ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 04/10/2019

The Economist / Two European Commission nominees fall at the first hurdle

  • Although claiming the scalp of at least one aspiring commissioner is a normal procedure within the European nomination process, the decision of a parliamentary committee to rule out two nominees before the full hearings had even started, an unprecedented move, suggests that the parliament’s vetting process will be even spikier this time round. Moreover, the fate of three more nominees, including the French Sylvie Goulard, seems uncertain.
  • The first casualty was Laszlo Trocsanyi, Hungary’s former justice minister, who was declared unfit by the parliament’s legal-affairs committee. The committee’s digging revealed that a law firm bearing his name had been contracted to provide legal services to Hungary’s state-owned nuclear power plant while he was minister. Rovana Plumb, Romania’s candidate for the transport portfolio, was also summoned before the committee after failing to declare two loans worth nearly €1m. Ursula von der Leyen, the new commission’s German president-elect, swiftly demanded that new candidates be picked, a request both prime ministers have now met.
  • As the two rejects hail from the parliament’s centre-right and socialist groups, rumours swirled that a liberal, preferably from western Europe, would be next. In her hearing on October 2nd, parliamentarians took Ms Goulard to task over an ongoing probe into the alleged use of European Parliament funds to pay party employees. Equally incendiary was her role as a paid adviser to an American think-tank. Along with the Polish and Swedish nominees, she faces another round of questioning.
  • POLITICO – Maïa de la Baume & Laura Kayali / Goulard faces further grilling after rocky hearing

The Washington Post – Mustafa Salim & Louisa Loveluck / Iraq is under curfew and Internet blackout as government tries to curb protests

  • Protests erupted throughout Iraq on Thursday as authorities imposed curfews and cut access to the Internet. According to official reports, at least 25 people had died and more than 1,000 were wounded after security forces fired tear gas and bullets into crowds of protesters for a third day and demonstrations continued. Iraq’s protests have centered on issues that plague everyday life in the oil-rich state, including corruption, poor services and unemployment. For most civilians, there have been few improvements in the two years since Iraqi forces pushed Islamic State militants.  
  • In Baghdad, the violent crackdown appeared only to have drawn out more protesters to the streets. Several thousand demonstrators were gathered in the center of the city Thursday night. “The hospitals are filling up,” said Ali al-Bayati, a spokesman for Iraq’s human rights commission. Many people, he said, were in critical condition.
  • In a televised speech Thursday night, President Abdul Mahdi urged calm and called on lawmakers to support him in reshuffling cabinet posts. There is no “magic solution” to Iraq’s chronic governance problems and graft, he said, but he pledged to try to pass a law granting poor families a basic income. Early Thursday, the U.S.-led coalition reported explosions inside or near the city’s Green Zone, a heavily fortified pocket of land hosting government institutions, embassies and military bases.
  • Al-Monitor – Ali Mamouri / Iraq on fire as protests spread across the south

The Guardian – Sam Jones / Portugal election: Europe’s beacon of social democracy heads to the polls

  • While populist parties have erupted at both ends of the political spectrum elsewhere across the continent, Portugal has proved an enduring, if improbable, beacon of social democracy. Despite the electoral gain of the rightwing Portugal ahead coalition led by Pedro Passos Coelho in the 2015 election, the socialist leader established a non-coalition alliance with the far left to “turn the page on austerity”.
  • Since then, Costa and his backers in the Left Bloc and Communist parties have confounded expectations by holding together their unprecedented deal. As Portugal prepares to vote in Sunday’s general election, Costa is hoping that his track record will win him another term in office. The polls suggest his Socialist party will win the election but fall short of an absolute majority in parliament. Costa’s successes include raising the minimum wage to €600 a month, reversing civil service cuts and reducing unemployment.
  • Despite all the talk of the “Portuguese miracle”, however, Costa’s administration has hardly been immune to criticism, mistakes, scandal or corruption. Underfunding of public services such as education and healthcare has provoked strikes and anger, while the government’s handling of the 2017 forest fires that killed more than 100 people was bitterly criticised and led to the resignation of the interior minister.

The New York Times – Peter Baker & Eileen Sullivan / Trump publicly urges China to investigate the Bidens

  • President Trump, who is already facing impeachment for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, publicly stated that Chine shall examine former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as well, an extraordinary request for help from a foreign power that could benefit him in next year’s election.
  • The president’s call for Chinese intervention means that Mr. Trump and his attorney general have now solicited assistance in discrediting the president’s political opponents from Ukraine, Australia, Italy and, according to one report, Britain. In speaking publicly, a defiant Mr. Trump pushed back against critics who have called such requests an abuse of power, arguing that there was nothing wrong with seeking foreign help to fight corruption.
  • By boldly repeating the action at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Mr. Trump almost appeared to dare House Democrats to impeach him, while leaving his own party in an increasingly uncomfortable position. Mr. Trump’s comments on Thursday set off a wave of criticism from Democrats, who said he brazenly implicated himself. Republicans did not even try to defend the president, and some disaffected colleagues said they should speak out against him.
  • The New York Times – Kenneth P. Vogel & Michael S. Schmidt / Trump envoys pushed Ukraine to commit to investigating Biden

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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