Coronavirus Politics Daily: Italy closes ports, Spain floats UBI, Libya cases grow

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Italy closes ports, Spain floats UBI, Libya cases grow

Italy closes its ports to migrants: After a boat carrying 150 Libyan migrants was intercepted off the Italian coast this week, the Italian government rushed to pass an eleventh-hour law barring migrant ships from docking on its shores during the coronavirus crisis. Italy, the main port of entry for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, has seen more COVID-19 deaths than any other country to date. Members of Italy's political right and left – including the country's health minister, who belongs to a leftist party that has long supported migrants' rights – joined forces to support the legislation, on the grounds that Italy can't ensure the safety of migrants during the outbreak. But non-government groups that patrol the Mediterranean to rescue migrants say that even in the midst of a global crisis, the rights of asylum seekers should be safeguarded. Rome's move to close the ports comes just six months after a new Italian government reopened them to migrants, overturning the anti-migrant policies spearheaded by former interior minister Matteo Salvini of the right-wing Lega Party. Before Europe became the epicenter of the pandemic, efforts were underway to implement some sort of bloc-wide policy on migrants. But as COVID-19 cases soar throughout the union, this has undoubtedly been put on (the furthest edge of) the back burner.


Spain readies cash for…everyone? The catastrophic economic and social impacts of the coronavirus crisis are sure to force fresh thinking about governments' responsibilities to their citizens. In Spain, which has the highest COVID-19 death rate of any country on earth, the leftist coalition government has proposed a bold step: introducing a Universal Basic Income scheme, under which Spaniards would permanently receive monthly payments directly from the government. A government minister said Tuesday that moves are afoot to implement the measure as soon as possible. It's not clear whether it would target all Spaniards or just people with low income. What's also not clear is how it would be paid for in the long run. Local level experiments with UBI have been tried in a number of countries, but at the nationwide level, there are few examples. Finland scrapped a 2-year nationwide UBI plan in 2019 after finding that it did little to boost employment. At the moment, the only country we know of that runs a nationwide, government backed cash transfer scheme like this is Iran.

COVID-19 in Libya: The UN called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in war-torn Libya after the Libyan National Army (LNA), the defacto government that controls eastern Libya, confirmed its first COVID-19 case Tuesday in Benghazi. The LNA's opponents, the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which rules the capital city of Tripoli, has also reported dozens of infections and one death from the virus. Six years of civil war have destroyed Libya's already fragile health infrastructure, and aid agencies, including the World Health Organization, have warned that an outbreak could devastate the country. Calls for a ceasefire seem far-fetched: this week the LNA, headed by the wily warlord Khalifa Haftar, attacked a coronavirus-designated hospital in Tripoli. Here's a reminder of who's who in Libya's intractable civil war.

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Learn more about Zoe and her story.

Listen: Can Big Government still rein in Big Tech or has it already lost control? Never before have just a few companies exerted such an outsized influence on humanity. Today's digital space, where we live so much of our daily lives, has increasingly become an area that national governments are unable to control. It may be time to start thinking of these corporations as nation-states in their own rights. Ian Bremmer speaks with Nicholas Thompson, CEO of the Atlantic and former WIRED editor-in-chief, about how to police the digital world.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

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We're just days away from COP26, the landmark global climate conference that's been dubbed the last chance to get the climate crisis in check. In the lead-up to the event in Glasgow, dozens of countries have released new ambitions to reduce their future carbon footprints. For years, climate activists and experts have called on governments to introduce carbon pricing schemes – either through taxes or emissions-trading schemes. So who's heeded the warning? We take a look at the top ten carbon emitters' share of global emissions and details about their respective national carbon pricing schemes.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?

Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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