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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 22/01/2017

Al-Monitor / Turkey upends US Syria strategy with attack on YPG

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered on his threat to attack against towns in Afrin, a Kurdish-controlled enclave in Syria.
  • The assault followed an announcement by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State to build a 30,000-strong border force under the command of veteran Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters-
  • The final arbiter of Erdogan’s decision was not Washington, but Moscow. Erdogan received a green light from Russia, which may support a short Turkish incursion to facilitate a role for Syrian government forces in the north.
  • While US-Turkey relations are in free fall, Russia-Turkey coordination over Syria is not without friction, including the Kremlin’s disappointment with Ankara’s fulfilling its obligations in Idlib.
  • Further reading:

Politico – Matthew Karnitschnig / 5 takeaways from German SPD grand coalition vote

  • Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) voted Sunday to pursue coalition talks with Angela Merkel’s center-right alliance.
  • The SPD membership still has to give its OK to a final deal, but it would take a major shock to derail the grand coalition.
  • While Merkel’s political future should still be measured in years, Martin Schulz’s days atop the SPD – whose internal fissures were revealed in yesterday’s convention – are likely numbered.
  • Brussels can now return its attention to Brexit, upcoming budget negotiations and, most important, preparing for EU reform. An SPD rejection on Sunday would have threatened all of the above.

The Washington Post – Jon Gambrell / Iran may try to loosen Revolutionary Guard’s grip on economy

  • Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei has ordered the Revolutionary Guard to get out of businesses not directly affiliated to their work, the country’s defense minister said.
  • But whether the Guard would agree to privatize some of its holdings remains unclear. The paramilitary organization did not immediately acknowledge the supreme leader’s orders, nor did Khamenei’s office.
  • The Revolutionary Guard is estimated to hold around a third of Iran’s entire economy, including a construction company called Khatam al-Anbia, with 135,000 employees handling civil development, the oil industry and defense issues.
  • The defense minister specifically mentioned Khatam al-Anbia, but didn’t say whether that too would be considered by the supreme leader as necessary to privatize.

Financial Times – Jim Brunsden, et al. / ECB board shake-up kicks off with vice-president’s job

  • Euro area governments will kick off the process on Monday of finding a successor to Vítor Constâncio as vice-president of the European Central Bank (ECB).
  • Two-thirds of the central bank’s six member executive board set to depart during the next two years, including president Mario Draghi.
  • Two EU diplomats said it was highly likely that the vice-presidency will go to Spain, with Madrid determined to reclaim a seat on the executive board after not having one since 2012. Economy minister Luis de Guindos has long been tipped by ECB watchers as Spain’s likely candidate.
  • But other countries like Ireland – the only founding member of the euro area never to have had a seat – are also likely to put forward candidates. Figures within the ECB are lukewarm on the idea of a politician like Guindos, instead of a central banker, taking over the bank’s vice-presidency.

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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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 18/01/2017

Flag, English, English Flag, Britain, France, French

The New York Times — Reuters / With eye on Brexit talks, May to deepen security ties with France

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May wants to use a summit with French President Emmanuel Macron to show Britain still has plenty to offer EU member states.
  • Britain and France will agree on Thursday to deepen security cooperation. The two countries will commit to joint military operations, including a combined expeditionary force.
  • But May will be under pressure from Macron to accept more asylum seekers and to pay more for border security on the French side of the Channel.
  • The British side may also have to respond to overtures from the EU this week for Britain to change its mind and stay in the bloc, although a government spokesman ruled this out.

The New York Times – Choe Sang-Hun / North and South Korea to march as one at Olympics

  • In the most dramatic gesture of reconciliation in a decade, North and South Korea agreed on Wednesday to march their athletes together under one flag at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics next month and to field a joint women’s ice hockey team.
  • The Korean joint parade happened three times in the 2000s, but the women’s ice-hockey squad will be the first combined Korean team for the Olympics.
  • South Korean officials said that the North’s delegation would include at least 550 people, including about 150 to the Paralympic Games in March. But the final number will be determined in Switzerland on Saturday.

Foreign Affairs – Ali Vaez / Can Europe save the Iran deal?

  • Europe, with which Iran has nearly doubled trade in the past year, may hold the key to keeping the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) together. Although it cannot persuade everyone in Washington, it can persuade many of them to stay faithful to U.S. commitments.
  • There is no need for Europe to give in to Trump’s 4-month ultimatum regarding a revision of the JCPOA’s “sunset clauses” (or expiration dates). But if it eventually wanted to address these concerns, Europe could encourage its enrichment consortium to approach Tehran about the building of a multinational uranium enrichment plant in Iran.
  • If Washington refuses to listen, Europe could move to Plan B: preserving the essence of the deal irrespective of what Trump chooses to do. In order to do so, Europe should convince Tehran that it would be better off complying with the deal and preserving business ties with Europe.
  • European countries could revive “blocking regulations” in order to evade any U.S. sanctions against Iran that they deem in violation of the accord. European companies would be reimbursed for fines and other damages incurred for violating U.S. sanctions.
  • Europe could also negotiate a long-term energy partnership or a bilateral investment agreement with Iran, which would send a strong signal of its longstanding commitment to the JCPOA.

Balkan Insight – Ana Maria Luca / Romanian President appoints first woman PM

  • Romanian President Klaus Iohannis agreed to appoint the Social Democrat MEP Viorica Dancila as the country’s first ever woman prime minister.
  • Her predecessor, former PM Mihai Tudose, handed in his resignation after losing the backing of his own party.
  • Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea announced that the Parliament would convene on January 29 for a confidence vote.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 16/01/2018

ECFR — Jonathan Hackenbroich & Jeremy Shapiro / Opportunities amid disorder: Europe and the world in 2018

  • The liberal world order staged something of a comeback in 2017. Yet despite suffering several election defeats in the year, anti-system parties gained momentum in a variety of countries.
  • The global economic picture seems set to improve dramatically in the next year. Nonetheless, a good year of growth will not dampen great-power competition or increase security or stability in the Middle East.
  • Two key issues will signal the direction of US policy under the Trump administration: the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes. The United States will need to work closely with allies to contain the North Korean threat.
  • Europeans can work with Beijing to protect international institutions when necessary and possible. But they should have no illusions: they will also have to adopt a more realistic and political approach to China.
  • Europe has a chance in 2018 to reverse the trend of it falling behind in digital technologies – the area in which economic growth, security, and the preservation of democracy will take shape.

South China Morning Post — Wendy Wu / Xi Jinping calls on Donald Trump to revive economic dialogue programme

  • In a phone call, Chinese President Xi Jinping asked his US counterpart Donald Trump to resume a suspended dialogue programme aimed at improving economic ties between the two nations.
  • The Comprehensive Economic Dialogue was one of four mechanisms set up to improve bilateral ties and resolve disputes, but it was shelved by Washington.
  • On Friday, China reported its largest ever trade surplus with the United States in 2017 – contrary to Trump’s goal to narrow the US trade deficit with China.
  • Xi told Trump that both countries should take “constructive measures” to open their markets to each other and “broaden cooperation”.

Financial Times — Ed Crooks / Gas and oil producers among hardest hit by US tax reforms

  • The overhaul of the US tax system approved before Christmas cut the main rate for corporations sharply, but will still mean higher bills for some businesses because it sets limits on deductions for interest payments. The new law will thus put pressure on heavily indebted companies.
  • Companies in industries including oil and gas, coal mining, casinos and trucking are among those likely to be most affected, according to Greensill Capital.
  • Oil prices have risen since 2016, boosting earnings, so the impact of the new rules might be smaller in practice than some calculations suggest.

Politico – Carmen Paun / Romanian PM resigns

  • After losing the support of his Social Democrat party (PSD), Mihai Tudose is to become the second PM in a year to be forced out in Romania.
  • Tudose took over in June 2017, after his predecessor Sorin Grindeanu was ousted by the PSD and its junior coalition partner ALDE.
  • The deputy prime minister, Paul Stănescu, will become interim prime minister today.
  • PSD and ALDE will now have to nominate a new prime minister, with the choice needing the approval of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 15/01/2018

The New York Times—Reuters / U.S.-led coalition helps to build new Syrian force, angering Turkey

  • The U.S.-led coalition is working with its Syrian militia allies to set up a new force of 30,000 personnel, which will be deployed at the borders of the area controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said the development was worrying and unacceptable.
  • Erdogan’s spokesman added that Washington “is taking worrying steps to legitimise [the Kurdish-dominated YPG] and make it lasting in the region”.

Financial Times—Wolfgang Münchau / A German coalition deal to radically reshape Europe

  • If Germany’s Christian Democrats and Social Democrats manage to finalize the coalition agreement, it would be truly radical in one respect: the section on the future of the EU lays out the biggest push by Germany towards continental integration since the Maastricht treaty.
  • In last week’s preliminary agreement, Europe is the number one item. The EU section of the agreement declares a readiness to expand the EU budget with a larger German net contribution, and specifically supports a eurozone budget to fund macroeconomic stabilisation, social convergence and structural reforms.
  • Münchau: “The way I read this is that the European Stability Mechanism, the rescue umbrella, would be part of an enlarged EU budget and not, as now, run by member states.”
  • The preliminary agreement also envisages strengthening the European Parliament to make the governance of the eurozone more democratic. On this point the German parties disagree with Mr Macron, who wants a separate eurozone parliament.
  • Where the Christian Democrats and the SPD do support France is with an explicit call to strengthen anti-dumping policies and to impose a minimum corporate tax rate across the EU.

The Guardian—Julian Borger / Russian-trained mercenaries back Bosnia’s Serb separatists

  • Russian-trained mercenaries are helping to establish a paramilitary unit serving Milorad Dodik, the Serb separatist leader in Bosnia.
  • The Žurnal news site broke the story, which was confirmed by the Bosnian security minister.
  • The report published by Žurnal quotes a leaked security service document, which sets out that the goals of the new unit would include “possible intervention if the opposition seeks to obstruct the functioning of the authorities”.
  • According to Reuf Bajrović, Bosnia’s former energy minister, “the Russians have decided to use their leverage in the Balkans to get the outcome they want: the end of the Dayton accords and the creation of a Serb statelet.”

Politico—Lorenzo Pregliasco & Matteo Cavallaro / ‘Hand-to-hand’ combat in Italy’s elections

  • In the upcoming Italian election – and for the first time since 2001 – Italians will cast a ballot not just for a party, but for a candidate in a first-past-the-post race in their local constituency.
  • In this new system, 37 percent of the parliament is elected locally, with the seat going to the candidate with the most votes in his or her constituency. The remaining 63 percent of seats are allocated proportionally via the use of short closed lists.
  • Unlike recent legislative elections, where the proportional system favored media-centered campaigns and left out any role for door-to-door activism and a ground game, in 2018 parties will have to “fight hand-to-hand in the constituencies,” as former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi put it.
  • Parties will have to work hard to ensure that prominent candidates are assigned to run in key constituencies. Previously, this would have been an advantage for the center-left. Recently, however, the party’s local dominance has faded.
  • A YouTrend simulation suggests that the most likely outcome of the election is a hung parliament. But Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition has been gaining ground, giving it a shot at an outright majority.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 12/07/2018

Financial Times—Guy Chazan / German parties reach breakthrough on potential new grand coalition

  • According to German media, this morning Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc (CDU-CSU) and the Social Democrats achieved a breakthrough in their exploratory talks on forming a new “grand coalition”.
  • Any move to launch formal negotiations will first have to be endorsed by the SPD at a special party conference in Bonn on January 21.
  • A coalition agreement between the three parties will also be voted on by the SPD’s 400,000 members.

International Crisis Group / Stemming Tunisia’s authoritarian drift

  • As the seventh anniversary of the 2011 Tunisian uprising approaches, the country is drifting back toward its old authoritarian reflexes. The drift is accompanied by nostalgia for ex-President Ben Ali’s misrule.
  • Much of this is due to economic woes and the failure of nationalist and Islamist partners in Tunisia’s coalition government to implement the January 2014 constitution.
  • The current drift toward authoritarianism has little chance of successfully establishing a Ben Ali-style regime, given the many socio-economic and political divisions and the newfound freedom enjoyed by the media over the past seven years.
  • To prevent potential violence, Tunisia’s leaders must refocus on strengthening institutions, the creation of a Constitutional court, the setting up of independent oversight bodies and the holding of much-delayed local elections in 2018.

Politico—Siegfried Mortkowitz / Czech chemist seeks formula for presidency

  • With Czechs voting in the first round of a presidential election on Friday and Saturday, polls show that Jiří Drahoš, a physical chemist by profession, is the most serious threat to a second term in office for Miloš Zeman.
  • Reelection for Zeman would give one of the Continent’s Euroskeptic leaders a platform for another five years.
  • If Drahoš wins the presidency, he would likely act as a counterweight to recently-elected populist Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and be a strong pro-EU voice in the Czech Republic.
  • If Zeman is the anti-Václav Havel president, Drahoš fully embraces the moral tradition of the late dissident. However, because of his lack of charisma, Drahoš is at risk of getting lost in the crowd of anti-Zeman candidates.

Foreign Policy—Adam Ereli & Theodore Karasik / Nations Are Wielding Their Sovereign Wealth Funds as Tools of Power

  • Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) – Russia’s sovereign wealth fund – has come under the spotlight in the context of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia.
  • An underlying trend is becoming clear: the increasing use of sovereign wealth funds as a tool of national power. Sovereign wealth funds can be used for political purposes even if that is not their mandate, which can cause a fundamental divergence between their interests and those of purely economic investors.
  • The changing regional power dynamics between Russia and the Arab world has injected geopolitics into the strategic decision-making of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members’ sovereign wealth funds in a way that should concern policymakers and international investors.
  • GCC governments are using their national wealth as a strategic tool of power projection as never before and blurring the line between economic and political decision-making.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 10/01/2017

The New York Times—Maggie Haberman & Michael D. Shear / Trump plans to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos

  • Donald Trump is expected to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, which will take place from January 23 to 26.
  • “The president welcomes opportunities to advance his America First agenda with world leaders,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “At this year’s World Economic Forum, the president looks forward to promoting his policies to strengthen American businesses, American industries and American workers.”
  • Presidents have rarely attended the forum in Davos – Barack Obama never did. The event, dominated by globalists, is a symbol of everything that Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, rails against.

Financial Times—Martin Wolf /  The world economy hums as politics sours

  • The world at the beginning of 2018 presents a contrast between its depressing politics and its improving economics.
  • The consensus forecasts global growth at 3.2 per cent next year (at market prices), slightly above the rapid rate of 2017. A virtuous circle of fast growth driving faster potential growth is surely conceivable.
  • If this growth rate proves unsustainable, the question is whether it comes to an end smoothly or with a bump. The risks of bumps are significant, given elevated levels of debt and high asset prices, notably of US stocks.
  • Overall, the risks of disruptive politics might be higher today than in decades. But one may hope that as the world economy recovers and optimism about the future becomes entrenched, the distemper of politics in so many countries will start to heal.
  • In short, there are 3 possible long-term scenarios: either the economy will fail on its own, the politics will end up ruining the economy, or, best of all, the economy will cure the politics.

Project Syndicate—Dani Rodrik / In defense of economic populism

  • Populists’ aversion to institutional restraints extends to the economy. But while populism in the political domain is almost always harmful, as it makes democracy degenerate into the tyranny of whoever happens to be in power, economic populism can sometimes be justified.
  • Restraints on economic policy take the form of delegation to autonomous agencies, technocrats, or external rules. These restraints serve the valuable function of preventing those in power from shooting themselves in the foot by pursuing short-sighted policies.
  • But restraints may also be instituted by special interests or elites themselves, to cement permanent control over policymaking. “Liberal technocracy” may be at its apogee in the European Union, where economic rules and regulations are designed at considerable remove from democratic deliberation at the national level.
  • Exceptional times require the freedom to experiment in economic policy. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal provides an apt historical example. And, occasionally, economic populism may be the only way to forestall political populism.

ECFR—Vessela Tcherneva / Bulgaria: The unforeseen effects of the Presidency

  • A study by the European Council on Foreign Relations on the ability and willingness of EU member states to co-operate with each other has shown that Bulgaria, which will hold the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the next 6 months, is the least sought-after partner.
  • How will Bulgaria act as president – as a unifier in the name of European consent, or as a passive observer to the deepening fault lines across the union? The country’s reputation now depends on this.
  • Bulgaria will have to address four main challenges: keeping European unity in the face of populists and Russia, enhancing European security, offering common solutions to migration, and putting the Western Balkans back on the agenda.
  • Even if Bulgaria does not succeed in the ambition for strategic thinking in its European policy, the EU Presidency will allow Bulgarian politicians and officials to learn how the EU functions, why it is necessary to have a position, and with whom to co-operate in order to realize it.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 09/01/2018

The New York Times—Choe Sang-Hun / North Korea to send athletes to Olympics in South Korea in breakthrough

  • In talks held at the border village of Panmunjom, North Korean negotiators quickly accepted South Korea’s request to send a large delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In addition to the athletes, the North will send a cheering squad and a performance-art troupe.
  • It was not immediately clear whether North Korea attached any conditions to its decision to attend.
  • South Korea suggested that the two Korean teams march together during the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
  • South Korean officials were also expected to explore whether North Korea is interested in talks with the United States to ease tensions over its nuclear arms programs.
  • The South also proposed that the two countries revive their program of temporarily reuniting elderly people who have not seen their cross-border relatives since the Korean War.

Financial Times—Lucy Hornby & Anne-Sylvaine / Emmanuel Macron targets deals during China state visit

  • French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to China’s imperial past during a state visit this week as he sought deals for French industry and co-operation on global issues such as climate change and terrorism.
  • Macron came bearing the offer of an industrial partnership for Airbus with China on the A380 if Chinese airlines place orders for the world’s largest passenger jet.
  • French relations with China are not without friction. Macron’s plans to tighten the screening of Chinese investments in Europe and to beef up the EU’s anti-dumping trade tools have alarmed Beijing.
  • China’s offer of investment without political interference has helped it make inroads into former French colonies in Africa that remain an important market for French conglomerates.

Project Syndicate—Adair Turner / China’s green opportunity

  • Environmental improvements in Beijing reflect China’s growing understanding that a truly green economy promises not only to improve quality of life, but also to create enormous opportunities for technological and political leadership.
  • Chinese power investors, in both solar and wind, are certain that within the next ten years they could deliver renewable power to China’s coastal regions at a price well below current prices for coal-generated electricity.
  • Support for green technologies features prominently in the Made in China 2025 program, which aims to push Chinese manufacturing to world-leading scientific and technical standards. The faster that Chinese policy drives a transition to a low-carbon economy, the greater the technological and economic opportunity.
  • The government has stated that it will soon set a date beyond which no fossil-fuel cars may be sold in China. A fair bet is that it will shock the world by announcing a date far earlier than 2040, the deadline set by both France and the United Kingdom.
  • President Xi Jinping aspires to make China an attractive economic and social model for others to emulate, seizing the opportunity created by US President Donald Trump’s tarnishing of the American brand to boost Chinese “soft power.”

Politico—Emily Schultheis / German parties agree to drop 2020 climate goal: report

  • Angela Merkel’s conservatives (CDU-CSU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) agreed during preliminary coalition talks, which began on Sunday, to give up the country’s climate goal for 2020 — to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels.
  • Instead, the parties said they would put together a plan to reach that goal in the early 2020s, and would stick to the country’s 2030 goal of a 55 percent emissions reduction.
  • The CDU-CSU and the SPD are expected to wrap up discussions by the middle of the month, at which point they will decide whether to progress to formal negotiations.

 The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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