ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 04/02/2019

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Euractiv / Macron eyeing referendum on EU election day

  • Reportedly, French President Emmanuel Macron is considering organizing what would be the first referendum in France in 14 years as part of his response to the “yellow vest” protests. The referendum would coincide with the European Parliament elections on May 26.
  • The Journal du Dimanche newspaper reported that the French would be asked whether they wanted to reduce the number of national lawmakers, and whether they favour imposing a limit on the number of terms lawmakers could serve.
  • The leader of the opposition Republicans party, Laurent Wauquiez, said Macron was taking a risk if the referendum was only about institutional questions related to parliament. Wauquiez warned that such issues “were very far removed from the worries and priorities of the French people.”
  • Far-right leader Marine Le Pen claimed Macron was trying to distract voters from the European elections. Macron’s Republic on the Move party is neck-and-neck with Le Pen’s National Rally, according to recent polls.

The Guardian – Tom Phillips / Venezuela: Maduro warns White House will be ‘stained with blood’ if Trump invades

  • In a combative interview with the Spanish journalist Jordi Évole, Nicolás Maduro rejected European calls for elections, saying: “We don’t accept ultimatums from anyone.”
  • “If the north American empire attacks us, we will have to defend ourselves … We aren’t going to hand Venezuela over,” Maduro said. “Why would you want a repeat of Vietnam?”
  • Asked if he feared that Venezuela could be plunged into war by the crisis, Maduro said: “Everything depends on the extent of the madness and aggression of the northern empire and its western allies.”
  • Maduro denied that his country was suffering from a humanitarian emergency and claimed no more than 800,000 people had fled. The UN estimates that more than 3 million Venezuelans have fled overseas.
  • Reuters – Sudip Kap-Gurta / France says Guaido has right to organize new Venezuela election

Financial Times – Gavyn Davies / Why is Germany flirting with recession?

  • Germany seems to have avoided a “technical” recession only by a decimal point or two in the final quarter of last year. The slowdown in Germany has been much greater than would have been expected, given the behaviour of the rest of the European economy.
  • The European Central Bank is right to blame foreign developments – such as the weakness in the Chinese economy – for the slowdown. Domestic demand in the eurozone still looks firm, with consumer spending benefiting from a buoyant labour market and rising real incomes.
  • However, the downturn in the German economy has been greater than seems consistent with the China factor. The idiosyncratic slowdown in Germany is probably due to a concentration of one-off shocks that have occurred in important industrial sectors (e.g., motor vehicles, pharma and chemicals).
  • The bounce back will probably be spread between 2019 Q1 and Q2, and should boost German GDP growth by an average of 1.2 per cent over that period. This catch-up should take the average annualised growth rate in the eurozone’s largest economy to around 2.0-2.5 per cent in the first half of 2019.

Chatham House – Yu Jie / Beijing’s response to spat with Canada is driven by domestic politics

  • The present breakdown in ties between Beijing and Ottawa is neither morality play nor conspiracy. Instead, it is a function of the Chinese government’s need to answer to its furious domestic audience.
  • Even though Canada is merely following due process which treats every extradition request in the same way, firm retaliation to the “bullying” of Huawei is something that many Chinese people would expect from their rulers. And Chinese state media has reinforced this perception.
  • A dangerous mixture of China’s historical humiliation and its staggering economic success has bred a strong sense of resentment on one level and an equally powerful current of complacency on another.
  • But there is nothing inevitable about Canada and China returning to enmity. It is vital that this episode does not permanently damage one of China’s warmest bilateral relationships with a G7 member, both between leaders and peoples.

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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