Tag Archives: Europe

Despite Slow COVID Vaccine Rollout, Europe Exports Vaccines – Why?

When I learned about the EU exporting COVID vaccines, I got angry (I’m still waiting to be vaccinated!) and then I investigated the question: It turns out that the issue is far more complex than expected. So here is the opening of the article I wrote about it, just published on Impakter magazine: 

Why Europe Engages in COVID Vaccine Exports Despite Slow Roll-out in Vaccination

by Claude Forthomme – Senior Editor

On 10 March, the New York Times, basing itself on “closely-held” European Commission documents they were “able to access” in Brussels, made the shocking revelations that, despite the slow roll-out of vaccination, Europe engages in COVID vaccine exports, fully 34 million doses last month. Within hours of the New York Times revelations, the European Commission, far from denying the numbers, proudly announced that the EU “continues to be the leading provider of vaccines around the world” and will be extending the measure which allows for such vaccine exports till the end of June. 

Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said: “Since the measure was introduced, shipments were authorized to more than 30 countries. This confirms that even during a very critical health situation, the EU has made a considerable effort to be a reliable and responsible trading partner.”  The statement can be viewed as a direct answer to WHO accusations in January that the EU had introduced vaccine export control measures, setting off a “worrying trend” in “vaccine nationalism”. The EU of course defends its position, pointing out that the measures simply give power to the EU to deny authorization for COVID vaccine exports if the company making them (and whose facilities are based in the EU) has not honored existing contracts with the EU.

Read the rest on Impakter, click here. And let me know what you think! Are you as angry as I am (was)?

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The Race for Artificial Intelligence: China vs. America

My latest article on Impakter:

What is The Role of Europe in the AI Race?

Let’s be clear, Artificial Intelligence, in particular in its latest development, deep learning that mimics the way the human mind works, first emerged in America. This gave the U.S. a huge head start over the rest of the world – including China, putting the U.S. firmly in the lead of the race for AI.

In the photo: Electronics factory in Shenzhen. Note that the photo dates back to 2005: Chinese investment in electronics is nothing new. Source: Wikipedia

IWhat Americans didn’t develop at home, they bought from Europe. In this respect, two British firms stand out with groundbreaking contributions to AI development: ARM and DeepMind.

While all eyes are trained on the AI race between China and America, is there a role left for Europe?

From the start of the digital revolution, and in spite of America’s lead, Europe has always had a fundamental role in digital research, a role often overlooked and even downplayed by the media mesmerized by Silicon Valley fireworks.

But the fireworks are dying down and getting messy now while China is on the rise.

America’s AI Roots in Europe

Let’s take a closer look at ARM and DeepMind, the two British firms that played a fundamental role in sustaining America’s lead in electronics.

Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

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The Future: America vs. Eurasia

Europe and China could change the course of History as Trump’s America First policies move America to the sidelines…Here’s the opening of my new article, just published on Impakter:

Bosphorus Bridge (Turkey) linking Europe to Asia – PHOTO JORGE1767


How will the future play out? Will Europe follow America’s example and sink into nationalist populism that will inevitably tear apart the European Union and open the way to Trump’s divide-and-conquer America First strategy? Will America’s trade war with China escalate in a real war that could go global as Trump’s stranglehold on world trade tightens further? I believe there is hope that neither will happen. Instead, we might witness something utterly different and much more likely: the rise of Eurasia.

Two events these days are early signs of such a shift for anyone who cares to look. One just took place in Paris at the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I organized by French President Macron. The other, thousands of miles away in Singapore, is the ASEAN Summit, from 11 to 15 November where a major new trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that for the first time included China, was on the agenda.

The trip was a diplomatic disaster for Trump. He started on the wrong foot even before leaving for Paris. On 9 November, Trump, misunderstanding a Macron statement about the formation of a “true European army”, sent an insulting tweet:

The misunderstanding was soon clarified: Macron had referred to the announced U.S. withdrawal from the I.N.F. nuclear arms treaty with Russia as a reason for establishing an independent army, not that the U.S. was an enemy. Macron in a speech welcoming 84 world leaders to the celebration on November 11, made another statement that shook Trump who considers himself a nationalist:

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying: ‘Our interest first. Who cares about the others?’ I do defend my country. I do believe that we have a strong identity. But I’m a strong believer in cooperation between the different peoples, and I’m a strong believer of the fact that this cooperation is good for everybody.”

From the ashes of the two World Wars came hope, he said. “This hope is called the European Union, a union freely entered into, never before seen in history, a union that has freed us of our civil wars”. Trump appeared “grim” and clapped only tepidly afterward. Significantly he missed the opening of a 3-day conference, the Paris Peace Forum that followed the ceremony to discuss how to strengthen multilateralism.

The next day, on 13 November, Trump took again to Twitter in a series of five aggressive tweets, astonishingly rude and misinformed, including this one:

Not the way to treat the leader of an American allied country. He forgets (or doesn’t know) that his own approval rating in France is abysmal (around 9%).  Macron was forced to respond. France, a historic ally, is “not a vassal state” he said in an interview on French TV: “At every moment of our history, we were allies, so between allies, respect is due. I don’t think the French expect me to respond to tweets but to continue this important history.”

Now that Angela Merkel is on her way out and Brexit is wobbling to its pell-mell conclusion – barring a last-minute legal reversal or a political crisis – there is no doubt that Macron is emerging as the main defender of a United States of Europe. A Europe increasingly under assault by Trump’s America First policies.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Euroasian continent, in Singapore, RCEP is the second major trade deal under discussion since Trump ditched the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in January 2017. A serious political blunder considering that the goal of the TPP in the Obama administration’s intention, had been to exclude China. In March 2018, the situation had been reversed and it was America that was isolated: the remaining TPP members (including Canada and Australia) signed the first major Pacific trade agreement, keeping the original TPP content largely intact but renaming it the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – to take effect soon, on 30 December 2018.

Brookings Institute experts see the new RCEP as something much bigger, “an optimistic answer to populist and protectionist trends around the globe”.

Massive, the new RCEP brings together 16 countries covering 3.6 billion people for a total GDP of some $25 trillion, exceeding that of the United States. The point is that it brings China in for the first time, together with India, Japan and South Korea. It builds on commitments already taken in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Not without difficulty of course. Of the 21 chapters of the treaty, so far agreement was obtained on only seven.

RCEP negotiations are expected to be completed only at the next ASEAN summit in Thailand in 2019. Predictably, problems range from India’s fear of being overrun with products from China, Korea and Japan to Trump’s trade wars, making some countries anxious of “losing” the American market.

How Likely is Eurasia to Replace America as World Leader?

Euroasia: A little used term for a vast continent that extends from Cape Dezhnev (Russia) in the East to the Monchique Islet (Portugal) in the West to Dana Island (Indonesia) in the South. A new geo-political entity that is not yet born. The road is rocky but if it emerges, it will be the largest ever, encompassing two-thirds of the world population.

Find out! Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

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2017: The End of the American Century?

In this article, I try to figure out where we’re going, after the tsunami  brought about by Trump. I am not optimistic but I’m not as pessimistic as some, as you’ll see if you read the article to the end…Happy 2018, we need to continue the resistance, I’m convinced the pre-Trump world order can be revived and American leadership regained!

HOW AMERICA LOST WORLD LEADERSHIP

IN 2017, AMERICA ABRUPTLY CHANGED FACE. IT BECAME A DEEPLY DIVIDED COUNTRY NO LONGER INTERESTED IN WORLD LEADERSHIP. THE QUESTION IS: WHO WILL DOMINATE NEXT, CHINA, EUROPE, RUSSIA? OR IS AN AMERICAN RENAISSANCE POSSIBLE?

Trump’s inaugural speech with its America First message shook the world. And he has kept it up with alarming tweets, insulting and threatening people and countries, sowing confusion among America’s allies and foes. His emotional and erratic tweeting may not add up to a credible foreign policy, he is, in his first year, the least popular President in US history and has signed fewer laws than Obama, yet, with support from the Republican Congress, he has brought deep change: He has successfully turned America in on itself and ushered an age of small government and Big Business.

American institutions are now in the hands of the Republican party. Control over the Supreme Court was achieved with Trump’s appointment of Judge Gorsuch and federal district courts are now filling up with young judges wedded to conservative views. Federal environmental protection regulations are dismantled, the coal and fuel industries can do as they please, the environment and public health be damned.

The tax overhaul benefits primarily the Republican party’s backers, big corporations and multi-millionaires. It also comes with a provision to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And this on top of huge rollbacks in natural reserves, opening up to private exploitation over 2 million acres in Utah.

The only area that has resisted the Trump-Republican onslaught is Obamacare, but not for long. As Trump said at the GOP tax bill celebration, “we peeled Obamacare because we got rid of the individual mandate which was terrible” which is, as he clarified, “a primary source of funding of Obamacare”.

Clever. One can only hope that the Republican party will come up with a solution for the millions of Americans slated to lose coverage. So far, there is none on offer. Foreign observers (myself included) marvel that America has still not accepted the principle of free universal access to healthcare, first launched in Germany in 1883.

Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

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Europe at the Crossroads

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Impakter has just published my latest essay: EUROPE AT THE CROSSROADS. I’ve worked hard to try and figure out where Europe is going, if anywhere… 

Here is the beginning:

 

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE EUROPEAN UNION?

On 25 March 2017, we will know whether Europe – as a “project” for an increased “union” – plans to go forward, fade away or split up.

That is the date of the much-awaited European Summit to be held in Rome to celebrate (without UK Prime Minister May) the 60 years of the European Union. The celebration could turn into a funeral if the 27 heads of EU member nations cannot agree on a so-called “White Paper”, a.k.a. “the Rome Statement”, that they are meant to adopt as a common declaration on Europe’s future.

Alarm-Europe-Logo PHOTO CREDIT: MARCH FOR EUROPE

What does this White Paper say? If you google it, you won’t find it. At the time of writing, it’s still under wraps in Brussels. All we know for now is that there has been a preliminary “white paper” prepared by the Benelux countries, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, part of the original six founding member countries (the other three are France, Germany and Italy). And there was a recent declaration by German Chancellor Merkel at the EU Summit meeting held in Malta that drew attention and irked some EU members. “This would destroy Europe!” thundered the Pole with the nodding support of other Eastern Europeans.

What did Ms. Merkel say that was so provocative? She aired the possibility of a “multi-speed” Europe – the idea is simple enough: those EU members who want it should be allowed to go forward with integration, the others would be left to proceed slower, at their own pace.

IN THE PHOTO: ANGELA MERKEL PHOTO CREDIT: ELZA FIÙZA/AGÊNCIA BRASIL, CC BY 3.0 WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

This is not a particularly new idea, she had already aired it two years ago. And it is an idea dear to the Italians who have been pushing it for some time – most recently asking for a “Schengen union for security” to try and solve the problem of immigrants rushing across the Mediterranean. Leading Italian political scientists are also behind the “federal solution” for Europe –  notably Sergio Fabbrini, Director of the Luiss School of Government and author of multiple books on Europe who has also expounded it in the country’s leading financial paper, il Sole 24 Ore.

Annoyed by the brouhaha from Eastern European members, the French President Hollande who felt a reference to a “multi-speed Europe” should find its way in the March 25 White Paper, told reporters:

Europe isn’t a cash-box, not a self-service restaurant, a Europe where you come and take what you need, where you take your structural funds or get access to the internal market and then show no solidarity at all in return. Europe was built to be stronger together and it’s that rule, that principle, which should be driven home in March.

PHOTO (above): FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE PHOTO CREDIT: FLICKR/JEAN-MARC AYRAULTCC BY 2.0, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

So we have two contrasting views of the European Project and, implicitly, a two-speed Europe: a “Europe à la carte”, that pleases Eastern Europeans and Scandinavians who only seek economic benefits and balk at political integration; and a “federal Europe”, more forward-looking and congenial to continental Europeans. Also, good news for federalists, the French-German alliance that had been driving Europe so far could turn into a foursome: France, Germany, Italy and Spain. They have already agreed to meet in Versailles on 6 March – holding a preparatory “mini-Summit” of their own; and thus immediately angering Poland that threatens to hold counter mini-summits with either the Visegrad group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia) or the Bucharest nine (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary).

Multi-speed Europe is already a reality…

Meanwhile, the Benelux countries in their “white paper”, while supporting the “Bratislava Declaration and its roadmap” as the way forward, talked about the “subsidiarity” and “proportionality” principles in the usual convoluted EU Treaty language that baffles most European citizens:

“The EU shall only act if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action be achieved at Union level. The EU will only do what member states themselves are not able to deliver for their citizens.”

Note the phrase “by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action”: this is meant to indicate the Union (because it is larger in scale) can do certain tasks better than a member country. The corollary: European integration cannot impinge upon what is best done at national level, that’s where “subsidiarity” stops.

So where does this leave the “European Project”? Do we go for more “union” or less? Is “more union” politically viable?

THE ROOTS OF EUROSKEPTICISM

The basic problem is rising “euroskepticism”, a new term coined to indicate that Europeans are distrustful of Brussels and European institutions that they see as “power-grabbing” and too distant from them.

Brexit was only the first alarm bell. We now speak of Frexit (for France), Nexit (for the Netherlands), Auxit (for Austria) etc. Trump’s constant denigration of the EU (calling it a “vehicle for Germany”) and his open support of Brexit and other EU-member exits, has further unsettled Europeans.

On 18 February, at the Munich Security Conference, US Vice President Pence sought to reassure Europeans that the US supports NATO and the Minsk II accord for Ukraine, indicating America would stand firmly behind Europe against Russia. Can Europeans trust Pence? A month into the Trump presidency, it is still unclear whether Trump is top dog and therefore his bark matters, or whether he is a tweeting Reality TV star and therefore his cabinet matters. On February 24,  in an interview with Reuters, Trump made a surprising u-turn, declaring himself  “totally in favor” of the EU…but for how long?

It is a fact however that Trump has become a populist icon, deeply resonating with the rising populist movements in Europe, all calling for an exit of the Euro and Europe – from Marine Le Pen in France to Geert Wilders in the Netherlands to Frauke Petry in Germany to Beppe Grillo in Italy. They all liken themselves to Trump.

IN THE PHOTO: BEPPE GRILLO AT THE RALLY OF THE FIVE STAR MOVEMENT IN PIAZZA DANTE IN TRENT, ITALY, FOR THE PARTY’S PRESENTATION OF ITS 2013 ELECTORAL SLATE PHOTO  CREDIT: NICCOLÒ CARANTI

Listen to Grillo, an ex-TV comedy star, now sixty-nine but with a continuing appeal on young Italians:

“I’m a comedian. You have to understand that my brain doesn’t work like a politician’s brain. I think about something, then the next day I say something else. It’s a very beautiful word, populism. I’m proud to be a populist.”

And about Europe, this is what he had to say:

“It is an enormous apparatus, with two parliaments, in Brussels and Strasbourg, to please the French. I am in favor of a different Europe, where each state can adopt its fiscal and monetary system. I want the Eurobond, a 20 percent devalued euro for southern European countries, protecting our products against those arriving from abroad, and a revision of the 3 percent deficit budgetary rule. I no longer feel the spirit of Europe.”

To read the rest, click here: http://impakter.com/europe-at-the-crossroads/

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