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.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here from sunny Nantucket and going to be here for a little bit. Thought we would talk about the latest on COVID. Certainly, we had hoped we'd be talking less about it at this point, at least in terms of the developed world. A combination of the transmissibility of Delta variant and the extraordinary misinformation around vaccines and COVID treatment means that we are not in the position that many certainly had hoped we would be today.

The United States is the biggest problem on this front. We are awash in vaccines. Operation Warp Speed was an enormous success. The best vaccines in the world, the most effective mRNA, the United States doing everything it can to get secure doses for the entire country quick, more quickly than any other major economy in the world, and now we're having a hard time convincing people to take them. The politics around this are nasty and as divided as the country, absolutely not what you want to see in response to a health crisis.

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If your country had suffered decades of crippling corruption, wouldn't you want to prosecute those responsible? Of course you would. On Sunday, almost 98 percent of Mexicans who voted in a national referendum on this subject said, in so many words: "Yes, please prosecute the last five presidents for corruption!"

The catch is that turnout was a dismal 7 percent, meaning the plebiscite fell way short of the 40 percent turnout threshold required for its result to be binding.

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The COVID delta variant — which first surfaced in India earlier this year — is spreading rampantly throughout every continent, and is now the most dominant strain globally. But low- and middle-income countries, particularly in regions where vaccines have been scarce, are bearing the brunt of the fallout from the more contagious strain. We take a look at the 10 countries now recording the highest number of daily COVID deaths (per 1 million people), and their corresponding vaccination rates.

China tackles delta: China is the latest country to express serious concern over the highly contagious delta variant, after recording 300 cases in 10 days. Authorities there are trying to trace some 70,000 people who may have attended a theatre in Zhangjiajie, a city in China's Hunan province, which is now thought to have been a delta hotspot. Making matters worse, a busy domestic travel season in China saw millions recently on the move to visit friends and family just as delta infections spiked in more than a dozen provinces. Authorities have enforced new travel restrictions in many places, including in central Hunan province, where more than 1.2 million people have been told to stay in their homes for three days while authorities roll out a mass testing scheme. The outbreak has reached Beijing, too, with authorities limiting entrance to the capital to "essential travelers" only. Indeed, the outbreak has raised fresh concerns about Chinese vaccines' protection against delta, though many experts say they are still at least 55 percent effective in preventing serious illness.

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It was a weird series of events. Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya took to Instagram to lament that her country's Olympic Committee had registered her for the 4x400 relay event at the eleventh hour (because a fellow participant had failed to pass drug screenings) despite not having trained.

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100: A scorching heat wave has caused more than 100 wildfires across Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean coastline in recent days. Scientists say that dry conditions induced by climate change have helped spread the fires, which have already killed eight people and caused mass evacuations from tourist hotspots.

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Alcohol. It's a dangerous drug that has ruined countless lives and derailed many a global summit. But it's also humanity's oldest social lubricant, a magical elixir that can fuel diplomatic breakthroughs, well into the wee hours of the night. As Winston Churchill once quipped, "I've taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." On GZERO World, we take a deep dive down the bottle and examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Also: since alcohol isn't the only social drug, a look at the state of marijuana legalization across the US and around the world.

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GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

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GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal