What We're Watching: EU accession, Nigerian visas, and a Hollywood legend's departure

What We're Watching: EU accession, Nigerian visas, and a Hollywood legend's departure

The EU's new accession rules – After months of EU infighting over the status of two western Balkan countries that want to join the bloc, the EU has streamlined the accession process. France, the Netherlands and Denmark have blocked the start of EU accession talks for Albania and North Macedonia, arguing that their political systems require reform. Germany, by contrast, insists that it's in the bloc's strategic interest to welcome in these western Balkan states. Now there's a compromise on the table. The new proposal gives all EU member states a role in vetting applicants and permits the EU to cut off negotiations if they slack on reforms. We're watching to see whether all 27 member states agree to this new way of doing things, but all eyes are really on French President Emmanuel Macron in particular. Et vous Monsieur President?


A Nigerian welcome – Nigeria, Africa's largest economy, is opening its doors to its neighbors. President Muhammadu Buhari this week unveiled a new immigration policy that grants visas on arrival to citizens of any of the 55 African Union member states. The measures, which aim to attract more innovation and talent into Nigeria, come amid broader economic integration efforts on the continent. On July 1, the new 54-country $3 trillion African Continental Free Trade Area will enter into force, though only about half of its signatories have ratified the agreement so far. Later this year the African Union is supposed to issue its own continental passports that will enable visa-free travel between all member-states.

Paths of Glory – Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas passed away this week at the age of 103 after jutting his jaw and gritting his teeth through more than 90 movies. Sure, he was Spartacus and (a peculiarly American) Vincent Van Gogh. But to see his true greatness, we'll be rewatching that other Stanley Kubrick-directed film, Paths of Glory.

What We're Ignoring

Russian TV's crowning conspiracy theory – Donald Trump used to give out crowns at his beauty pageants, right? Ok, and the word corona, as in "coronavirus," derives from the Latin word for "crown," correct? Need we say more? Russia's widely-watched, state controlled Channel One news says this coincidence makes it "absolutely clear" that the US developed the coronavirus in order to take down China. Granted, the virus is probably hurting China's economy more than Trump's scattershot trade war ever did, but this etymology-as-epidemiology sleuthing is contagiously stupid even by Russian state TV standards.

That's Bank of America's new target in its Environmental Business Initiative in order to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

Here's how it will drive innovation to address climate change.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

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More than a dozen COVID-19 vaccines have been fully approved or are currently in early use globally, and COVAX, the global initiative started last year by the World Health Organization and other partners, is pushing for equitable access to vaccines for all. But most of the half billion jabs given so far have gone to citizens of wealthy countries, with half going to the US and China alone. What's the problem with so-called vaccine nationalism? Ian Bremmer explains that besides the clear humanitarian concerns, the continued global spread of COVID increases the risk of new mutations and variants that can threaten the entire world, vaccinated or not.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Should wealthy individuals and nations shoulder more of the burden in addressing climate change? Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert argues that Big Tech leaders like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk should shift more of their focus to fighting for our own planet's survival, instead of space exploration. "We're doing as much as we can to make life difficult on planet Earth for ourselves. But there's virtually nothing we could do to make it as difficult as life on Mars, where there's, among other things, no oxygen." Kolbert, the author of Under a White Sky, discusses why it's so crucial for a few rich countries to bear most of the climate burden, since they're also the biggest emitters. Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 16. Check local listings.

In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.

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Fighting climate change is about making the planet get less hot. The more quickly countries slow down their carbon emissions, the faster that'll happen. All the more important for the nations that pollute the most — but not all of them are on board. Although the majority, including China, are setting future targets to go Net Zero, India doesn't want to commit (yet) to when to stop burning fossil fuels to spur economic growth. We take a look at when the world's top polluting economies intend to go carbon-neutral, compared with their share of global emissions, of renewable energy as a source of electricity, and percentage of global coal consumption.

Peruvian runoff: Perú's presidential election is going to a runoff in June between two surprise and polarizing contenders, each of whom won less than 20 percent of votes in a highly fragmented first round. Pedro Castillo, a far-left union leader and teacher who benefited from a late surge in the polls, will battle rightwing populist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Castillo wants to rewrite the constitution to weaken the political influence of the country's business elite and maybe to allow the state to nationalize parts of the mining sector to pay for social programs for the poor. Fujimori wants to use mining revenues to create jobs by investing in infrastructure and healthcare. The runoff will probably be a national referendum on Fujimori, a divisive figure running for the top job for the third time. No Peruvian president has ever left office without facing corruption charges, but Fujimori already faces several — and she'll avoid jail time if she wins.

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