltics, and says it is NATO that is threatening stability in Eastern Europe by building up its military presence there and staging such war games.
  • Before Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, no forces from other alliance members were stationed in the Baltic states; now four battlegroups totaling just over 4,500 troops have been deployed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
  • NATO officials believe Moscow will hold its own exercise in Russia and Belarus on a much greater scale in September—possibly involving 100,000 troops—under the codename “Zapad” (West). Baltic officials believe Moscow will also rehearse an attack on the Suwalki Gap during Zapad.

The New York Times—T. Arango / Iraqi Forces Begin Assault on Mosul’s Old City

  • Iraqi forces on Sunday began penetrating Mosul’s heavily populated old city, in the last phase of a monthslong battle against the Islamic State militants.
  • The battle for Mosul — the largest city that the Islamic State has controlled in a vast territory straddling the border between Iraq and Syria — is already in its ninth month. American commanders have described the battle as one of the toughest in urban warfare since World War II.
  • The offensive by the Iraqi forces was met with fierce resistance by Islamic State fighters, suggesting that the battle on the streets of Mosul could go on for days or weeks.
  • Humanitarian groups have been warning for weeks about the perils to civilians in the old city, where the United Nations believes up to 150,000 people are trapped, running low on food and water and held by Islamic State fighters as human shields.

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

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