Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Europe. Show all posts

31 March 2020

Assessing the G20 Virtual Summit

Leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) countries, representing 85 percent of the global economy, met by videoconference on March 26 to discuss the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic disruptions. This year’s G20 host, Saudi Arabia, issued a 20-paragraph communiqué on behalf of the group following the call. In it, leaders committed to doing “whatever it takes” to overcome the pandemic and laid out a number of individual and collective actions to address the health crisis, bolster the global economy, and assist countries in distress. However, the statement lacked concrete proposals, and questions remain about the extent to which major economies are committed to following through with a concerted international response to the crisis.

Q1: Did the G20 live up to its billing as the premier forum for international economic cooperation?

A1: No, certainly by comparison with the G20’s forceful role in the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. Leaders’ commitment in the March 26 communiqué to do “whatever it takes” to minimize the economic and social damage from the pandemic was a useful statement of shared purpose. However, the communiqué essentially recounted and endorsed what national governments and central banks are already doing individually through aggressive fiscal and monetary policy. Despite early press reports suggesting injection of a new $5 trillion in spending, this figure was merely an aggregation of existing measures by G20 countries. Nor did leaders provide any new framing of the economic challenges posed by the health crisis or offer guidance to policymakers—whether in individual countries or in international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank—on additional measures needed.

Q2: Where specifically did the G20 communiqué fall short?

29 March 2020

It’s Not “Realism”, It’s Reality

When a friend of mine was a student at the National War College (which should be called the National College because there is no war in the curriculum), he was counseled by his advisor for “letting his realism show”. If you want to be a member of the Washington establishment, you dare not do that. You must be deeply devoted to “idealism”, the magical belief that we can somehow make every fly-blown, flea bitten hellhole country in the world into another Switzerland. All it takes is sanctions, bombing, and perhaps invasion, for which they will love us.

Now the equally wooly-minded European foreign policy establishment is facing what the idealists fear most: a reality that suddenly attaches a high price to idealism. Turkey, trying to compel Europe to back its intervention in Syria’s civil war, has opened the refugee floodgates again. Last time, Europe got drowned in a sea of more than a million immigrants, almost all Muslim, most with neither skills nor a European language. Wherever in Europe they have gone crime has risen, the welfare rolls have exploded and European voters have turned away from the Establishment to parties that want to defend their countries from invasion. Most inconvenient, that democracy stuff.

27 March 2020

How to Make Sure Peace Endures Once the Fighting Ends

The need for peacebuilding in post-conflict societies grew out of the realization that signing agreements to bring fighting to an end is a necessary but insufficient step toward true and enduring peace. Peacebuilding is now conceived of as a multistage process that includes approaches ranging from governmental capacity-building and economic development to reforms of the legal and security sectors, with each initiative intended to be a step toward improving human security and fostering societal healing and reconciliation.

It is often a laborious and expensive process—and one that can easily be undone. Witness Brexit’s triggering of the long-dormant fault lines between unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland. Moreover, as peacebuilding has evolved, there is still no consensus on who should lead these efforts. In the wake of Sept. 11, the United Nations introduced a Peacebuilding Commission, intended to push for the adoption of post-conflict interventions and then aid and track their implementation. The PBC lacks any actual enforcement capacity, though, and has struggled to establish itself. It also suffers from the same problem as the broader U.N. system: Key member states can block U.N. involvement, which may explain why Syria is still not on the PBC’s agenda despite the denouement of that nation’s conflict.

Assessing U.S. Relative Decline

By Adam A. Azim

Adam A. Azim is a writer and entrepreneur based in Northern Virginia. His areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy and strategy, as well as political philosophy and theory. He can be found on Twitter @adamazim1988. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Author and / or Article Point of View: This article is written from an American point of view, in regards to U.S. relative decline vis-à-vis Russia and China.

Summary: American policy since World War II imposed “world order,” which is fraught with the inability to enforce as well as aspirations exceeding capabilities. As a result, America is entangled in futile Middle Eastern conflicts, plagued with populism and President Trump, faced with the rise of Russia and China, debt, polarization, and public health issues. This situation prompts a paradigm shift from excess militarization to the elevation of national spirit.

26 March 2020

The Coronavirus Is a Test for the West


It won’t happen here, not in Europe. It’s taking place far away, across the world, in China. Such was the refrain until the coronavirus struck northern Italy and with a terrible vengeance.

Until then, much attention in Europe was focused on how the Chinese Communist Party had imposed draconian methods to contain the virus and equally draconian methods to silence criticism. Such measures were not for the West.

Well, it has taken the first road now after European governments saw what happened in Italy. As a result, most of Europe is now in shutdown. French President Emmanuel Macron has put France on what he calls a war footing in order to fight the virus.

Depending on where you live, some people believe the measures adopted by their governments are legitimate. Others—some of my Berlin neighbors for example (and, by the way, two of them are doctors)—believe the reactions are over-exaggerated. Forget the fact that thousands across Europe have already died. And don’t even think about how poor countries will cope. The instruction “wash your hands with soap as often as possible” is a luxury for some populations.

The Lessons from Italy’s Covid-19 Mistakes

Ferdinando Giugliano
Source Link

Italy is doubling down on its lockdown strategy to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, halting all non-essential economic activities for two weeks. There are early signs that these draconian steps are paying off, but the human and economic costs will be steep.

The government made mistakes, ones that the rest of the Western world should have learned from but didn’t. Italy has surpassed China as the country with the most deaths from Covid-19, according to the official data. Nearly 5,500 Italians have lost their lives to the disease, compared with less than 3,300 Chinese — even though Italy’s population is barely 4% that of China’s. Almost 60,000 individuals have tested positive for the virus, more than double the number in Spain and Germany.

Italy was the first European country to discover a serious domestic outbreak, which helps in part to explain why it is now so widespread now. Other countries — including the France, the U.K. and even the U.S. — appear to be merely tracking Italy with just a few weeks of delay. Italy may have also been unlucky: Because it faced the beginning of the epidemic before others, it was caught off guard.

Europe’s Coronavirus Test

The novel coronavirus of 2019, or COVID-19, is sweeping through the European continent. After an initially lukewarm response, European leaders have taken increasingly decisive steps in the face of this massive challenge. Italy is in a countrywide lockdown, with over 30,000 declared cases. Spain, Germany, and France each have over 10,000 people who have tested positive. Thousands more cases have been identified throughout the rest of Europe. And all governments are bluntly telling their citizens the naked truth: this is only the visible tip of the iceberg, and things will get much worse over the next few weeks.

They are correct in their assessment. To Europeans, the COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a public health crisis, as it is for the rest of the world. But it also bears a distinctive political and economic challenge to the European Union.

On the one hand, the European project is deeply rooted in principles and policies, such as solidarity and the freedom of movement for persons and goods, that find themselves at odds with the measures national European governments are now forced to implement—confining their population at home, closing borders, and focusing limited national resources on their own infrastructure. On the other hand, the European Union itself has very little competence, according to the EU Treaties, when it comes to health policy, and this matter remains largely in the hands of individual member states. Yet there is a broad expectation, in Europe and abroad, that the European Union will take charge of the matter and direct the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Citizens worried about their physical and economic safety do not care about treaty limitations.

Guarding Against Foreign Interference In Elections – Analysis

By Stephanie Neubronner
Source Link

Developed electoral processes in mature economies in the West have been compromised by external tampering. Singapore has not had to deal with serious cases of foreign interference in its elections. This could, however, change in the future. What can be done to pre-empt this?

The release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Report on 13 March 2020 suggests that Singapore’s next general election is just around the corner. With various political parties already gearing up for the next election, it is crucial that Singapore does not lose sight of the importance of protecting itself from foreign interference.

Foreign interference is not a new threat jeopardising the security, unity and autonomy of states. Throughout history, nations have attempted to interfere in other states’ politics for their own benefit for a multitude of reasons. While the basis of foreign state motivations might not have changed much, the use of technology to amplify and markedly increase the reach and concealment of such interference has raised concerns for governments around the world.

Threat of Foreign Interference

24 March 2020

Caught Unprepared by Pandemic, Europe Must Relearn Tough Lessons


Since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Europeans of all ages have undergone a surreal disruption of their work, private lives, and freedom of movement amid massive economic dislocation. Among the additional impacts are an immense burden on healthcare and security personnel, widespread suffering, and uncertainty about whether the crisis will last months or longer. For all the much-needed talk of individual and collective responsibility, the challenge will be staggeringly hard to manage.

Despite the various economic crises, social inequities, terrorist threats, migration pressures, and populist turbulence the EU has weathered in recent decades, Europeans have nevertheless enjoyed enduring peace, nearly unlimited freedoms, easy travel, and generous welfare systems. The EU has even absorbed the historic shock of Brexit.

Yet Europeans have now seen their leaders caught unprepared for a global pandemic, scrambling to respond without ready-to-roll emergency plans or critical stockpiles of diagnostic tests, respirators, masks, or hand sanitizer. Some governments at first tried to limit disruptions, but the recourse to almost total confinement has become the only way to stave off mounting death tolls in overwhelmed hospitals and health systems. Risk assessments were only recently upgraded to “high” or “very high.”


23 March 2020

Boris Johnson Delivered Brexit, but Britain’s Future Remains Just as Uncertain

Three years after British voters narrowly voted to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum, Boris Johnson assumed the office of prime minister amid a political environment characterized by anger, turmoil and confusion. But despite initial stumbles that led some observers to predict he would suffer the same dismal fate as his predecessor, Theresa May, Johnson managed to deliver on his promise to renegotiate the Brexit withdrawal agreement with the European Union. His subsequent decisive victory in December’s parliamentary elections, built in part on successfully wooing traditional Labour party voters, gave Johnson the ample majority he needed to see his deal through.

Before Johnson’s December triumph, Brexit had been a disaster for both of the country’s two main political parties. The referendum outcome immediately brought down the Conservative government of former Prime Minister David Cameron, who had called for the vote in the first place. His successor, May, was felled by her inability to get the withdrawal agreement she negotiated with Brussels through Parliament, mainly due to opposition by extremist Brexiteers within her own Tory ranks. For his part, Johnson achieved what May couldn’t, arriving at a Brexit deal that a majority of Parliament could agree on—and then building on that majority in December. But now he will own the consequences of having delivered Brexit.

20 March 2020

Should other countries copy Italy’s nationwide lockdown?

Giovambattista presti, a psychologist at the Kore University of Enna in Sicily, is an adviser to the Policlinico, Milan’s oldest hospital, which is at the centre of Italy’s covid-19 epidemic. Of great concern now, says Mr Presti, is staff burnout. He is particularly worried about post-traumatic stress disorder among some medics. If hospitals reach the point at which they no longer have the capacity to treat every patient, some of them “will be forced to decide who should go into intensive care and who should be left to die”.

Similar accounts are emerging elsewhere. Daniele Macchini is a doctor at the Humanitas Gavazzeni hospital in nearby Bergamo. It has been overwhelmed by covid-19 patients. “Cases are multiplying. We are getting 15-20 admissions a day,” he wrote on Facebook. “The results of the swabs come in one after another: positive, positive, positive. All of a sudden, accident and emergency is collapsing.” Nurses, he added, have been reduced to tears “because we cannot save everyone”.

Coronavirus could break the EU

For better and for worse, crises create opportunities for extraordinary politics. European leaders, including the eurozone’s top central banker, Christine Lagarde, would be foolish to think that the ongoing pandemic is different just because it is a public health crisis — and not a political or financial one.

Besides the cost in terms of lives and public health, the pandemic has created an economic shock on a scale that could easily exceed the 2008 financial crisis. While the Great Recession resulted from a financial shock that reverberated through the U.S. and European economies, the entire world now faces a massive downturn across all sectors of the economy.

Social distancing” invariably means less economic activity for everybody. In the coming weeks, if not months, people will work less, invest less and spend less. Inevitably, balance sheets will deteriorate and otherwise profitable businesses will go under — unless there is a clear commitment from public authorities to stabilize the economy.

16 March 2020

My Lockdown Diary, From a Small, Old Town in Italy

By Beppe Severgnini

CREMA, Italy — An open society in lockdown: It’s almost an oxymoron, a mind game. Until it happens, and life suddenly changes. It’s happening to me and all Italians. Beginning in the north, where I live, and now in the whole country. Everything is shut: no schools, no meetings, no parties, no movies, no plays, no sporting events. No bars and no restaurants. No shops open, except food stores and pharmacies. Across the country, as of Thursday, 15,113 people have contracted the virus (about half are in hospital); 1,016 have died and 1,258 have recovered.

The Italian government’s mantra is three words: “Restate a casa” — Stay at home.

What happens to daily life in a small, old town near Milan during an epidemic?

Crema is pretty, wealthy and proud, a quintessential Italian community where everyone knows each other. It has been described in books and became a backdrop for the film “Call Me by Your Name.” Outside my window, I can see the whole of the main square, Piazza del Duomo.

Trouble: Could Russia Jam American Communications During a Land War in Europe?

by David Axe 
Source Link

Key point: Here is what could happen if Russia and America fought. Moscow has invested a lot in its electronic warfare capabilities.

The U.S. military is spending more and more on electronic-warfare systems, all in a desperate bid to keep pace with China and Russia’s own investments in jammers.

But the roughly $10 billion that the Pentagon plans to spend on electronic warfare every year over the next five years isn’t helping as much as it should, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments explained in a November 2019 report.

This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

“The growth in [Defense Department] E.W. spending ... is not guided by a coherent vision of how U.S. forces would operate and fight in the [electromagnetic spectrum, or EMS] and is unlikely to yield significant improvements against China and Russia, the U.S. military’s most challenging competitors,” CSBA experts Bryan Clark, Whitney McNamara and Timothy Walton explained.

13 March 2020

Much at Stake as EU Battles COVID-19

by Ilona Kickbusch

European Union health ministers are meeting and communicating more frequently as COVID-19 spreads and the situation on the ground changes more rapidly. When they first met on Feb. 13, no viral deaths had been reported in Europe. By the time of their next meeting on Friday March 6, more than 4,000 cases had been confirmed across the EU. According to the latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, as of March 7th 213 deaths have been reported in the EU/EEA and the UK and the ECDC has raised the risk of coronavirus infection from moderate to high. 

But there is also concern that not all member states are reporting responsibly. Italy has reported the highest number of deaths outside of China, it is the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, and with Italy declaring a quarantine on the northern region of Lombardi, many people worry that what Italy is experiencing now will happen elsewhere in Europe. Some believe it is inevitable. 

Has Europe Lost Both the Battle and War over Its Digital Future?

Digital technologies are not new, but policymakers have woken up to the fact that they will drive economic growth. European Union officials are the latest to awaken. The European Union’s release of yet another strategy is ambitious, but short on detail, accompanied by statements that "Europe may have lost the battle to create digital champions capable of taking on U.S. and Chinese companies . . . but it can win the war of industrial data."

The first step in solving any problem is acknowledging that the problem exists. Europe has indeed lost the battle to create digital champions. But have they lost the war? Our answer is an unhappy yes. The European Union wants "technological sovereignty" but does not offer to explain how it will achieve this without the politically difficult "creative destruction" of existing businesses and jobs that innovation and technology inevitably bring. Or how Europe—the world’s largest exporter of commercial services and critical infrastructure—would suffer most if its notions of sovereignty took root in other countries.

And this is where the war begins to be lost. In announcing the new EU digital strategy, European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton stated that “Europe is the world’s top industrial continent," (blithely ignoring China) and asserts that the United States has lost its industrial know-how. Europe was indeed the world’s industrial continent—but in the nineteenth century. If the United States has lost know-how, it is for the industries of the last century, like textiles, or steel, politically painful, to be sure but also necessary for growth. To emphasize this point, of the top 10 companies in the United States, five are less than 20 years old, while all of the top 10 companies in Europe are more than a century old.

12 March 2020

Europe fails to help Italy in coronavirus fight

EU countries have so far refused Italy's plea for help fighting coronavirus, as national capitals worry that they may need to stockpile face masks and other medical gear to help their own citizens, officials and diplomats said.

The refusal so far to volunteer help for Italy, which requested face masks through the EU's civil protection mechanism, highlights the urgency for Brussels as it seeks to orchestrate a coordinated response to the epidemic, and to make use of its still relatively limited powers during public health emergencies compared to the broader authority of member states.

Indeed, Rome's hopes for assistance are now pinned on the Commission's triggering of an emergency joint procurement process that allows the EU to purchase urgent medical supplies and to distribute those resources where most-needed across the Continent, even if capitals are reluctant to help each other.

11 March 2020

The Hidden Cost of Migrant Labor

By Deepak Unnikrishnan

Iwas recently in Berlin to give a talk about my book, Temporary People, to a roomful of scholars whose work focuses on the countries of the Persian Gulf. Set in the United Arab Emirates, my fiction explores the lives of people like my parents, men and women who left their homes in the southern Indian state of Kerala in the 1970s to work abroad. It is steeped in the South Asian lingo of much of the UAE’s immigrant population. My stories dwell on the consequences of migration to the Gulf, on what that movement of people does to both home and host countries, to languages, and to families.

The day before the event, I had dinner with my European hosts. They surprised me by introducing themselves as “temporary people,” too, transplants from different countries and marginalized communities in Europe, now living and working in the largest economy of the European Union.

At first, I was a little taken aback by their description of themselves, however sincere. I was surprised that they related to me. I didn’t think we shared the same experiences. Did they have childhood memories of strangers noting their foreign nationality? Did they feel exposed by the color of their skin? And did they, like me, have a chip on their shoulder because they’d managed to jump social classes? As two European academics told me that they identified with Gulf migrants from South Asia, I thought that our backgrounds couldn’t have been more different.

Europe and NATO’s Shame Over Syria and Turkey


Maybe Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was right.

In October 2019, the German defense minister suggested the creation of an internationally controlled security zone along the Turkey-Syria border, which could be led by NATO. It would have provided some kind of safe haven. It would have also addressed some of Turkey’s security concerns.

Nothing came of her proposals, which were politely listened to by NATO and the EU and then discarded. Both organizations are now paying a heavy moral and political price for the devastation and suffering taking place in Syria.

They will pay a very high price for Russia’s military and political role—as well as Iran’s—in this part of the Middle East. They will pay a heavy price over the way Turkey has consistently blackmailed NATO and the EU. The war in Syria has left both organizations morally high and dry.

The moral consequences for NATO and the EU are clear. NATO is supposed to be a military and political organization made up of democratic countries that uphold certain values. As a civilian organization, the EU boasts about values too and defends its democratic principles based on solidarity, the rule of law, and international obligations.

The Costs of Brexit Uncertainty

by Charles P. Ries and Marco Hafner
The EU and UK have agreed to go their separate ways. At the end of January, the UK left the EU, but in the short run (until December 31, 2020) very little will change for traders and travelers. This week, negotiations will start in earnest, aimed at working out the economic and political terms of a new relationship. As much of the political debate so far has been on whether and when the UK would formally leave, it may be tempting to think that Brexit is now 'done.'

However, as we observe in a recent RAND study, formally leaving the EU at the end of January was only 'the end of the beginning.' Consumer confidence may be rising and areas of manufacturing activity stabilizing in Britain but Brexit trade policy uncertainty is still likely to affect the UK's overall economic performance until new arrangements between the UK and EU are negotiated, ratified and then implemented.

Because of uncertainty about the final trading arrangements, UK-based companies may hold back in introducing new product lines for continental and overseas markets or may decide to exit export markets altogether. Furthermore, existing evidence (PDF) suggests that Brexit uncertainty has led to a reduction in foreign direct investment flows in the UK and that UK companies are setting up subsidiaries (PDF) in the EU to keep market access in continental Europe.