EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 23/03/2020

The New York Times – Michael Crowley, Edward Wong and Lara Jakes / Coronavirus drives the U.S. and China deeper into global power struggle

  • Mr. Trump was scathing as he accused Beijing of concealing the outbreak first detected in Wuhan that has become a pandemic now paralyzing the United States. “Certainly, the world is paying a big price for what they did,” he said. As Mr. Trump toughens his condemnations of Mr. Xi’s government, experts fear that the two world powers are heading into a new Cold War.
  • Even some health officials in the Trump administration have warned that denouncing China’s government could make it more resistant to sharing accurate data about the virus. China has shared the genome sequence of the virus, and Chinese scientists have written many public papers on the virus, even if officials initially covered it up.
  • China also has the power to interfere with medical supply chains into the United States, and its economic policies are crucial to the wider global economy. Eswar Prasad, a China expert and professor of trade policy at Cornell University, called the new hostility “dispiriting.” Trump officials are also gauging the effect of the coronavirus and a related spike in tensions on their trade talks.
  • But China hawks see the pandemic as a chance to spotlight what they call the sinister nature of China’s Communist Party, turn international opinion against it and combat its anti-American conspiracy theories. The hardened messaging from Washington has infuriated China’s government, whose officials and news outlets have fired back.
  • Foreign Affairs – Mahlet Mesfin / It takes a world to end a pandemic

Al Monitor / Is there a coronavirus peace dividend for Israelis and Palestinians?

  • “The coronavirus outbreak has done what local and international politicians and activists have been unable to do,” writes Daoud Kuttab. Israeli and Palestinian leaders are talking at the highest level and stepping up cooperation through existing official channels to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • On March 18, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, to say that cooperation is “vital” and that “our ability to work together in times of crisis is also testament to our ability to work together in the future for the good of us all.”
  • Israeli and Palestinian leaders hammered out an agreement that allows 30,000 Palestinian workers from the West Bank to stay in Israel for at least two months in order to limit the traffic at border crossings and thereby prevent the spread of the virus. This number could increase to 70,000. Israel must provide housing and sanitary facilities, per the agreement.
  • Eldar points out that the relationship between Israel Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and his Palestinian counterpart, Shukri Bishara, has been key to cooperation during otherwise acrimonious ties. This connection could be lost if Kahlon is replaced if and when a new Israeli government is formed.
  • Haaretz – Nir Hasson / Israel considers cutting off parts of East Jerusalem to stem coronavirus spread
  • Haaretz – Shannon Maree Torrens / Coronavirus confirmed in Gaza: this is what Israel must do – now

EU Observer – Eszter Zalan / Hungary’s Orban seeks indefinite power in virus bill

  • Hungary’s nationalist government submitted a draft law to parliament Friday (20 March) that would enable it to rule by decree for an unlimited period of time, citing the corona emergency. The bill would enable the government to indefinitely extend the state of emergency and special powers, removing the current requirement for MPs to approve any extension.
  • The special powers would make it possible for prime minister Viktor Orban’s government to “suspend the application of certain laws, derogate from legal provisions, and take extraordinary measures in the interest of guaranteeing the stabilisation of the lives, health, personal and material security of citizens, as well as the economy”.
  • Under an extended and indefinite state of emergency, anyone who publicises false or distorted facts that interfere with the “successful defence” of public health, or can create “confusion or unrest” related to the outbreak, can be punished by up to five years, or three years, in prison. This has created fears that it could enable the Orban government to decide what can be reported and what is true.
  • Elections and referendums would also be postponed for the indefinite time of the emergency, making it impossible to replace MPs, for instance, if they die in the corona outbreak. Four-fifths of MPs will need to support the swift move. If opposition parties do not support the quick vote, parliament can vote on it in eight days. That vote would require only a two-thirds majority for the government to gain extraordinary powers, which Orban holds in parliament.
  • The Economist / As Poland’s government punishes judges, corruption is rising

Euractiv – Florence Schulz / German CO2 emissions dive amid coronavirus slump

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is having a dramatic impact on Germany’s demand for electricity. According to initial projections, Germany could emit between 50 and 120 million tons less CO2 this year, meaning it could even exceed its climate target.
  • German industry is largely at a standstill: production is being interrupted, and entire plants  are temporarily closed. In a forecast, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) assumes that German GDP could fall by as much as 4.5% in the event of a nationwide curfew and by up to 8.7% in the worst case. This is likely to have a massive impact on the country’s demand for electricity.
  • At around 230 terawatt-hours per year, industry alone consumes almost half of Germany’s electricity needs, followed by trade, commerce and the service sector, which is now also largely at a standstill. In comparison, households are much smaller consumers. With just under 130 terawatt-hours, they come third in relation to all electricity consumers.
  • Since emissions would decrease anyway due to warmer weather and conditions on the energy market, Agora calculates a “corona effect” of 30 to 100 million tons. Power prices are also expected to fall. The coronavirus is already having an impact on the EU’s carbon market, where the price of a ton of CO2 has fallen from around €23 to just €16.
  • Financial Times – Nick Butler / Climate change is still with us

Today’s food for thought:

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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