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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.

Why Europe’s vaccine rollout has been so tortured

The EU acted swiftly, decisively, and effectively to respond to the pandemic's economic fallout. A nearly trillion dollar bailout package, agreed to late last July, has kept much of the continent afloat. But it failed on the public health response, first on testing and then rolling out vaccines. Enrico Letta, Italy's former prime minister, shares his thoughts on the reasons why in a conversation with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television stations nationwide starting this Friday, March 26. Check local listings.

Quick Take: "America Is Back": Biden on Munich's virtual tour

Ian's Quick Take:

Hi everybody, Ian Bremmer here on a snowy Friday in New York City. But if it was any other year, I'd actually be in Munich right now for the annual Munich Security Conference. It's the largest gathering every year of foreign and security policy leaders and experts from the transatlantic community, and increasingly from around the world. It's, for obvious reasons, postponed this year, they're hoping to put something together in the summer in-person, but that didn't stop some of the most prominent leaders across the transatlantic partners from speaking virtually at an event that streamed live over a few hours today. So, given that I thought I'd give you a quick response on what I thought was happening and answer some of your questions.

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Was the EU’s bungled vaccine rollout inevitable?

"We're still not where we want to be," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said this week about the European Union's sluggish vaccine rollout. It was a sort of concession from the EU chief, who's been criticized for overseeing a bungled inoculation rollout in the world's largest trading bloc.

To date, around four percent of the bloc's population has been vaccinated, compared to 13 percent in the US, and 20 percent in the UK.

Why has the EU rollout been so slow, and what does this mean for Europe and its politics?

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UK vaccine rollout a key chance to learn; Brexit trade deal is razor close

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

COVID vaccine rollout has begun in the UK. What's next?

Well, I was so pleased to see that the second person to get the vaccine in the UK is William Shakespeare. Some 86-year-old guy living in the UK. Of course, of course he is. It's also nice for the UK, finally have some good news about something. It's been all Brexit and economic disaster and Boris Johnson, bad news on coronavirus. First, it's herd immunity, then it's not. It's lockdown, it's not. But the first advanced industrial democracy to start getting vaccines out there and capping off an extraordinary year in terms of vaccine development. Really Moore's law for vaccines. It's very, very, very exciting. What happens next is we learn a lot. One of the big mistakes that we made in the United States is we had a couple of weeks when the virus was exploding in Europe and we were twiddling our thumbs in the United States. We weren't prepping, we weren't watching what was happening in Italy and making sure that we understood the type of coordination we needed, the type of testing we needed, the type of contact tracing we needed. As a consequence, some critical time was wasted. We need to be watching very carefully what problems the UK has, challenges in rolling out this vaccine. First vaccine we see right now from Pfizer, that's the one that's most challenging from an infrastructure perspective. It's the one that needs the proprietary cold chain capability, super low temperatures, South Pole type temperatures. It needs labor on site that can dilute the vaccine right before it is administered. Those are things you can do easily in good hospitals. It's not an easy thing to roll out across a countryside.

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Ursula von der Leyen's ambitious State of the Union speech

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, with the view from Europe:

How did President Ursula von der Leyen's first State of the Union address go?

Well, rather well, I thought. She was very strong on the health and the global health issues, needless to say, but also on the necessary green and the digital transition of Europe and the enormous amount of money that will be available to that. She was more ambitious on the climate target than has been the case so far and also stressed the competitiveness of the European economy long-term. I think she will get fairly high remarks for that speech.

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The EU's big plan to save itself

Facing the biggest economic crisis in the EU's history, the European Commission's president, Ursula von der Leyen, pulled out all the stops this week, unveiling an unprecedented plan to boost the union's post-coronavirus recovery.

The plan: The EU would go to international capital markets to raise 750 billion euros ($830 billion). 500 billion of that would be given to member states as grants to fund economic recovery over the next seven years; the remainder would be issued as loans to be paid back to Brussels. The EU would pay back its bondholders for the full 750 billion plus interest by 2058, in part by raising new EU-wide taxes on tech companies and emissions.

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