What We're Watching: Separatists vs far right in Catalonia, US-Turkey row, France's controversial bill

A pro-independence protester holds a placard that reads: "Independence. There's another way to live", during a demonstration on Catalonia's day of 'La Diada' in Barcelona, Spain, September 11, 2020

Catalonia's post-election mess: Spain's pro-union Socialist Party (which leads the national coalition government in Spain) won the most votes in Sunday's regional election in Catalonia. But for the first time ever, pro-independence parties collectively came ahead in the popular vote, reaping a majority of seats (though voter turnout was dismal). Separatist forces will now band together to form yet another government in Catalonia that will prioritize breaking away from Spain, and may again try to secede unilaterally. Adding to Catalonia's political polarization, the far-right Vox party won almost 10 percent of the ballots cast with a fiery anti-independence, anti-immigration message that resonated with some unionist Catalans. The result puts Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in a bind: he needs pro-independence parties to get legislation passed in the national parliament, but giving them what they want — a pardon for the Catalan politicians convicted of secession for the events of 2017 and more autonomy for the region — would be immensely unpopular among voters in the rest of the country, and could encourage many of them to gravitate towards Vox. Your move, Don Pedro.


France's anti-separatism bill: The French parliament voted on Tuesday in favor of legislation aimed at curbing what President Emmanuel Macron has called "Islamic-separatism," and strengthening France's secular character. The bill's 51 articles include limits on homeschooling, fines — and even jail time — for doctors that conduct so-called "virginity tests" for Muslim women, as well as harsher penalties for online hate speech. Critics say the new law is discriminatory, unfairly targeting 5.7 million French Muslims, and does not reflect France's contemporary melting-pot culture. But proponents of the bill — among them many imams — argue that the new measures are necessary as France grapples with a resurgence of terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists. Indeed, the gruesome beheading of a teacher outside Paris last fall, followed by a deadly rampage at a church several days later in Nice, sent shockwaves through a country that has lost more of its people to terror attacks in recent years than any other Western country. But there's also a political dimension at play: Macron faces a tough reelection battle in 2022, and currently trails his far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the polls while his own approval rating remains sluggish. Will inching closer to the right help Macron's reelection bid?

Turkey hits US over Kurds: Weeks after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken angered Ankara by saying it wasn't acting like a NATO ally because of its purchase of Russia's S-400 missile defense system, US-Turkey relations have deteriorated further. This time, Turkey has blasted Washington for questioning the reported involvement of Kurdish militants in the execution of 13 Turkish hostages in northern Iraq, summoning the US ambassador for a scolding (Turkey, which considers Kurdish militants to be terrorists, also criticized Washington's ongoing support for the Kurds in Syria). As Turkish journalist İpek Yezdani told GZERO Media last fall, Turkey's pugnacious President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is no fan of US President Joe Biden, who a year ago irked Erdogan by calling for the opposition to beat him in the next election. By contrast, Trump appeased Erdogan by withdrawing US troops from northern Syria. We're watching to see how frosty US-Turkey ties will get in the near term — and if Erdogan and Biden will find any common ground.

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In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

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We're just days away from COP26, the landmark global climate conference that's been dubbed the last chance to get the climate crisis in check. In the lead-up to the event in Glasgow, dozens of countries have released new ambitions to reduce their future carbon footprints. For years, climate activists and experts have called on governments to introduce carbon pricing schemes – either through taxes or emissions-trading schemes. So who's heeded the warning? We take a look at the top ten carbon emitters' share of global emissions and details about their respective national carbon pricing schemes.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Do cryptocurrencies make it harder to enforce foreign policy sanctions?

Well, that is exactly what the Biden administration worries about. As part of growing concerns of whether unregulated currencies undermine a whole host of policies, sanctions and foreign or trade policy should be a priority area. And just like others who wish to evade tracing of their wealth or transactions, the very states or their sanctioned entities should be assumed to resort to all options to evade restrictions while continuing to do business. So having cryptocurrencies undermining the ability to enforce strategic goals logically raises eyebrows in Washington.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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The minutiae of supply chains makes for boring dinner table talk, but it's increasingly becoming a hot topic of conversation now that packages are taking much longer to arrive in the consumer-oriented US, while prices of goods soar.

With the issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, right-wing media have dubbed President Biden the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, conjuring images of sad Christmas trees surrounded by distraught children whose holiday gifts are stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?

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