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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Macron warns EU, Brazil health minister sacked, Africa faces a tough trade-off

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Macron warns EU, Brazil health minister sacked, Africa faces a tough trade-off

Macron's stern warning to the EU: As coronavirus lockdowns push Europe towards its sharpest economic downturn since World War II, French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that the EU has an important decision to make: It can unify and implement a bloc-wide economic response to the crisis, or prepare for the EU to crumble. Macron told the Financial Times that if Europe fails to agree on a common strategy for giving financial relief to hard hit countries like Italy, Spain, and France, it will end up fatally empowering Euroskeptic forces that are already hammering the EU's bumbling response to the economic crisis. But despite several attempts to broker a bloc-wide economic response to the crisis, the EU has so far come up short. Macron is pushing for a bloc-wide "rescue fund" that would provide economic relief based on countries' current needs, rather than the size of their economies – a proposal that Germany and the Netherlands have so far rebuffed. The French leader echoed the gloomy sentiment expressed by the Italian prime minister that the future of the EU project depends on the Union's willingness to cough up more cash – and fast.

Brazil health minister sacked: It was only a matter of time before Brazil's firebrand president Jair Bolsonaro, an avowed social distancing skeptic, fired his popular health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who has supported strong measures by Brazil's state governors to contain the expanding COVID-19 epidemic in Brazil. That time was Thursday afternoon, when Mandetta announced his own dismissal. Clashes over social distancing may not have been the only reason Mandetta was let go — the charismatic and politically savvy doctor-in-chief was surging in popularity polls, ringing up an approval rating of 76 percent against just 30 percent for Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly scoffed at the seriousness of COVID-19. In fact, more than 80 percent of Bolsonaro's own supporters approved of Mandetta's work. But that's all water over the dam now — the new health minister, sworn in Friday, is an oncologist with a business background named Nelson Teich. He has advocated an approach that pays greater attention to the economic implications of massive lockdowns. So far, Brazil has registered about 2,000 deaths, out of a population of 211 million. What happens to that trajectory next is largely in Teich's hands, with Bolsonaro at his back.

Africa faces a grim trade-off: African countries have so far avoided the worst of the coronavirus pandemic — they show some of the lowest COVID-19 death rates per 1,000 people in the world — but things could get soon get ugly. A new report from the UN warns that because of weak health systems, urban crowding, and the impossibility of social distancing for vast informal economies, as many as 3.3 million of the continent's 1.2 billion people could die of the disease unless stricter measures are taken to prevent its spread. If those measures are taken, the report says, it could save 3 million lives but here's the catch: they could also cost some 20 million jobs, plunging as many as 30 million people into poverty.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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