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.
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.
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.
Indian farmers' hunger strike: After three weeks of protests over legislation that farmers say will threaten their livelihoods, Indian agriculture workers upped the ante on Monday when they began a day-long hunger strike that they hope will pressure the government to scrap the new laws. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government says that three reforms passed in September amid the pandemic are meant to liberalize the country's robust agriculture sector (which accounts for 15 percent of India's GDP) by lifting requirements that farmers sell their harvests directly to state warehouses — which guarantee a set minimum price in return. Many agricultural workers, a group that includes about half the country's 1.4 billion people, fear that the laws will benefit big corporations that can increase their market-share by driving down prices and forcing smaller farmers out of business. Protests outside New Delhi continue to intensify, and some demonstrators have blocked highways leading into the capital and set up sprawling tent cities to wait out the political crisis. Modi's government has offered amendments to the legislation, but the demonstrations — and the political stakes — continue to grow.
What We're Watching: EU braces for no-deal Brexit, Trump's U-turn on Western Sahara, Lebanese PM charged over Beirut blast
Is the EU playing it safe or prolonging the agony? With Brexit talks still deadlocked in the 11th hour (and in the 11th month, at that) the European Union is taking no chances. Brussels on Thursday unveiled an emergency plan that aims to keep UK-EU trade and travel moving even in the event of the dreaded "no deal" scenario in which there's no agreement at all governing nearly $1 trillion in cross-Channel annual trade. The EU's contingency plan would require UK consent, and cover travel by air and road, shipping, and fishing for six months. Talks between London and Brussels are still stuck on a few key points — including regulatory rules and fishing rights — and technically the two sides need to reach a deal in the next few days or the clock runs out. But does the EU's plan, which would provide cover into early next year, now undercut the urgency of reaching a deal? Having a safety net is obviously a smart idea, but listen, Boris and Ursula, we can't take any more of this. We really, really can't.
Farmers protest in India: Some 20,000 farmers have descended on the Indian capital of New Delhi in recent days, blocking roads and setting up encampments to protest new agriculture laws that they fear will harm their livelihoods. The measures, passed in September, eliminate requirements for farmers to sell their produce to government-run wholesale markets. That creates more market opportunities for farmers, but they worry it will mean the end of government-guaranteed prices that they can depend on, opening the way to exploitation by large agriculture corporations. In a country where farming is the primary source of income for nearly 60 percent of the population, farmers' welfare is a huge political issue. At the moment, things are deadlocked in Delhi: the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi says it's willing to negotiate with the farmers, but not until they decamp from the center of the city. The farmers, meanwhile, say they won't budge until talks start. We're watching to see who blinks first.
Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:
With COVID increasing in France, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere, has Europe lost control of the pandemic?
Well, I wouldn't say lost control, but clearly it is a very worrying situation. With COVID increasing virtually everywhere, we see a new wave of semi-lockdowns... it's not as bad as it was in the spring... with the hope of being able to contain the surge during the month of November. Let's wait and see.
Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, with the view from Europe:
The EU has agreed to sanction Lukashenko. What now happens?
Well, that remains to be seen. But the EU has now decided, in a sort of strengthening of its position, to sanction also Lukashenko personally. What this will lead to remains to be seen. I think we'll have to wait for what happens. The Belarusian regime is obviously under quite a lot of pressure, but it is digging in. It can still rely on its very strong repressive forces. We're in this particular conflict for the long term. But the fact that the EU is stepping up the pressure is a good sign.