GOOGLE AND THE EU: JUST FINE THANKS

On Wednesday, the European Union slapped Google with a record $5 billion antitrust fine, the latest in a string of judgments levied by EU competition czar Margrethe Vestager against US tech companies that dominate the mobile, online advertising, and internet search markets.


This is “Team Europe: Internet Police” in action: by taking on what they consider to be Silicon Valley’s excessive clout (in this case, the EU says Google used the market dominance of its Android operating system to force consumers to use its search engine), European regulators are seeking to shape the ways that global tech companies do business locally. If Google fails to get the case overturned on appeal, it’ll have to make big changes to the way it operates in the EU and, potentially, elsewhere.

A few thoughts from our own tech czar Kevin Allison:

This is not just a European phenomenon. Governments around the world are racing to assert sovereignty over an unruly and rapidly expanding digital sphere. Whether it’s the EU getting tough on antitrust or data protection, Russia requiring tech companies to store citizens’ personal data inside the country, or China banning foreign websites to support its domestic tech sector, the “World Wide Web” is starting to look like a patchwork of “Narrow National Webs” where regulatory regimes differ from one another.

It poses existential questions for tech firms: As the global regulatory landscape fragments, should Silicon Valley’s tech giants adopt different business models for different markets, depending on local requirements? Or should they engage in a race to the top, redesigning their businesses to comply with whoever’s rules are the strictest? What if they push back against the regulatory onslaught by threatening to withhold their business from countries where the cost of complying with national rules has become too high? Whatever the answer, the freewheeling, libertarian dream that inspired the founders of many of the West’s biggest tech companies is fading fast, and local politics are becoming a global challenge for the tech giants.

The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Russia's Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky sat down yesterday with Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron for a meeting in the Elysée Palace in Paris for peace talks. This was the first-ever meeting between Putin, Russia's dominant political force since 2000, and Zelensky, who was a TV comedian at this time last year.

Not much was agreed beyond a broader exchange of prisoners and a renewed commitment to a ceasefire that has never held. Fears that Putin would use Zelensky's inexperience to back him into a deal on Russian terms weren't realized, but the relationship between the two has only just begun.

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The UK currently benefits from EU trade pacts covering more than 70 countries. But if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal in place, London could lose its preferential access to those markets. In preparation for such a scenario, the UK has signed 20 "continuity" agreements, allowing countries to keep trading with the UK under current rules even after Brexit. Here's a look at which countries and blocs have signed these deals with the UK, and the total value of each trade relationship.

Macron not backing down over pensions – Despite six days of mass unrest that has paralyzed Paris' public transport system and dented both tourism and Christmas retail, the government will stand firm on a proposal to reform and unify the country's 42 different pension plans. France's pension system, one of the most generous of any major industrialized country, has major budget shortfalls that contribute to the country's ballooning deficit. Last year, Macron abandoned a proposed fuel price hike that ignited the Yellow Vest movement. But overhauling France's "welfare state" was central to his 2017 election platform, and acquiescing to protesters this time around would be political suicide. France's prime minister – tapped to lead the pension reform project – is expected to announce the plan's final details tomorrow. We're watching to see how this might escalate things further.

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