EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 08/11/2019

Financial Times – Daniel Dombey / Spain prays for a solution to political deadlock

  • The country is contending with not only the Catalonia crisis, western Europe’s most bitter territorial dispute, but also a rupture in the old political order that has led to its fourth general election in four years this Sunday, barely six months after the last one. The result has been instability and stasis: parliaments incapable of the basic business of approving laws and pushing through budgets.
  • Opinion polls indicate that Mr Sánchez’s Socialist party will top the polls, but possibly on a declining share of the vote and with no chance of a majority in the 350-seat Chamber of Deputies. But the numbers are too close to say whether the combined forces of the left or the right will come out on top, and a majority could well be beyond either.
  • But Mr Sánchez’s team does suggest a way to move beyond the impasse for Spain as a whole. It believes that as long as the Socialists remain the largest group in parliament, that fatigue will become a factor and allow them to form a government.

The Economist / Emmanuel Macron warns Europe: NATO is becoming brain-dead

  • NATO, Mr Macron says, “only works if the guarantor of last resort functions as such. I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” And America, in his view, shows signs of “turning its back on us,” as it demonstrated starkly with its unexpected troop withdrawal from north-eastern Syria. According to President Macron, Europe is now dealing for the first time with an American president who “doesn’t share our idea of the European project”.
  • Mr Macron’s energetic recent diplomatic activity has drawn a great deal of interest abroad, and almost as much criticism. He has been accused of acting unilaterally (by blocking EU enlargement in the Western Balkans), and over-reaching (by trying to engineer direct talks between America and Iran).The French president pushes back against his critics, for instance arguing that it is “absurd” to open up the EU to new members before reforming accession procedures, although he adds that he is ready to reconsider if such conditions are met.
  • Mr Macron’s underlying message is that Europe needs to start thinking and acting not only as an economic grouping, whose chief project is market expansion, but as a strategic power. That should start with regaining “military sovereignty”, and re-opening a dialogue with Russia despite suspicion from Poland and other countries that were once under Soviet domination. Failing to do so, Mr Macron says, would be a “huge mistake”.
  • The Economist / Emmanuel Macron in his own words (English)

The Washington Post – Eric Cunningham & Steve Hendrix / Iran bars U.N. nuclear inspector from uranium-enrichment plant, citing positive test for explosive nitrates

  • Iran has prevented a United Nations nuclear inspector from entering a uranium-enrichment facility and revoked her credentials after Iranian officials said she tested positive for explosive nitrates. The move drew condemnation from the United States, which called Iran’s decision to expel the inspector an “outrageous provocation.”
  • According to Iranian officials, the inspector was halted by security at the gate of Iran’s main enrichment plant in Natanz after triggering an alarm. The alert raised officials’ concerns she was carrying “suspicious material.” The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said Wednesday that her credentials were revoked and that the IAEA was informed of the incident. Iran did not immediately provide further details about the inspector.
  • On Thursday, the IAEA convened a board of governors meeting to discuss Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under the agreement, the agency said. The IAEA verified what it said was the transfer of a cylinder of uranium gas to Fordow to be connected to Iran’s IR-1 centrifuges, according to the spokesman. The IAEA reportedly found suspicious samples at the Turquz Abad site near Tehran, a location raided by Israeli intelligence agents in early 2018. Israeli agents had recovered a trove of documents on Iran’s nuclear effort and discovered the presence of processed nuclear material that Tehran had never declared to the monitoring group, Israeli officials said.

Project Syndicate – George Soros / The rise of nationalism after the fall of the Berlin Wall

  • The fall of the Berlin Wall on the night of November 8, 1989 dramatically and suddenly accelerated the collapse of communism in Europe. The end of travel restrictions between East and West Germany dealt a death blow to the closed society of the Soviet Union. Thirty years later, the situation is very different. International cooperation has hit serious roadblocks, and nationalism became the dominant creed. So far, nationalism has turned out to be much more powerful and disruptive than internationalism.
  • This was not an inevitable outcome. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States emerged as the sole surviving superpower, but it failed to live up to the responsibilities that its position conferred. The US was more interested in enjoying the fruits of its Cold War victory. It failed to extend a helping hand to former Soviet bloc countries, which were in dire straits.
  • The crash of 2008 ended the unquestioned global dominance of the US and greatly boosted the rise of nationalism. It also turned the tide against open societies. The protection they received from the US was always indirect and sometimes insufficient, but its absence left them vulnerable to the threat of nationalism.
  • The outcome is unpredictable, because it depends on a number of decisions that have not yet been taken. We live in revolutionary times, when the range of possibilities is much wider than usual and the outcome is even more uncertain than in normal times. All we can depend on is our convictions.
  • Foreign Policy – Michael Hirsh / We weren’t ready for a world without walls

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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