ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 14/01/2019

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Financial Times – Alex Barker / Brussels pushes to scrap national vetoes on taxation

  • Brussels will this week propose extending majority voting to all EU tax policies by the end of 2020.
  • “For the commission, the question is no longer whether there is a need to move away from unanimity in taxation, but rather how and when to do it,” states a paper that will be issued by the European Commission this week, which outlines a “road map” to gradually phase out tax vetoes.
  • The paper argues that “tax competition” within the EU, while “not in itself a bad thing”, has distorted the choices available to national governments, forcing them to undertax footloose cross-border industries, while overtaxing less mobile areas such as labour income and consumption.
  • However, given the deepest objections to ceding more sovereignty among many member states, diplomats say the initiative has a slim chance of adoption, at best.

The New York Times – Eric Schmitt & Mark Landler / Pentagon officials fear Bolton’s actions increase risk of clash with Iran

  • At the direction of National Security Advisor John Bolton, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon last year to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran, Defense Department and senior American officials said on Sunday.
  • The request, which alarmed then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other Pentagon officials, came after Iranian-backed militants fired three mortars or rockets into an empty lot on the grounds of the US Embassy in Baghdad in September.
  • With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo overseeing the nuclear negotiations with North Korea and taking a prominent role on China policy, Bolton has made Iran the heart of his focus as national security adviser.
  • The news of Bolton’s effort to find a way to strike back at Iran comes as evidence is rising that Tehran is considering — or at least threatening — to leave the nuclear agreement.

Deutsche Welle / US Ambassador Richard Grenell threatens German firms over Russian pipeline

  • German companies building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Germany and Russia received letters from US Ambassador Richard Grenell warning them of “a significant risk of sanctions” if they did not pull out of the project, according to Bild am Sonntag.
  • “We emphasize that companies involved in Russian energy exports are taking part in something that could prompt a significant risk of sanctions,” the ambassador wrote.
  • The paper also quoted a Grenell spokesman who said that the letter should not be seen as a threat, but as a “clear message of US policy.”
  • Grenell had already managed to prompt irritation in Berlin on the day of he took office in May 2018 by tweeting that “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”

Euractiv – Frédéric Simon / China seen as ‘absolute winner’ of clean energy transition

  • A study led by the former President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, was presented in Abu Dhabi by the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, an independent initiative launched one year ago under the auspices of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
  • Fossil fuel exporting countries like Russia and Arab nations in the Middle East will be “strongly challenged” by the transition while others like China will be the “absolute winner, if not world leader,” said Grímsson as he presented the report.
  • The EU and Japan stand among the likely winners as well, as both are very dependent on fossil fuel imports and hold strong positions in renewable technologies.
  • Aside from greater energy independence and prosperity, benefits of the transition include improved food and water security, with some countries leapfrogging fossil fuels-based technologies to adopt renewables like solar and wind. Overall, “the number of energy-related conflicts is likely to fall,” the report predicts.
  • Despite some challenges — a rapid shift away from fossil fuels could create a financial shock, and destroy jobs in old fossil fuel industries like coal — the report is firmly positive about the transition, which “will ultimately move the world in the right direction.”

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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