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Then and Now: Migrants in Europe, Macron in Trouble, Venezuela in Chaos

Then and Now: Migrants in Europe, Macron in Trouble, Venezuela in Chaos

3 months ago: A new EU plan for refugees – Back in July, we wrote about the EU's attempt to find a bloc-wide solution to the surge in migrants arriving to that region, mostly by sea. France's President Emmanuel Macron presented a vague plan – a "solidarity mechanism" – to resettle those arrivals across EU countries. It was backed by only 14 of the EU's 28 member states, as many countries opposed absorbing the 92,000 migrants and refugees that have arrived in Europe this year. The main dissent came from Italy's firebrand right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, whose country has borne the brunt of boat arrivals. But although Salvini lost his post in August, not much has changed. Germany, which is now also leading negotiations, has pledged to accept as many as 25 percent of all rescued refugees, but consensus on a bloc-wide policy for distributing and supporting those who arrive by land and sea remains at an impasse. The eurozone's migration policy will soon fall under a new EU office dedicated to "protecting our European way of life." Considering the hard-liner phrasing, it's hard to imagine a migration-friendly bloc-wide policy taking hold anytime soon.


6 months ago: Can Macron turn things around? – Six months ago, we pondered what France's President Emmanuel Macron might do to quell months of increasingly violent protests by the anti-government Yellow Vest movement. With his popularity rating hovering around 21 percent, Macron announced key reforms: he swiftly scrapped the fuel tax that had initially sparked the uprising, cut taxes for the middle-class, and directed $11 billion to social benefits, blowing up France's budget deficit. He also embarked on a months-long "listening tour," hoping to challenge the view that he was disconnected from average people's plights. And it worked: the protests fizzled and his approval rating soared by almost 20 points. Macron, a torchbearer for global progressivism, has managed to soften his image and return from the political dead – for now. Whether he can keep the calm for another two years until he's up for re-election remains to be seen.

9 months ago: The endgame in Venezuela? – As we wrote in January, Venezuela's politics were in disarray when a mounting wave of street protests, fueled by the charismatic opposition leader Juan Guaido, dealt the toughest test to President Nicolas Maduro since he took power in 2013. Mired in one of the largest peacetime economic collapses in modern history, Maduro's regime seemed to be on the ropes. But Guaido's attempt to overthrow the socialist leader through mass protests and a failed coup has come up short. How has Maduro managed to stay afloat? For one thing, the military brass – which profits handsomely from the regime's black markets and drug trafficking – has stuck with him, despite (and perhaps because of) tightening US sanctions. Meanwhile, the once massive protest movement behind Guaido has flamed out with little to show for their sacrifices. The approval rating for Guaido, who is still recognized as interim president by most of the world's democracies, has plummeted, providing an opening for Maduro to go on the offensive: he recently signed a "peace deal" with opposition parties other than Guaido's, splitting the enfeebled opposition. As the country's economy teeters on the brink of collapse, one thing is clear: Venezuela's political system is way stronger than many outsiders anticipated.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Listen: The country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, joins Ian Bremmer to talk vaccines, school re-openings, and when—and how—the pandemic could finally come end. He was last on GZERO World just weeks before the pandemic hit in the fall of 2019 and he described at the time what kept him up at night: a "pandemic-like respiratory illness." This time, he talks about how closely that nightmare scenario foreshadowed the COVID-19 pandemic. He also offers some guidance about what public health measures vaccinated Americans should continue to take in the coming months (hint: masks stay on).

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.

But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm on Europe In 60 Seconds:

Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?

Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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Biden strikes Syria. Now what?

Quick Take