EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 11/11/2019

The Guardian – Sam Jones / Spanish election: deadlock remains as far right makes big gains

  • Spain’s ruling socialist party has won the country’s general election but once again failed to secure a majority in a vote in which the far-right Vox party vaulted into third place and the centre-right Citizens party suffer a humiliating collapse. Frustration and apathy appeared to have affected turnout, with participation dropping from 75.5% in April to 69.9% now.
  • The result suggests Spain is no closer to ending its impasse and is again bound for months of negotiations and horse-trading to try to assemble a government at a time of unprecedented political fragmentation. Sánchez said he intended to form a progressive government and urged his rivals and opponents not to stand in his way. “I’d like to make a call for the rest of the political parties to act generously and responsibly to unblock the political situation in Spain.” The PP leader, Pablo Casado, said the ball was now firmly in Sánchez’s court. “We’ll see what Pedro Sánchez suggests and then we’ll fulfil our responsibility because Spain can’t carry on being deadlocked.”
  • The poll results came against a backdrop of renewed tensions between the central government and the separatist regional government of Catalonia, as well as growing concern over the economy. Spain’s unemployment figures rose by almost 100,000 last month and the European commission has revised the country’s growth forecast down from 2.3% to 1.9% for this year, and from 1.9% to 1.5% for 2020.
  • Euractiv – AFP / Romania’s Iohannis on top in first-round presidential vote
  • Al-Monitor – Amberin Zaman / Tunisia’s Ennahda faces critical choices as it seeks to form new government

The New York Times – Ernesto Londoño / Bolivian leader Evo Morales steps down

  • President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who came to power more than a decade ago as part of a leftist wave sweeping Latin America, resigned on Sunday after unrelenting protests by a population that accused him of undermining democracy to extend his rule. Mr. Morales and his vice president, Álvaro García Linera, who also resigned, stated that they were stepping down in an effort to stop the bloodshed that has spread across the country in recent weeks. However, they admitted no wrongdoing and instead insisted that they were victims of a coup.
  • President Morales was the first Indigenous president in a country that had been led by a tiny elite of European descent for centuries, and he shepherded Bolivia through an era of economic growth and shrinking inequality, winning support from Bolivians who saw him as their first true representative in the capital.
  • Mr. Morales’s reluctance to give up power despite the protests left him besieged by protests, abandoned by allies and unable to count on the police and the armed forces, which sided with the protesters and demanded he resign. It remained unclear on Sunday night who would take power, as several officials in the line of succession had also resigned.
  • The Washington Post – Ishaan Tharoor / The West’s left-right battle lines run through Brazil

Financial Times – Sam Fleming & Jim Brunsden / Next EU chief urges bloc to boost defence capacity for global role

  • The EU must do much more to ramp up its joint defence capabilities and co-ordinate its foreign policy, the incoming president of the European Council has warned as a sign that of fear that the bloc will be squeezed by the US and China. The union needed to be “more self-confident” and avoid becoming “collateral damage” in a tussle for international influence between Beijing and Washington. The EU’s traditional alliance with the US has been shaken by Donald Trump’s unilateralism and the UK heading for the exit.
  • Mr Michel defended that the EU’s failure to respond to the recent escalation in the Syria crisis showed why a more co-ordinated European foreign policy was needed, saying the bloc needed to learn how to better promote its interests and values. “We were not there. Europe was not there, and I regret this situation”. Better co-ordination on foreign policy could entail, for example, closer work with the African Union to promote stability in countries such as Libya, he stated.
  • On trade, Mr Michel urged the EU to use agreements with other countries to promote priorities such as tackling climate change. He also backed efforts to increase the international role of the euro, noting how dependence on the US dollar had scuppered Europe’s attempts to uphold the Iran nuclear deal rejected by Mr Trump.

The Washington Post – Karen DeYoung / U.S. will leave up to 600 troops in northeastern Syria to prevent ISIS resurgence, top general says

  • As many as 600 U.S. troops will remain in northeastern Syria to continue counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday. Mr Milley did not mention Syrian oil but said that “there are still ISIS fighters in the region and unless pressure is maintained . . . then there’s a very real possibility that conditions could be set for a reemergence of ISIS.”
  • Trump’s withdrawal announcement came after Turkey last month prepared to launch a cross-border invasion, aided by Syrian rebel forces, into northeastern Syria. The administration later reached an agreement with Ankara to remove Kurdish forces — which Turkey considers terrorists — and U.S. forces from an area 75 miles wide and about 20 miles deep along the border to avoid a clash with the Turkish force.
  • That area has since been occupied by Turkey and its Syrian allies, amid sharp criticism of Trump’s withdrawal decision from within and outside the administration and amid reports of human rights abuses as more than 100,000 civilians have fled. In addition to routing the Syrian Kurdish forces, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he wants to use the border region to resettle up to 2 million of the approximately 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey

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, 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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EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 07/11/2019

Financial Times – Valerie Hopkins & Mehreen Kahn / Romania’s search for stability

  • The country of Romania will hold its first round of presidential elections on Sunday, less than a week after the country got its fourth premier in three years. Incumbent President Klaus Iohannis, who led the conservative National Liberal Party, looks to set to emerge victorious. Nonetheless, whether he will face the ex-premier Viorica Dancila, of the Social Democratic party, or Dan Barna of the urban intellectual Union to Save Romania party in the run-off on November 24 is still up in the air.
  • Romania’s freshly installed premier Ludovic Orban is a political ally of Mr Iohannis, who has emerged as a rare source of stability during years of political turmoil. Mrs Dancila was ousted on October 10 in a no-confidence vote, which makes it “almost existential” for the party to make it to the second round, according to Oana Popescu-Zamfir, director of the Global Focus NGO and a former minister of state for European Affairs.
  • Regardless of the electoral outcome on Sunday, those governing Romania will face significant challenges in the near term to pull the country out of a period of political uncertainty. The next government will need to approve a budget and try to compensate for delays in programs requiring European funding. Moreover, it is also possible that the president could call a snap poll, which would be the first in Romania’s history.

Al-Monitor – Daoud Kuttab / Palestinian elections look increasingly feasible

  • When the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN General Assembly last September that he “will call for general elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem” and “hold those who object to the elections accountable to God, the international community and history,” few expected that elusive election to take place. There are still many obstacles, but it appears that Abbas had some justification to make this bold call. Traditionally, there has been a focus on the need for national reconciliation as a prerequisite to elections, but according to a senior adviser, the elections themselves will help usher in reconciliation by means of creating an elected national unity government.
  • Various pundits including Hani al-Masri, director of the Masarat think tank, expect that if all the obstacles are overcome, elections could take place next February. But while the plan makes sense in theory, Masri and others doubt that either Fatah or Hamas would be willing to give up their power, money and weapons if the other side wins.
  • If in fact the many obstacles to elections are overcome, a major question will need to be answered by the Fatah leadership: Will Abbas renege on his promise not to run for president or will another candidate be chosen? There are two opposing views on this issue. Secretary of Fatah Jibril Rajoub noted on Palestine TV that Abbas is 85 years old and called on the president to be a “historic leader” — hinting at an honorable retirement. On the other hand, Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein Sheikh — the head of a key ministry that interacts with Israel — tweeted that Fatah’s only nominee for president is Abbas.
  • Haaretz – Jonathan Lis / In direct election for Israeli Prime Minister, some right-wing voters may defect to Gantz

Project Syndicate – Christopher R. Hill / Emmanuel Macron’s Balkan betrayal

  • After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Western leaders have consistently maintained that there are no problems on the European continent that cannot be addressed through engagement with the EU or an expansion. But that longstanding outlook seems to be changing, owing to a combination of internal woes and American indifference. the European Council’s recent meeting on October 17-18 provided confirmation that something has changed: French President Emmanuel Macron made the decision to block EU accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. With the UK leaving and Angela Merkel retiring from politics, Macron is the heir apparent to European leadership. But his reasoning on the question of EU expansion is opaque.
  • The disappointment over Macron’s decision is palpable in Tirana and Skopje. North Macedonia, after all, just finished changing its official name in order to placate Greece. NATO has followed through. Though some members still need to approve, the Republic of North Macedonia is expected to become a full NATO member at the alliance’s December summit. But the EU accession process has been much slower. Macron, who has said very little on the subject, seems to be worried that continuing enlargement of the bloc will make reforming its governance structures more difficult.
  • In the past, one might have expected the US to step in. But in the context of President Donald Trump’s largely unformed foreign policy, the plight of small, distant countries like North Macedonia and Albania barely registers. Of course, it is possible that Trump has tired of the French president’s star power. It is also possible that Trump doesn’t want Albania and North Macedonia to join the EU. But, most likely, he simply has no idea what is happening in the Western Balkans.

The New York Times – Mark Landler / A not-so special relationship: Facing voters, Johnson backs away from Trump

  • Once, the prime minister talked up the benefits of having a close friend in the White House; now he is distancing himself from a figure who is radioactive to many Britons. Mr. Johnson rallies supporters with his message that only a vote for the Conservatives guarantees that Britain will leave the European Union. On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn defended that Mr. Johnson would sell out Britain’s state health system to a predatory Mr. Trump in a trade deal. “We’ll never let Donald Trump get his hands on our National Health Service,” he thundered.
  • What makes Mr. Trump so dangerous for Mr. Johnson is his unpredictability. The Labour Party will do its best to surgically attach the two men over the next five weeks. On Tuesday, the party released a new advertisement showing Mr. Johnson in front of a blue bus emblazoned with a banner that said, “We’ll send Trump £500m a week. Let’s fund U.S. drug firms, not our N.H.S.”
  • Public attitudes toward Mr. Trump have not softened during his presidency. In a poll of Briton’s attitudes toward foreign leaders by the research group YouGov, only 19 percent of those surveyed said they had a positive opinion of Mr. Trump; 67 percent said they had a negative opinion, and 13 percent were neutral. That places him behind George W. Bush and Pakistan’s president, Imran Khan, but ahead of President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
  • The Guardian – Rowena Mason / Boris Johnson goes on attack after series of high-profile Tory gaffes

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.

Política Internacional | Permalink

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 06/11/2019

Financial Times – Martin Wolf / There is one way forward on climate change

  • Climate policy is dangling between the cynicism of Donald Trump and the radicalism of Greta Thunberg. The US president has just pulled the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases out of the Paris climate pact. Contrarily, Ms Thunberg demands significantly more than a 50 per cent cut in global net emissions by 2030. The former is certainly irresponsible. However, the latter seems inconceivable.
  • If the trend does not alter soon, the chances of avoiding an increase in global average temperatures of more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will be zero and those of avoiding a 2C increase will be small. As the IMF notes in its latest Fiscal Monitor, meeting the latter goal requires reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by a third below the baseline, by 2030. To keep below a 1.5C increase, emissions need to be half of the baseline. The longer the delay in acting, the larger the required action becomes.  
  • Unfortunately, the outright opposition of people such as Mr Trump, and the indifference of much of the population, are not the sole obstacles to success. In any case, climate change will not be solved by one country. To succeed, policy must be effective, legitimate and global. To be effective, policy must combine planning, regulation, research and incentives.
  • What, then, is to be done? The answers include a programme of action over three decades; pragmatic resort to all policy tools, including market-based incentives; use of the revenue raised from carbon pricing to compensate losers and make the tax system and climate mitigation more efficient; a stress on the local environment benefits of eliminating the use of fossil fuels; and, above all, a commitment to climate as a shared global challenge. In an era of populism and nationalism, is there any chance? Not obviously. If so, we will indeed have failed. But the young are surely right to expect better.
  • Project Syndicate – Daron Acemoglu / Are the climate kids right?

The New York Times – Keith Bradsher / China’s Xi praises free trade. Striking deals is another matter

  • Xi Jinping broadly endorsed free-trade principles and promised to welcome foreign investment in a speech on Tuesday, but a setback with India and a lack of details toward ending the punishing trade war with the United States are testing Beijing’s ability to prove it can make a deal. Mr Xi stated that: “Economic globalization is a historical trend,” comparing the momentum to the world’s important rivers. “Although there are sometimes some waves going backward, and even though there are many shoals, the rivers are rushing forward and no one can stop them.”
  • The question is, however, whether China will open up fast and far enough for the Trump administration, which has made Beijing’s management of the world’s second-largest economy a major sticking point toward resolving the trade war. In what could be a good-will gesture by Beijing in connection with efforts to settle the trade war, China’s central bank allowed the country’s currency, the renminbi, to strengthen slightly in trading on Tuesday.
  • Nonetheless, China is still imposing different rules that deeply frustrate foreign investors. According to Carlo Diego D’Andrea, the chairman of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai: “You have hundreds of regulations and indirect barriers that make your life miserable doing business here.”
  • South China Morning Post – Keegan Elmer / ‘No one wins a trade war’: French President Emmanuel Macron points to common ground with China on tariffs and climate action

Foreign Policy – Michael Albertus & Mark Deming / Pinochet still looms large in Chilean politics

  • Over the last several weeks, Chile’s image as the political and economic darling of Latin America has been shattered. Sparked by a meager hike in subway fares, protests and marches have now metastasized into the worst unrest the country has seen since its transition to democracy in 1990. The president, Sebastián Piñera, has declared war on protesters, invoked a state of emergency, and unleashed a repressive crackdown that, indeed, invokes memories of dictator Augusto Pinochet.
  • The prosperous economy and the political stability have always masked a darker problem: the last vestiges of Chile’s dictatorship were never entirely rooted out, and the persistent influence of former authoritarian elites and those who directly inherited their legacy over democratic politics is part of what is bringing protesters out on the streets today.
  • After the democratic transition in 1990, elites from the outgoing Pinochet dictatorship retained prominent positions in the military, National Congress, and local government well into the early 2010s. Pinochet himself remained head of the Chilean military until 1998 and a designated senator until 2002. When former authoritarian elites capture important posts across a new democratic government, they can use their leverage to push policy decisions toward protecting their own interests over citizens’.
  • Of course, the persistence of elites from an authoritarian past is rarely sufficient to trigger widespread unrest. But stalling economic growth can cast that influence in a new light, especially in countries where judiciaries, political parties, and independent regulators have allowed corruption to thrive and waste to proliferate. However, as Chile shows, even financially responsible and successful economies cannot entirely placate citizens when there is a yawning gap between the haves and have-nots, especially when many of the haves got there because of their ties to a brutal past.

Euractiv – Grégoire Normand / Amid Brexit and trade wars, European industry faces economic gloom

  • The eurozone’s manufacturing sector contracted for the ninth consecutive month in October, based on the latest Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) calculated by the Markit firm. The indicator, which takes into account several factors related to the industrial sector’s health, recovered very slightly in October to 45.9 from 45.7 in September but remained well below 50. With the postponement of Brexit, trade tensions and digital wars, it is easy to see why the clouds of uncertainty are piling up in Europe’s skies.
  • Moreover, in the third quarter, the eurozone’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew only 0.2%, a level well below those recorded in 2017 and 2018, according to the latest Eurostat figures published on 31 October. Chris Williamson, Markit’s chief economist, explained that: “Amid its sharpest contraction in seven years, the eurozone’s manufacturing sector is likely to put a severe brake on the region’s economic growth in the fourth quarter. Indeed, the latest data from the survey point to a quarterly decline in industrial production of more than 1% by the end of the year.”
  • Germany, the eurozone’s leading economy remains entangled in serious difficulties at the end of the year; the Italian industrial sector continues to suffer and Spain, for its part, recorded a fifth consecutive month of decline in the PMI index. On the other hand, French industry is showing signs of a slight recovery. The PMI surveyed by Markit recovered slightly between September and October, from 50.1 to 50.7.

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.

Política Internacional | Permalink

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 05/11/2019

The Washington Post – Brady Dennis / Trump makes it official: U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord

  • The Trump administration notified the international community on Monday that it plans to officially withdraw from the Paris climate accord next fall, a move that will leave the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases as the only nation to abandon the global effort to combat climate change. President Trump has long criticized the 2015 accord and insisted that the United States would exit it as soon as possible.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that: “In international climate discussions, we will continue to offer a realistic and pragmatic model — backed by a record of real world results — showing innovation and open markets lead to greater prosperity, fewer emissions, and more secure sources of energy.” Monday marked the date that the Trump administration could give that one-year notice, and it wasted no time. The United States can now officially leave the Paris agreement Nov. 4, 2020 — the day after next year’s presidential election.
  • Monday’s move comes as scientists say that the world must take “unprecedented” action to cut its carbon emissions over the next decade, slashing them in half by 2030 to avoid irreversible and potentially catastrophic effects of climate change. The world already has warmed more than about one degree Celsius above preindustrial levels.
  • POLITICO – Zack Colman / U.S. starts climate pact exit — now what?

The Economist / India pulls out of a big proposed regional trade deal

  • If it was measured by their share of world’s population and global economy (one half and more than one third respectively) it would have been the largest regional trade agreement ever finalised. So there was a sense of disappointment in Bangkok on November 4th when the would-be signatories of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) missed the deadline they had set themselves. Moreover, it was a great blow to the East Asia Summit, which is still struggling to establish itself as a relevant gathering in the world’s diplomatic calendar. The Summit is an annual institution that has been set up in 2005, and this year it suffered its third consecutive no-show from America’s president.
  • The RCEP would have brought together the ten members of ASEAN and six of their neighbours: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The ambition, first announced in 2011, was to unite in one deal all those Asian countries with which ASEAN has free-trade agreements. The biggest obstacle has always been that one of them, India, has feared opening its markets to another, China. That was still what scuppered this year’s plans. The other 15 countries have apparently reached agreement on a text, and plan to complete the deal next year—with or without India.
  • Although India and China already have free-trade deals with ASEAN, they do not yet have an agreement with each other. India fears that lowering its tariffs on Chinese goods will worsen its yawning trade deficit with the country. It also fears that its dairy farmers will fail to compete with Australia’s and New Zealand’s highly mechanised industries.

Financial Times – Tony Barber / New EU leadership team must up its game on foreign policy

  • The new EU leadership team taking office in Brussels knows that, if the bloc’s common foreign policy is to command respect, the first place where it must achieve success is within the European neighbourhood. This would need to be well-planned, as united as possible, efficiently executed and imbued with a larger sense of long-term strategy. Two episodes, one concerning the Balkans and the other one Syria, have been little short of a debacle. Both incidents point to the EU’s inability to translate its undoubted weight as a commercial and regulatory bloc into hard power on the world stage.
  • This situation, however, is not just a matter of lack of military muscle, important though that is. The real problem is that, whenever two or more of the EU’s biggest countries are in disagreement, a common European foreign policy is either paralysed or becomes a question of finding the lowest common denominator among all the member states.
  • The Syrian episode centres on Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, German defence minister and possible successor of Angela Merkel. Her proposal for a multinational security zone in northern Syria was startling for its lack of preparation. The EU’s mis-steps in the Balkans are no less painful to watch, but in this case the main culprit is France, not Germany, by blocking Albania and North Macedonia from opening EU membership talks.
  • The Syrian and Balkan embarrassments are symptoms of an EU unsure of its place in the world and suffering from ineffective Franco-German co-operation. But if the EU cannot get things right on its own doorstep, where can it?

South China Morning Post – William Zheng / China’s Xi Jinping meets Hong Kong leader, backs Carrie Lam’s ‘hard work’ amid protests

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed “high trust” in Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam in a meeting with her on Monday in Shanghai and defended the chief executive’s response to unrest that has rattled the city since June, according to the official media. The formal sit-down was the first official meeting between the two leaders since anti-government protests began in early June, sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.
  • President Xi stated that: “The central government has high trust in you and fully affirms the work of you and the governance team of Hong Kong.” He added that: “To curb the violence and stop the chaos in accordance with the law is still the most important task faced by Hong Kong.” Moreover, he also defended that “We must do a good job in dialogue with the community and improve people’s livelihood.”
  • Hong Kong was high on the agenda of the fourth plenum of the Chinese Communist Party, a top-level closed door meeting of China’s political elites at end of October. The meeting’s communique said that China will continue to uphold the one county, two systems principle, but also called for actions to “establish a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in the special administrative regions”.

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.

Política Internacional | Permalink

EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 04/11/2019

The Washington Post – Matthew Martin / Why Saudi Aramco’s IPO is no ordinary share sale

  • The company on November 3 confirmed its intention to list shares on the Saudi Arabian stock exchange. The long-delayed IPO is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s grand vision to reshape the kingdom’s economy. It’s no ordinary share sale, and not just because of its size. The original plan was to sell 5% of the company on international and domestic markets. That would have made for an IPO of between $50 billion and $100 billion — far outstripping the world-record $25 billion raised by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. in New York in 2014. However, the proposal scaled back, and now the plans are to sell around 2%.
  • An international share sale may happen, though it’s fraught with difficulties. New York’s appeal is limited because of a U.S. law allowing victims of terrorism to sue foreign governments linked to attacks, which may lead to litigation against Aramco. Overseas listings also open the company to intense and unprecedented scrutiny. Concerning the timing, it has raised eyebrows. Aramco pumps about 10% of the world’s oil, yet crude prices have fallen 16% in the past 12 months. Accordingly, Saudi Arabia may be taking the view that it’s better to press ahead in case oil prices continue to slide.
  • Aramco makes more money than any other company, but investors may balk if the valuation is set too high, particularly given the political risk. To attract investors, Saudi authorities are reshaping the oil producers’ finances as well as promising bumper dividends. The deal has been marketed extensively to international investors, according to people familiar with the plans, and approaches have been made to potential key investors such as Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd., China’s Sinopec Group and China National Petroleum Corp.

Associated Press – Nasser Karimi & Jon Gambrell / Iran spins more centrifuges on US Embassy crisis anniversary

  • Iran on Monday broke further away from its collapsing 2015 nuclear deal with world powers by announcing it’s doubling the number of advanced centrifuges it operates, calling the decision a direct result of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement.
  • The announcement — which also included Iran saying it now has a prototype centrifuge that works 50 times faster than those allowed under the deal — came as demonstrators across the country marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover that started a 444-day hostage crisis.
  • As of now, Iran is enriching uranium to 4.5%, in violation of the accord’s limit of 3.67%. Enriched uranium at the 3.67% level is enough for peaceful pursuits but is far below weapons-grade levels of 90%. At the 4.5% level, it is enough to help power Iran’s Bushehr reactor, the country’s only nuclear power plant. 
  • However, this year’s commemoration of the embassy seizure comes as Iran’s regional allies in Iraq and Lebanon face widespread protests. The Iranian Consulate in Karbala, Iraq, a holy city for Shiites, saw a mob attack it overnight. Three protesters were killed during the attack and 19 were wounded, along with seven policemen, Iraqi officials said

The New York Times – Selam Gebrekidan, Matt Apuzzo & Benjamin Novak / The money farmers: how oligarchs and populists milk the E.U. for millions

  • Every year, the 28-country bloc pays out $65 billion in farm subsidies intended to support farmers around Europe and keep rural communities alive. But across Hungary and much of Central and Eastern Europe, the bulk goes to a connected and powerful few. The prime minister of the Czech Republic collected tens of millions of dollars in subsidies just last year. Subsidies have underwritten Mafia-style land grabs in Slovakia and Bulgaria. Europe’s farm program, a system that was instrumental in forming the European Union, is now being exploited by the same antidemocratic forces that threaten the bloc from within.
  • The program is the biggest item in the European Union’s central budget, accounting for 40 percent of expenditures. It’s one of the largest subsidy programs in the world, three times as much as the United States on farm subsidies each year. However, some lawmakers in Brussels who write and vote on farm policy admit they often have no idea where the money goes.  A company formed by the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babis, collected at least $42 million in subsidies last year.
  • The centerpiece of the program is that people get paid based on how much land they farm. The system is supposed to help hard-working farmers and stabilize Europe’s food supply. But in former Soviet bloc countries, where the government owned lots of farmland, leaders like Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, have auctioned off land to political allies and family members. And the subsidies follow the land.

Reuters – Manoj Kumar / India’s smog-bound capital suffers most hazardous air so far this year

  • Air pollution in New Delhi and surrounding towns reached the worst levels so far this year on Sunday, with authorities in the world’s most polluted capital city having already declared a public health emergency. The air quality index, measuring levels of PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter in the air, deteriorated to above 900, way over the 500-level that qualifies as “severe-plus”. Aside from the harm it was doing to the lungs of some 40 million people living in the capital region, the smog was so bad more than 30 flights were diverted from Delhi airport due to poor visibility.
  • “Wind speed is picking up and it could take 24 to 48 hours before the pollution level reduces to a level of around 500,” Mahesh Palawat, vice president of Skymet, a private weather forecasting agency, said. Anything above 400 on the AQI poses a risk for people with respiratory illness and can also affect even those with healthy lungs.
  • A survey of 17,000 people in the Delhi region found that 40% want to get out of the Delhi region because of the failure to control pollution. On Monday, according to a lawyer, the Supreme Court is likely to hear a petition on Monday from the environment agency, looking for ways to make state governments to take tougher action against farmers to curb the stubble-burning. However, politicians have been reluctant to upset their farming constituencies.

Financial Times – Valerie Hopkins / Balkan leaders warn that EU accession delay risks stoking tensions

  • North Macedonia and Albania face a risk of surging nationalism and unravelling economic reforms after the EU closed the door for years on their hopes of joining the bloc, according to leaders of both countries. Zoran Zaev, prime minister of North Macedonia, stated in an interview that he feared a return to his ethnically divided country’s “bad past”, including a narrowly averted civil war in 2001. Edi Rama, prime minister of Albania, said in a separate interview that his country risked becoming “collateral damage” from the internal European divisions concerning enlargement.
  • The warnings from both Balkan leaders underline analysts’ fears that the EU’s failure to proceed with both countries’ accession process will destabilise a geopolitically unstable union. However, French president Emmanuel Macron in effect blocked opening accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.
  • Mr Rama and Mr Zaev said they understood the concerns of the EU member states that blocked the negotiations because they want to see reform in the bloc and of its enlargement policies. But they both agreed that any eventual membership was at least a decade off, and that their countries and the EU itself could meanwhile continue their reforms. Judy Dempsey, a non-resident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe based in Berlin, said that the EU’s credibility had been damaged because leaders had been told since 2003 that if they met the EU’s criteria, they would be admitted, and now that at least Skopje had done so, it was being rejected on the grounds that the EU must be reformed first.

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, 31/10/2019

The Washington Post – Heather Long / Federal Reserve cuts interest rate for third time this year in effort to boost U.S. economy

  • The U.S. Federal Reserve reduced the benchmark American interest rate for the third time this year in an effort to boost the economy as the trade war and a global slowdown threaten to drag the U.S. economy down. However, it also signaled that its campaign of rate cuts has likely come to an end for now, with Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell defending that the current stance was “appropriate.”
  • The leaders of the Fed have stressed that they do not see a recession on the horizon. Instead, they have sought to portray these rate reductions as “insurance” cuts that are meant to give the economy extra protection in a world of rising uncertainty. “Weakness in global growth and trade developments have weighed on the economy and posed ongoing risks,” Powell said.
  • Fed leaders anticipated that growth would cool this year and next to around 2 percent, a level they considered the long-run trend pace for the economy. The rate cuts are meant to prevent growth from slipping much below that pace. Most business leaders say trade uncertainty has caused them to scale back investment as they wait and see what happens with talks between the world’s two largest economies. But the stock market remains very high, the unemployment rate is low, and the housing market in some parts of the country has shown new signs of life.
  • The Economist / America’s economy is resisting the pull of recession

Euractiv – AFP / Fiat-Chrysler, Peugeot group closing in on merger

  • Fiat Chrysler and Groupe PSA, the maker of Peugeot and Citroen cars, moved a step closer on Wednesday to creating a new global auto giant as the industry battles ever fiercer competition and the costly shift from traditional to electric cars. A source familiar with the matter stated that the board of PSA had approved the proposed multi-billion-euro tie-up with Italian-US Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in a move that could create the world’s fourth largest automaker. The deal still needs to be given the green light by FCA’s board, but the two sides could formally announce that they are in exclusive talks later on Thursday. The merger plans come on the heels of a failed attempt earlier this year to combine Fiat Chrysler with Renault.
  • A combined FCA-PSA would produce the scale needed in an industry facing slowing demand, with 8.7 million vehicles sold per year and €184 billion in annual sales. If the deal passes, PSA could gain access to the lucrative US market while fulfilling the long-held goal for a merger to survive escalating costs and competition. Investors cheered the news. FCA shares in Milan closed up 9% on Wednesday while PSA shares added 4% in Paris.
  • Talks to merge FCA with Renault broke down in June, scuppered in part by resistance from the French government, which owns a stake in Renault – as it does PSA. France’s economy ministry said in a statement that the state would be “particularly vigilant” about jobs, corporate governance and preserving the industrial footprint when assessing any merger. Italian vice economy minister, Antonio Misiani, said it was “vital to preserve (existing) sites in Italy.”

The New York Times – Choe Sang-Hun / North Korea fires 2 projectiles in first test since talks stalled

  • North Korea launched ​two projectiles off its east coast on Thursday, its first such tests since talks with the United States stalled over the terms of ending its nuclear weapons program. The projectiles were fired from Pyongannam-do, a province surrounding Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and they landed in waters between North Korea and Japan, the South Korean military said in a statement.
  • South Korean defense officials said they were studying the flight paths to determine what type of weapons the projectiles were, although Japan’s Ministry of Defense defended that they appeared to be ballistic missiles. The projectiles were the first such weapons that North Korea has tested since the Asian country fired its Pukguksong-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile on Oct. 2 into waters off Japan. It was the 12th time since early May that the North has tested ballistic missiles or other projectiles.
  • The launchings could be an effort by North Korea to prod the United States to get back to serious negotiations over its weapons program as it seeks relief from crippling sanctions. After the most recent talks ended without progress on Oct. 5, the North said that it had no desire to engage in “sickening negotiations” with the United States anymore. The North Korean ​Foreign Ministry said that it would not meet with American negotiators again until after Washington took “a substantial step” to “complete and ​irreversible withdrawal of hostile policy.”

Financial Times – Janan Ganesh / The false choice between diversity and welfare

  • Canada is something that is increasingly said to be impossible in real time and space. It is a cosmopolitan social democracy. A conflict between immigration and welfare is the given reason for the ordeal of the western left in recent years. The less that citizens have in common — goes this logic — the less willing they are to underwrite each other’s livelihoods. It is a theory worth taking seriously but it has calcified into something like fact, even as the evidence remains uneven. As France or Australia also portray, if there is a tension between diversity and solidarity, it is not a hard and fast one.
  • Nothing would disprove that tension more than the election as US president of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. What makes these Democrats so unusual in American history is not their desire to expand the government. It is their willingness to do so in a high-immigration context.
  • The Sanders-Warren project is, indeed, big government without the flag. It is cosmopolitan social democracy. Even if Mr Sanders, faithful to his Marxism, is less taken with identity politics than with class, neither he nor Ms Warren are immigration sceptics. If this seems altogether too Canadian to sell south of the border, do not put too much store in the idea of immutable national cultures. It is now well-enough known that, on economics, most Americans are some way to the left of their stereotype as individualists.
  • The Guardian – Tom McCarthy / US House prepares for historic vote to formalize Trump impeachment process

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.

Política Internacional | Permalink