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.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

News broke across the United States on Friday evening that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, ending her long and distinguished career as a jurist. Tributes poured in quickly from men and women on both sides of the political spectrum. But just as quickly, her death has sharply raised the stakes for the upcoming US elections for president and the Senate, as well as the longer-term ideological balance of the nation's top court.

More Show less

In this extended version of Ian Bremmer's conversation with UN Secretary-General António Guterres for GZERO World, the two discuss a wide range of geopolitical issues and how they've been exacerbated by the pandemic. Guterres shares his views on the urgent need for global climate action, equitable distribution of vaccine once approved, and Europe's emerging role as an example of successful intergovernmental cooperation. Guterres also lays out his vision for a more "inclusive" multilateralism, one that involves deeper partnerships between organizations like the UN and World Health Organization with multinational corporations and private stakeholders.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on the biggest development in US politics this week:

So, the scriptwriters for 2020 have thrown as a real curveball, introducing the most explosive element in US politics, just six weeks before the election. The tragic death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will be remembered as a trailblazing jurist, but also a reliably liberal vote on a court that was divided along ideological lines with a five-four conservative majority. This has the potential to upend the presidential election. And likely will motivate turnout on both sides. But also, importantly for president, Trump could remind some Romney voting ex-Republicans who were leaning towards Biden why they were Republicans in the first place. Which means that it has the potential to push some persuadable voters back towards the president.

More Show less

(Some) Thais fed up with royals: In their largest show of force to date, around 18,000 young Thai activists took to the streets of Bangkok on Saturday to rally against the government and demand sweeping changes to the country's powerful monarchy. The protesters installed a gold plaque declaring that Thailand belongs to the Thai people, not the king — a brazen act of defiance in a country where many view the sovereign as a god and offenses against the royal family are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Activists also got the royal guards to accept a letter addressed to King Vajiralongkorn with their proposed reforms. We're watching to see if the Thai government — made up mostly of the same generals who took over in a 2014 coup and then stage-managed last year's election to stay in power — continues to exercise restraint against the activists. So far, some protest leaders have been detained but they are growing bolder in their defiance of the military and the royal family, the two institutions that have dominated Thai politics for decades. Prime Minister and former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is in a tough spot: many young and liberal Thais will hate him if he cracks down hard on the peaceful protesters, but not doing so would make him look weak in the eyes of his power base of older, more conservative Thais who still venerate the monarchy and are fine with the military calling the shots in politics.

More Show less