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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.

Meet Alessandra Cominetti, a recipient of MIT Technology Review Magazine's Innovators Under 35 award. As a lab technician at Eni's Research Centre for Renewable Energy in Novara, Alessandra has devoted her career to finding new solutions and materials to optimize solar energy. Much like the serendipitous encounter that resulted in her employment, her eagerness and willingness to try new things allowed her to stumble upon a material for the creation of portable solar panels.

Watch her remarkable story on the latest episode of Faces of Eni.

Joe Biden has vowed to radically change the US' approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy should he win next week's election.

But a lot has happened in four years under Donald Trump that could impede Biden's ability to simply return to the status quo ante. How different would US foreign policy really be under a Biden presidency? What will the two-term former vice president likely be able to change, and what's bound to remain the same, at least for now?

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"If [the election] is very close and it ends up in the courts, that kind of protracted situation I think will lead many Americans to believe that it was an unfair election." Rick Hasen, election law expert and author of Election Meltdown, lays out some of the worst-case scenarios for Election Day, ranging from unprecedented voter suppression to dirty tricks by foreign actors. The conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. The episode begins airing nationally in the US on public television this Friday, October 30. Check local listings.

Emmanuel Macron in trouble: These are trying times for Emmanuel Macron, as the French president suddenly finds himself dealing with three major crises at once. First, France is currently reeling from a massive second wave of coronavirus, which has forced Macron to order a second national lockdown. Second, he is facing rising social tensions at home over the (long-fraught) question of integration into French society, after an Islamic beheaded a teacher who had shown derogatory images of the Prophet Mohammed as part of a lesson on free speech. The killing of three people outside a Nice church by a knife-wielding man of Tunisian origin yesterday heightened the sense of crisis. Lastly, Macron is facing a backlash from much of the Muslim world over his controversial comments in response to the teacher's murder, in which he pledged to crack down on extremism but also seemed to target Islam in general. There have been anti-French protests across the Muslim world, and several countries have called for a boycott of French goods. Macron doesn't face voters again until 2022, but he's already had to reset his presidency a few times. And his rivals — particularly from the far right, anti-immigrant National Rally party— may start to smell blood in the water.

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of foreign governments really mad. Let's call the roll.

Europe. The EU is angry that Turkey is drilling for oil in the eastern Mediterranean, and NATO is furious that member Turkey has defied its protests to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia. Erdogan has repeatedly rejected pushback from EU leaders by calling them fascists and Islamophobes.

Just this week, Erdogan refused to express sympathy with France following the beheading of a French schoolteacher by an Islamist extremist, attacked Macron's own response to the murder, suggested the French president needed "some sort of mental treatment," and countered Macron's vow to crack down on Islamist radicals with calls for a boycott of French products.

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