To say that Europe is united by its divisions is an exaggeration – but only a small one. Closing national borders during the pandemic may have been a rational health response, but the longer term political consequences become more troubling when we look at the order in which European governments began to reimpose frontiers.
Italy made the decision on 10 March, when the number of confirmed cases had already exceeded 10,000. Over the next five days, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary closed their borders one after the other, even though by that time in any of them the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases had not reach a hundred.… Seguir leyendo »
In Uganda, for the first time since 2013, more than three people can legally meet without needing to inform the police. Last week, parts of the Public Order Management Act, a law used to gag political opponents, was declared unconstitutional. But most Ugandans are staying away from crowds and keeping at home to control the spread of coronavirus.
The government moved quickly to close schools and universities. Measures became more and more stringent – closing borders, compulsory quarantine, banning public transport and the sale of non-food items at open markets.
While even the toughest critics of the president, Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 34 years, agree that these measures – and even more stringent ones – are necessary, they fear that the government may use coronavirus as an opportunity to clamp down on political freedoms once and for all.… Seguir leyendo »
Fifteen years ago a group of rich countries gathered for its annual get-together at the Gleneagles hotel in Perthshire, Scotland. A number of African leaders were invited to the summit, from which a deal emerged: the west’s major powers would provide debt relief and aid in return for cleaner and better governance.
The Gleneagles deal wasn’t perfect but it marked a high point in international cooperation. At a time when the big developed nations can’t even agree a collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic among themselves, it all seems a long time ago.
The comparison between the financial firepower being deployed in developed nations and the low-income countries of sub-Saharan Africa is stark.… Seguir leyendo »
It is one of the darkest and most dramatic moments in recent Spanish history. In the chilling table of daily dead from the coronavirus pandemic, Spain has taken top position from Italy – with 738 dying over 24 hours.
Spain is now the hotspot of the global pandemic, a ghoulish title that has been passed from country to country over four months – starting in Wuhan, China, and travelling via Iran and Italy. As it moves west, we do not know who will be next.
What went wrong? Spain had seen what happened in China and Iran. It also has Italy nearby, just 400 miles across the Mediterranean and an example of how the virus can spread rapidly and viciously inside Europe.… Seguir leyendo »
The most recent ally of Khalifa Haftar, the general who has been attacking the Libyan capital Tripoli since April last year, is Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
This union was formalised last week with the opening of a “Libyan embassy” in Damascus. The alarming partnership has been forged almost completely without comment. What happens with Libya no longer seems to concern anyone. It’s as though the whole conflict has ceased to exist.
Libya is not the Middle East’s forgotten war, it is the ignored war. Having burned for almost five years now, the country has almost entirely collapsed, a situation which minimal political will could have prevented.… Seguir leyendo »
On Monday evening, just five days ahead of Nowruz, the Persian new year holiday, police descended upon a small local market in west Tehran. They ordered local vendors to pack up their wares, their socks, colanders, and plastic flowers, telling them that by selling goods in public they were helping spread the coronavirus. On Tuesday evening, they returned, and found one tenacious seller hawking in the same place. “You, here again!” barked a security officer. “If I don’t sell, how am I going to pay my rent?” the woman asked plaintively.
As Iran celebrates its new year, black death banner announcements hang from Tehran’s eerily deserted squares.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, Italy became the first European country to go into complete lockdown to protect its citizens from a pandemic attack. Previously, such a scenario was just an academic hypothesis for national security experts. Now what Italy is doing can become a model for other countries threatened by the same enemy: coronavirus.
Italy remains under attack, as shown by the rising number of infections and deaths, and the battle against the virus is full of unknowns, but there are three aspects of the current emergency that already contain unequivocal lessons.
The first concerns national security. The pandemic caught Italy by surprise, almost like a large-scale terror attack.… Seguir leyendo »
A dead bird of prey lying in the grass near a windfarm is the stark image on the home page of a new German website. “Climate change – we have got a couple of questions” is the headline that greets visitors, but the questioners already seem to know the answers to their 16 questions. “Due to an alleged climate emergency, new laws are to be passed prescribing a new way of life for us, one that will have adverse environmental effects and could lead to the deindustrialisation of Germany.”
Klimafragen.org is the latest attempt to question the scientific and social consensus around the climate crisis in Germany.… Seguir leyendo »
If the coronavirus pandemic is fuelling any political hope, it is that this crisis is a robust nail in the coffin of populist politics. Surely, some argue, in the face of an entirely indiscriminate, unforeseen and formidable plague, for which no one can be blamed (unlike, say, greedy bankers and unscrupulous lenders in the global financial crisis, or the terrorists of 9/11) people will turn to the truth, to science and to expert-led government.
And, true, populist leaders seem to have lost their voice, for now: the attempts to blame migrants, porous borders and the forces of globalisation for the coronavirus have received short shrift.… Seguir leyendo »
It need not be this way but one of the most disastrous weeks in the history of global medicine and global economics has ended with country after country retreating into their national silos. They are fighting their own individual battles against coronavirus and in their own way.
Each country has, of course, its own distinctive health systems that it relies on, rightly values its own medical experts and the disease is at a different stage in each. But why is there, as yet, no internationally coordinated medical project – equivalent to the wartime Manhattan Project – mobilising all available global resources to discover a coronavirus vaccine and to fast-track a cure?… Seguir leyendo »
Shortly before Brexit, a touching little farewell ceremony took place in the Berlaymont, the European commission’s Brussels headquarters.
On Jean-Claude Juncker’s last day as president of the commission, he made a final appearance in the basement press room at midday – the time the commission has been briefing the world’s press every day for much of the past 60 years.
Juncker gave an emotional valedictory. When he stopped speaking, an Italian journalist stood up. “History will judge you, Mr Juncker,” the journalist said solemnly, “but we will never forget you” before urging a round of applause for the Luxembourger’s “30 years as a true European”.… Seguir leyendo »
Europeans have stopped shaking hands. That is, I and almost everyone I have come across has stopped.
At an event last week hosted by the German foreign ministry in Berlin, we shunned the handshake. We huddled awkwardly, nodding heads, or half-jokingly stretched out a leg to touch an interlocutor’s foot as a new form of greeting. In Paris, a fashion and perfume store manager told me sales were badly down because “the usual 30 bus loads of Chinese tourists a day” had completely stopped. A taxi driver said he was keeping his car windows open, despite the cold, to avoid contamination from passengers.… Seguir leyendo »
Shaking the hand of the Austrian president, Alexander Van der Bellen, during my inauguration as Austria’s justice minister in January was a profoundly moving moment for me and for my family. But it was moving also for a great many people who came to Austria as migrants or refugees. To see a former child refugee from the Bosnian war sworn in as a government minister in the country to which her family fled in 1995 was for many hugely symbolic – a signal that they, too, had now been fully accepted as part of Austrian society, with the right to participate in the country’s politics and even to shape it.… Seguir leyendo »
I have to admit that when I heard the news my first thought was: “I hope the perpetrator wasn’t a migrant.” The press would surely go at us hammer and tongs again, warning about the danger posed by immigration in general and Muslims in particular. There would be endless articles and talk shows discussing the threat. My second thought was: “Thank God it is a white guy.”
On 19 February, Tobias Rathjen went into two shisha bars in the town of Hanau, near Frankfurt, shooting people he described as “foreign”. In his “manifesto”, if you can call such a rambling text a manifesto, he stated he wanted to cleanse Germany from … us.… Seguir leyendo »
Outsiders can be forgiven for being tired of the Syrian conflict. After all, the violence has lasted for nearly a decade and the worst chapters – for outsiders, at least – have come and gone: Islamic State (Isis) seized almost half the country, in addition to one-third of Iraq and launched a global network of terror in 2014. But the world has now caught its breath and the threat has all but ended. Refugees, too, flooded Europe some years ago but the influx has been contained.
Also, expert warnings about a resurgence of violence or extremism did not materialise and the return of state control seems to be the steady trajectory of the conflict despite persistent problems.… Seguir leyendo »
On a snowy evening last week, I found myself in the dining room of the Morosani Posthotel in Davos, and when I had finished my meal the waiter started a conversation, probably because most of the tables were already empty. A middle-aged man with a charming smile, he told me that he was from Italy; during the summer he worked in a hotel on the island of Ischia in the Gulf of Naples, but the winter season he spent in Davos. “When we have the World Economic Forum here,” he said, “we work day and night. It doesn’t stop. And the tips these people leave, it’s incredible, they have a bill for 2,400 francs and then they tell me, ‘add a tip of 40%’, I should be happy, but I’m not happy, it’s insane, it’s unhealthy.”… Seguir leyendo »
When Josep Borrell, the EU’s newly appointed foreign policy chief, recently caused outrage by dismissing young climate activists as flaky sufferers of “Greta syndrome”, he made not just a serious error of judgment but a serious mistake in macroeconomics. It was a mistake that is symptomatic of the dire state of European economic debate after a decade of austerity and schwarze Null (balanced budget) ideas.
“The idea that young people are seriously committed to fighting climate change – we could call it the ‘Greta syndrome’ – allows me to doubt that,” Borrell said, before going on to question their naivety about the cost of tackling the climate crisis.… Seguir leyendo »
Berlin: The political class is divided on how harsh to be
The German government is bracing itself for tough negotiations. Berlin sees the UK’s decision to put a 31 December time limit on the process as a tactical manoeuvre by Boris Johnson, calculated to step up the pressure on the EU towards the end of 2020. Germany holds the EU presidency until the end of December and will have to oversee negotiations on the next EU budget, which will involve juggling increasingly difficult demands. It will also be the last major test for Chancellor Angela Merkel, coming shortly before she leaves office in 2021.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, an impeached US president revealed his plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, with an indicted Israeli prime minister at his side. Yet far from being a “historic” peace plan, Donald Trump’s initiative is merely the repackaging of ideas from previous failed negotiations, including from the days in which I served as a legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team.
Then, as now, Israeli plans had the same aim: to confine as many Palestinians as possible on as little land as possible, while legalising Israel’s illegal settlements and depriving Palestinians their guaranteed right to return to their homeland. This is not a plan for peace but a demand that Palestinians agree to their perpetual subjugation.… Seguir leyendo »
“Across the globe, democracy is in a state of malaise.” That is the bleak assessment of a report from the Centre for the Future of Democracy at Cambridge University. Here in the UK, three out of five of us – 60.3% of the voting population – are unhappy with the functioning of our democracy. The last time we saw comparable levels of dissatisfaction with the way we are governed was during the “winter of discontent” in 1978-79.
And there is plenty more bad news where that came from – bad news for democracy across the globe.
In the US, for the first time ever, the majority lack faith in the democratic system.… Seguir leyendo »