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Europe's new Asia strategy looks to strengthen trade and political ties

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

Is Europe waking up to the reality of Asia?

I think that's the case. If you listen to the State of the Union speech by Ursula von der Leyen and the commission president yesterday, the new Indo-Pacific strategy of the European Union was a key part of her proposals. To develop new trade links, to intensify political cooperation, to look more at green and digital projects, to look at infrastructure projects together. And Korea is a good example of what can be achieved. We have a 10-year free trade agreement that has doubled trade between the European Union and Korea. And today, European Union is the single largest foreign direct investor in Korea. Much has been done. But if you listen to the voices in Brussels, yes, Asia is a key part of our future and policy steps are being taken.

What We're Watching: Turkey's Afghanistan play, Indonesia as COVID epicenter, EU's rule of law report

Turkey's Afghanistan play: With the US withdrawal from Afghanistan nearly complete, many countries (and non-state actors) are vying for influence there. The latest player to enter the stage is Turkey, with president Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposing that Turkish troops defend and operate Kabul's international airport when the US is gone. Erdogan said that to make the plan work, the US would need to hand over logistical facilities to Ankara, and has called on Washington to back Turkey in ongoing diplomacy in Afghanistan, which it says is crucial to securing Kabul's airport, the main way into the country for the international community. The Americans, for their part, appear to be open to the idea. That's because it would mean handing over the headache of securing Afghanistan's only international airport to a fellow NATO member, reducing the likelihood of Afghanistan becoming completely shut off from the rest of the world in the (likely) event of a Taliban takeover. From Turkey's perspective, taking a more active role in stabilizing Afghanistan might earn it some goodwill from Washington and Brussels at a time when relations with both are at historic low points. The Taliban, meanwhile, said Turkey's pitch was "reprehensible."

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Europe's "clear vision" for relations with China is one-sided

Does the European Union have a better plan for dealing with China than the US does, as Bruno Maçães argues in his latest op-ed for Politico Europe? While there are differences in how the EU and US are approaching Beijing, the EU's plan to separate politics from economics isn't quite working out the the way Maçães describes. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to take the other side.

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Takeaways from President Biden’s first G7 summit

If the US is really back, as President Biden keeps saying, what is it back to do? That was one of the biggest questions at the G7 summit in the United Kingdom last weekend, the first stop on the first trip abroad of Biden's presidency. The G7 tackled the world's biggest problem by pledging to donate 1 billion doses of the vaccine to COVAX, with 500 million of those coming from the United States. Taxes, climate change, China, and Russia were on the agenda, too. Biden's trip went better than Trump's last big outing, to be sure. Ian Bremmer recaps this year's historic G7 meeting.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Has Biden convinced the G7 "America is back"?

Will sanctions work against Lukashenko?

Are the European Union's sanctions against Belarus effective? The initial European response to the fraudulent election in Belarus was swift, but didn't go far enough, said opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, emboldening President Alexander Lukashenko to think he could continue to act with impunity and even hijack a Ryanair plane. The EU has stated that while it wants to impose sanctions that will punish the Belarusian president and the government, they don't want to hurt the Belarusian people - but Tsikhanouskaya affirmed that sanctions are the leverage that people on the ground are asking for. "People don't feel safe, and they want to end the regime as soon as possible," she told Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

What We're Watching: Brexit pettiness, a Russian protest

Brexit pettiness lingers: Here we were naively thinking the Brexit shenanigans were over after the EU and UK agreed to an eleventh-hour post-Brexit trade deal last month. We were wrong — the saga continues. Now, a new row has erupted after the Johnson government said it will not give the EU ambassador in London the same diplomatic status awarded to other representatives of nation states. Unsurprisingly, this announcement peeved Brussels, whose delegates enjoy full diplomatic status in at least 142 other countries. The UK says it will give the EU envoy the same privileges as those given to international organizations, which are subject to change and do not include immunity from detention and taxation given to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. EU members are furious, with officials accusing London of simply trying to flex its muscles and engaging in "petty" behavior. The two sides will discuss the matter further when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU representatives next week, their first face-to-face since the two sides settled the Brexit quagmire on December 31. Alas, the Brexit nightmare continues.

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Podcast: Can Europe Trust the US – Or Its Own Nations? German Diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger’s View

Listen: The GZERO World podcast examines the current state of transatlantic partnerships between the US and Europe following four years of Trump's presidency, and whether or not the incoming Biden Administration can restore trust that the US is a willing and reliable ally. Ian Bremmer's guest is one of Germany's most accomplished diplomats, Wolfgang Ischinger, who has served as ambassador to both the US and the UK. His new book, World in Danger: Germany and Europe in an Uncertain Time, explores the current state of the EU and its place in global affairs as the UK prepares for its "BREXIT" and China looms large in the geopolitical landscape.

Top German diplomat on US-EU relations under Biden: “Curb your enthusiasm”

In a new interview with GZERO World host Ian Bremmer, one of Europe's most accomplished diplomats expressed cautious optimism about the future of the European Union's relationship with the US. Wolfgang Ischinger served as Germany's ambassador to the US and UK, and is currently Chairman of the Munich Security Conference. His new book, World in Danger: Germany and Europe in an Uncertain Time, explores the current state of the EU and its place in global affairs as the UK prepares for a "BREXIT" and China looms large in the geopolitical landscape. In this portion of the conversation, Ischinger describes the crisis of trust created by President Trump's approach to transatlantic partners, and warns European leaders that it will take work on both sides of the ocean to restore full multilateral cooperation.

His conversation with Ian Bremmer was part of the latest episode of GZERO World, which begins airing nationally in the US on public television Friday, December 18th. Check local listings.

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