What We're Watching: EU tightens vaccine exports, Kenya to close Somali refugee camps, Mexico-US border "cooperation"

COVID vaccines and masks imprinted with the EU symbol

Europe's vaccine war escalates: As the European Union contends with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and a disastrous vaccine rollout, the European Commission announced Wednesday a proposal to tighten vaccine exports from the bloc, a move referred to by one diplomat as a "retrograde step." The new measures would ban vaccine doses produced in the EU from being sent abroad to countries that don't "reciprocate" as well as those that have a higher per capita vaccination rate than EU member states (the UK falls under both categories). European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen is upping the ante from January, when the EU banned exports by companies that don't first honor their contracts with EU member states. (In practice, only one batch of vaccines from Italy was blocked from being sent to Australia.) This is a massive development within the context of an ongoing row with the UK, which so far has received almost 10 million doses of EU-made jabs, far more than any other country. London also has rolled out a much more successful vaccine drive, having administered vaccines to 45 out of every 100 people, compared to just 13 in the EU. Although EU leaders will discuss the vaccine disaster at a summit later this week, the new proposal will come into force unless most EU members oppose it — an unlikely outcome given that many EU countries are struggling to keep their COVID crises at bay.


Mexico, US border "cooperation:" Mexico has sent federal troops to guard its southern border, saying that only essential travel from Guatemala into its country will be permitted. But the sudden move, which Mexican officials say is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, surely has other motivating factors. Importantly, the deployment was announced just days after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed that his country would receive 2.7 million vaccine doses from the US — at the exact same time that the Biden administration is struggling to deal with an influx of migrants from Central America along its own southern border with Mexico. While both sides deny that this amounts to an "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" scenario, given the timing, it's hard to imagine that the developments are unrelated. It's a win-win: On the one hand, the Mexicans get the vaccines they need to deal with surging COVID cases and deaths, while Biden enlists Mexico's help in stemming the flow of migrants to the US, which is becoming a political quagmire for his nascent administration.

Kenya kicks out Somali refugees: Kenya has given the UN two weeks to prepare for the closure of the country's two main refugee camps. Most refugees in the sprawling camp, overseen by the UN refugee agency, are from its northern neighbor Somalia. If the facilities are not shuttered by then, Nairobi says it'll move its occupants across the border, and let the Somalis deal with the ensuing humanitarian catastrophe. Kenya has been threatening to shut down the camps — which together host over 400,000 people — since 2016, citing concerns that Somali refugees allegedly helped al-Shabaab militants carry out deadly attacks inside Kenya. The move was previously blocked by the High Court in Kenya which said it would be unconstitutional, but now, amid rapidly deteriorating bilateral relations with Somalia, the Kenyans say they are pressing ahead either way. Last December, Mogadishu cut ties with Nairobi after accusing the Kenyans of meddling in their internal affairs by hosting a Somali separatist leader. Kenya responded weeks later by withdrawing from an International Court of Justice trial over a maritime dispute with Somalia. And to top it all off, the US has pulled out its troops from Somalia, paving the way for more insecurity. If the Kenyans don't back down, the camp closures are certain to usher in fresh instability in the Horn of Africa.

We believe in access for everyone.

https://ad.doubleclick.net/ddm/trackimp/N6024.4218512GZEROMEDIA/B26379324.311531246;dc_trk_aid=504469522;dc_trk_cid=156468981;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;tfua=;gdpr=${GDPR};gdpr_consent=${GDPR_CONSENT_755};ltd=?
Visa: We believe in access for everyone. Image of a small, diverse group of people, smiling

Gaps in economic opportunities have made it hard for all individuals to take part in the global payments ecosystem. To address those gaps, society needs public policies to empower citizens, small businesses, and economies. That’s why, in 2021, the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute (VEEI) started conducting research and publishing reports about fostering digital equity and inclusion, unlocking growth through trade, and imagining an open future for payments. In 2022, we hope you’ll visit the VEEI for insights and data on the future of inclusive economic policies. See our newest stories here.

A year of Biden

Joe Biden’s first year as US president included two major historic accomplishments and a series of (often bitter) disappointments that has his party headed toward likely defeat in November’s midterm elections. Biden’s own political future is increasingly uncertain.

More Show less
Two children and a robot. We have to control AI before it controls us, warns former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Listen: Tech companies set the rules for the digital world through algorithms powered by artificial intelligence. But does Big Tech really understand AI? Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt tells Ian Bremmer that we need to control AI before it controls us.

What's troubling about AI, he says, is that it’s still very new, and AI is learning by doing. Schmidt, co-author of “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future,” worries that AI exacerbates problems like anxiety, driving a human addiction cycle that leads to depression.

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.

COVID has accelerated our embrace of the digital world. The thing is, we don't always know who’s running it.

Instead of governments, Ian Bremmer says, so far a handful of Big Tech companies are writing the rules of digital space — through computer algorithms powered by artificial intelligence.

The problem is that tech companies have set something in motion they don't fully understand, nor control.

More Show less

If omicron makes cases explode in China, the country's leaders will have to choose between weathering short-term or long-term pain.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, predicts that sticking to the zero-COVID approach at all costs will hurt the Chinese and global economy. In his view, learning to live with the virus is the way to go.

More Show less
The Graphic Truth: How do US presidents do in their first year?

Joe Biden's approval rating has taken a big hit during his first year as US president. Biden is now just slightly more popular than his predecessor Donald Trump at the same point in his presidency. While Biden has made a series of policy and political blunders that might be reflected in polling, this is also a sign of the times: US politics are now so polarized that presidential approval has a low ceiling. We compare the approval ratings of the last five US presidents in their first year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, Russia January 19, 2022.

Iran and Russia heart each other. The presidents of Iran and Russia have little in common personally, but they share many geopolitical interests, including in Afghanistan and Syria. They also have a common resolve in countering "the West.” These issues are all on the agenda as Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi held their first in-person meeting in Moscow. Raisi is a hardline cleric who leads a theocracy with nuclear ambitions. Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is a wily autocrat who enjoys provoking America and Europe, and has ambitions to return to the glory days of the territorially expansive Soviet Union — as seen with the Kremlin's recent provocations on the Ukrainian border. With the Iran nuclear talks on life support and Joe Biden already bracing for Russian troops crossing into Ukraine, Tehran and Moscow now have even more reasons to scheme and cooperate. Indeed, Moscow and Tehran have increasingly been cooperating on energy and security issues (Iran might be buying Russian military technology) as their respective relations with the West deteriorate.

More Show less
Namibian citizen Phillip Luhl holds one of his twin daughters as he speaks to his Mexican husband Guillermo Delgado via Zoom meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 13, 2021

2: Namibia’s High Court ruled against two gay couples seeking legal recognition of their marriages. The judge said she agreed with the couples, who are seeking residency or work authorizations for foreign-born spouses, but is bound by a Supreme Court ruling that deems same-sex relationships illegitimate.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

A year of Biden

Signal

Can we control AI before it controls us?

GZERO World Clips

Should China learn to live with COVID?

GZERO World Clips

China vs COVID in 2022

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal