Uniting democracies has been the key international political trend of the last hundred years. Understanding this trend and enabling it to continue is the key to world political development.
New Book by Streit Council Advisory Board Member Kenneth Weisbrode
In Old Diplomacy Revisited: A Study in the Modern History of Diplomatic Transformers, historian Kenneth Weisbrode asserts that Old Diplomacyis not really that old—many of its concepts and methods date to the mid-nineteenth century—while the practices of New Diplomacy emerged only a couple of generations later. Moreover, "Diplomacy 2.0" and other variants of the post-Cold War era do not depart significantly from their twentieth-century predecessor: their forms, particularly in technology, have changed, but their substance has not. In this succinct overview, Weisbrode reminds us that to understand diplomatic transformations and their relevance to international affairs is to see diplomacy as an entrepreneurial art—and that, like most arts, it is adapted and re-adapted with reference to earlier forms. Diplomatic practice is always changing, and always continuous. To read more about this book, click here.
Kenneth Weisbrode, Ph.D., joins the Streit Council's Advisory Board. He is an Assistant Professor of History at Bilkent University, Turkey and has written and edited several books, including Old Diplomacy Revisited: A Study in the Modern History of Diplomatic Transformers; Churchill and the King: The Wartime Alliance of Winston Churchill and George VI; and The Atlantic Century: Four Generations of Extraordinary Diplomats who Forged America's Vital Alliance with Europe. He is also the co-founder of the Toynbee Prize Foundation's Network for the New Diplomatic History, and holds a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University.
New Book by Streit Council Board Member Richard Rosecrance
In The Resurgence of the West: How a Transatlantic Union Can Prevent War and Restore the United States and Europe, Richard Rosecrance calls for the United States to join forces with the European Union and create a transatlantic economic union. A U.S.-Europe community would unblock arteries of trade and investment, rejuvenate the West, and enable Western countries to deal with East Asian challenges from a position of unity and economic strength. Through this great merger the author offers a positive vision of the future in which members of a tightly knit Western alliance regain economic health and attract Eastern nations to join a new and worldwide international order. To read more about this book, click here.
At the Washington D.C. Summit on Cross Continental Cooperation, held by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy from November 4-7, Streit Council President Richard Conn Henry reviewed the history of the Streit Council, starting with Clarence K. Streit's self-publication of Union Now just prior to World War II, and continuing with the passing of the Atlantic Union Resolution in 1964. Henry also expounded his idea on a possible Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that, if adopted, would lead to a federal union with the European Union. His proposal can be found here.
Brendan Simms, Ph.D., joins the Streit Council's Advisory Board. He is a Professor of the History of European International Relations at the University of Cambridge, and is the founder and Chairman of the Board of the think tank Project on Democratic Union, which supports a full political union of the Eurozone. He also founded and is the President of the Henry Jackson Society, a think tank dedicated to fostering a strong British and European commitment to liberty; constitutional democracy; human rights; governmental and institutional reform; a robust foreign, security, and defense policy; and the transatlantic alliance. His publications include Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire 1714-1783 (2008) and Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia (2001).
Transatlantic Relations and Global Governance News
Barack Obama to push for higher share for India in IMF, other institutions
26 January 2014— The Economic Times
During his trip to India, U.S. President Barack Obama affirmed his commitment to enhancing India's “voice and vote” in global financial institutions like IMF. Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized the importance of strengthening international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A joint statement also said that Modi appreciated the efforts of the U.S. Treasury for co-operating with the Finance Ministry on the Task Force on Resolution Corporation, set up in pursuance of recommendations of the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission. The two leaders also expressed confidence that continued bilateral collaboration will increase opportunities for trade and investment, and lead to the creation of more jobs and prosperity in both the economies. They also instructed their officials to assess the prospects for moving forward with high-standard bilateral investment treaty discussions.
The Year Ahead In Internet Governance: Of Competing Institutions, IANA Transition, And A New Crypto War
26 January 2014 — IP Watch
Electronic Frontier Foundation Policy Analyst Jeremy Malcolm has been predicting the next year would be the pivotal year for the UN-led Internet Governance Forum (IGF) for many years. With the NetMundial Initiative being constructed these coming months and governments having not yet agreed to prolong the IGF mandate, the forum might be challenged to either move or become just one of many internet governance conference venues. While some hope the future oversight over the internet’s underlying IANA function could become an experiment in shared global governance, others point out that more and more of the interesting questions of internet politics are decided elsewhere: national governments, trade negotiators, big data giants and cyberdominance strategists.
UN Security Council, OSCE to discuss escalating violence in Ukraine
26 January 2015 – Deutsche Welle
The UN Security Council will hold a special session later today to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The OSCE Permanent Council will also meet today; its monitors found that the rocket attacks in Mariupol had been launched from rebel-held territories. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on January 25th. Merkel urged Putin to influence the separatists to implement the Minsk ceasefire agreements. Poroshenko maintains that Ukraine wants “a peaceful solution” to the conflict.
Baku, OSCE MG to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
26 January 2015 – AzerNews
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will meet with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in Krakow, Poland tomorrow to discuss options for resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Officials maintain that diplomacy will provide a resolution to the conflict, not a military option. OSCE Minsk Group co-chair from the U.S. James Warlick called for both sides to “stop the violence along the line of contact.” A spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry asked for the Minsk co-chair states to force Armenia to “withdraw…troops from Azerbaijan’s occupied territories.”
U.S., Europe Threaten New Sanctions Against Moscow
25 January 2015 – The Wall Street Journal
U.S. President Barack Obama has voiced his concerns about the rise of violence in eastern Ukraine, and said that he would entertain all options “short of a military confrontation.” Foreign ministers from the European Union will meet on Thursday, January 29th to formulate their next move. Russia continues to maintain that Ukraine and its supporters in the West are to blame for the increased fighting. EU diplomats report that as of yet they have “not concrete ideas on the table” for new sanctions against Russia, but that they are discussing their options.
Greece Election: Anti-Austerity Syriza Wins Election
25 January 2015 – BBC News
Anti-austerity Syriza party has won Greece's general election, putting the country on a possible collision course with the EU over its massive bailout. Syriza is currently projected to win 149 seats, just two short of an absolute majority, though that number could change. A majority of voters in Greece have essentially rejected a core policy for dealing with the Eurozone crisis as devised by Brussels and Berlin, a BBC correspondent noted. British Prime Minister David Cameron said the result of the Greek election would "increase economic uncertainty across Europe". Meanwhile, the euro fell to $1.1098 against the dollar - the lowest level in more than 11 years. Another five parties - including the far-right Golden Dawn and centrist The River - are expected to be represented in the 300-member parliament.
The Fed Can't Just Ignore All the Wild Moves Made by the World's Central Banks Last Week
25 January 2015 – Reuters
The Federal Reserve could be key for Wall Street this week as investors get to hear from the U.S. central bank for the first time since a series of moves by its global peers, including the European Central Bank's massive stimulus plan. The increased stimulus measures from the ECB and elsewhere globally, including the Bank of Canada, may make it tougher for the Fed to move ahead with its own plan to start raising interest rates by midyear, lest U.S. economic policy move out of sync with the rest of the world. Should the United States raise rates when other major developed economies are being more expansive, that could boost the dollar, putting further pressure on commodity prices — which because they are denominated in dollars become more expensive for non-U.S. investors — and adding to the threat of deflation. The sharp decline in oil prices that began last June and worries about deflation could keep the Fed on hold for longer, analysts say.
ECB's Mersch Calls for European Capital Markets Union
25 January 2015 – Reuters
European Central Bank policymaker Yves Mersch called for the Eurozone to pursue deeper integration, including a capital markets union that would enable a company in one country to issue a bond in another. Describing Europe's Monetary Union as incomplete, Mersch said it would be wrong to sit back and leave the project in its existing form. Rather, developing the union "is a permanent undertaking," he said. Mersch added that capital-market integration would help spread risk across the currency union through the private sector. Noting that a cross-border securities transaction costs at least 10 times as much in Europe as in the United States, Mersch called for harmonized regulation for securities in Europe and a harmonized legal framework for crisis management. The ECB councilmember also quoted former German chancellor Helmut Kohl as saying in 1992 that the Maastricht Treaty on European integration would lead to a United States of Europe, and concluded his speech by saying: "It is time that this affirmation resulted in action."
Bundesbank's Weidmann Casts Doubt on Effectiveness of ECB's QE
24 January 2015 – Reuters
Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, an unabashed critic of the European Central Bank's quantitative easing (QE), told a German newspaper on Sunday he had doubts about the effectiveness of the ECB bond-buying plan. Weidmann, who is on the ECB's Governing Council, told Welt am Sonntag newspaper that he voted against the move and said the sluggish growth in Europe was largely due to high levels of debt and a lack of competitiveness in some individual countries. In his criticisms, Weidmann pointed to the fact that upon the initiation of QE in the U.S. interest rates were higher compared to the current rate in Europe as well as the fact that “U.S. companies use capital markets more for financing, so central bank purchases can have a much more direct impact there than in an economy financed (more) by banks."
Euro Plunges, But European Brands Are Not On Sale In U.S.
24 January 2015 – The Dallas Morning News
Not since September 2003 has the euro traded this low against the dollar. Still, German sports cars, Belgian beers and the latest fashions out of Italy aren’t going on sale anytime soon. There’s simply too much demand in the U.S. for any markdowns. IHS senior principal economist George Magliano noted that significant growth in American upper-income families and households has fueled demand for some of these top-of-the-line products. Any savings thanks to the euro’s decline will be pocketed by manufacturers and distributors. At most, shoppers will see a 2 or 3 percent price dip, said Faith Hope Consolo, who leads retail leasing and marketing at Prudential Douglas Elliman, adding these declines will take time to manifest. The one bright spot for Americans: vacations to Europe are now much cheaper.
Davos: France “must speed up reforms” in the wake of QE
23 January 2015 – The Irish Times
French President Francois Hollande said France must undertake economic reforms at an accelerated pace. World leaders have converged on Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble urged Eurozone countries such as France and Italy to continue to implement structural reforms to improve economic growth. “You cannot address structural problems with monetary policy, they have to be addressed with supply side measures,” Spanish Economic Affairs Minister Luis Guindos Jurado said. “We implemented structural reforms. We are starting to reap the rewards.” George Soros said he believes that the strong emphasis on monetary stimulus could increase inequality. However, Schauble replied that the growth and stability pact limits the amount governments can borrow and thus engage in fiscal stimulus. Germany has not devised any contingency policies for a Greek withdrawal from the Eurozone and wants Greece to remain in the single currency area, Schauble said.
Ukraine rebel Zakharchenko “rejects truce talks”
23 January 2015 – BBC
The primary separatist leader in Donetsk, Alexander Zakharchenko, stated that he does not want to “make any attempts at ceasefire talks” and that rebel forces would “attack right up to the borders of the Donetsk region.” Zakharchenko further maintained that they would “neutralize” any other threats they saw, saying, “Kiev doesn’t understand now that we can attack in three directions simultaneously.”
Pascal Meunier: OSCE MG co-chair countries want resumption of dialogue
23 January 2015 – Azeri-Press Agency
French Ambassador to Azerbaijan Pascal Meunier has encouraged a new dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, stating that in order “to achieve peace in the South Caucasus we are trying to strengthen dialogue and mutual understanding.” The co-chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group want to be a part of the peace process, and to that end want to meet with the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, respectively, Meunier said.
OSCE: Ukrainian military at Donetsk airport possibly poisoned by gas
22 January 2015 – Mirror Weekly
The OSCE reports that one of the Ukrainian soldiers fighting at the Donetsk airport presented symptoms similar to those observed in victims of gas attacks. This soldier informed the OSCE that 80 other Ukrainian troops displayed similar symptoms, “manifested by the uncontrollable muscle spasms, vomiting and shortness of breath. Some…were losing consciousness.”
Ukrainian troops withdraw from main airport terminal
22 January 2015 – USA Today
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported that it has withdrawn its troops from the main terminal of the Donetsk airport on January 22nd, reporting the death of 10 soldiers at the airport in the past 24 hours. A spokesman for the Ukrainian military maintains that the withdrawal was a tactical move, to free up forces to move to other positions. In addition to the symbolic importance of the Donetsk airport, the Ukrainians feared that rebel forces would be able to use the airport’s position near a train depot as a supply route with Russia through the Russian-annexed Crimean territory.
G20 president Turkey expounds vision of peace, stability through cooperation
22 January 2014 – The Daily Sabah
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu spoke yesterday at the Forum for Global Change held by London-based Winton Park, a prominent think tank in the UK known for research focusing on issues of international security. He called for a purpose of unity and ethical stance among nations and pointed out that local problems could have global consequences. Davutoğlu also spoke at the "Turkey's vision for the G20" session at the World Economic Summit held in Davos, Switzerland, arguing that the biggest threat to global stability was the gap between powers. Turkey is serving as G20's president in 2015. He cited the differences between the U.S. and Russia on issues such as Ukraine and Syria was causing serious geo-political and economic instability across the world.
Oil price may boost growth by 15-20%: World Bank
22 January 2014 – CNBC
Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, told CNBC from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that tumbling oil prices may increase world economic growth by 15-20% this year, but several countries will still lose out. Following four years of stability at around $105 per barrel, oil prices have plummeted since June 2014. Brent and light crude oil prices remained below $50 per barrel on Thursday. The World Bank forecast that the world economy would expand by 2.6% in 2014 before growing by 3.0 % in 2015 and 3.3 percent in 2016. This expansion would be thanks to low oil prices, as well as continued recovery in the U.S., a gradual improvement in the euro area and receding domestic headwinds in slower-growing developing countries. India was seen as a strong beneficiary of low oil prices, however, with its economic growth forecast to top 7% in the medium-term.
How can UN measure if better governance programs work?
22 January 2014 – Reuters
Global leaders are considering including governance as one of the United Nations' new set of development goals, which will have a significant influence on how roughly $2.5 trillion in development aid is spent over the next 15 years. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under discussion at UN meetings in New York this week are due to take effect in 2016. The United Kingdom is a big supporter of a governance goal, and in a UN survey of more than seven million people, an honest and responsive government was among their top priorities. A study by Mary Hilderbrand, economics professor at Texas A&M University, released this week by the Copenhagen Consensus think tank casts some doubt on whether a development goal focusing on transparency, responsive government and reducing corruption will be effective. Hilderbrand suggests that the one governance target that does make sense is providing a legal identity for all citizens, including birth registration, because it is concrete and can help build the capacity of governments to run efficient systems.
EU-US Trade Talks in “Troubled Waters”
22 January 2015 – EU Observer
EU-U.S. trade talks are “in troubled waters” and need a “fresh start for parliament to approve an agreement”, the chairman of the assembly’s international trade committee has said. Bernd Lange, a German center-left MEP, urged the European Commission to be more open with the trade negotiations, adding that this would help reduce “unjustified fears” regarding lowered health and food safety standards. EU leaders have given negotiators until the end of 2015 to conclude talks on the pact, which the commission estimates could be worth €100 billion extra to the EU’s GDP. Talks on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) have progressed in the 18 months since talks began, with both sides tabling offers to remove almost all remaining tariff barriers and proposing to harmonize standards. Lange’s report on the TTIP leaves open the prospect for including the controversial investment protection clauses, but expresses a preference for leaving them out.
European Union 2015 and Greek Elections: Would a Syriza Win Be Good for EU Integration?
22 January 2015 – The World Post
While Syriza's potential win in the elections on January 25 increases the uncertainty for Greece, a win for Syriza could be good for EU integration policy. The aggregate economic growth numbers for the euro region, as anemic as they are, mask trends that run against EU integration. The underlying reason for the ongoing EU crisis is one of divergent competiveness between member states: In the post-global financial crisis era, what has evolved in the EU region is a crisis between divergent economies, between stronger and weaker member states, roughly divided between core and periphery, resulting in a two-tiered European Union composed of creditors and debtors. Syriza's call for a "European debt conference" to renegotiate the current loan debt is certain to provoke policy conflict, but might also facilitate broader discussion which may, in the best case, benefit EU integration in resolving an untenable Greek debt situation.
Civilians killed as shells rain down in Ukraine’s Donetsk region
22 January 2015 – CNN
The OSCE is investigating the latest incident of civilian deaths in Donetsk, as shells struck a trolley bus station on January 22nd, killing seven. Based on the location the attack was launched from, Ukrainian officials have blamed rebel forces, although the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the Ukrainian military for shelling cities in the region, and demanded OSCE involvement in the investigation. Ukraine has also reported shelling by rebels in two other civilian areas, with attacks in Debaltseve and Avdiyivka. Children in Debaltseve are staying home from school due to the shelling there. The Normandy Quartet met in Berlin on Wednesday, however they maintained that a peace summit cannot take place until “tangible progress” is made on implementing the Minsk ceasefire agreements. Despite Russian assurances to the contrary, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed that there were approximately 9,000 Russian troops that had crossed into Ukraine bringing “with them hundreds and hundreds of tanks, armed personnel carriers, and killing Ukrainian civilians and attacking Ukrainian troops.”
U.S., EU vow sanctions unity, insist Russia must abide by Minsk deal
22 January 2015 – Europe Online Magazine
The new foreign policy head of the European Union, Federica Mogherini, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met at the State Department in Washington, DC on Wednesday, where they asserted their continued support of the use of economic sanctions as an instrument against Russia. Kerry accused the rebel forces in Ukraine’s Donbas region of violating September’s Minsk ceasefire agreements in a “blatant land grab.” Mogherini cited her visit to the U.S. as an example of the importance of the relationship between the U.S. and the EU, and said that further sanctions policy would be coordinated between the two.
ECB Unveils Massive QE Boost for Eurozone
22 January 2015 – BBC News
The ECB will buy bonds worth €60bn per month until the end of September 2016 and possibly longer, in what is known as quantitative easing (QE). The ECB has also said Eurozone interest rates are being held at the record low of 0.05%, where they have been since September 2014. ECB president Mario Draghi said the program would begin in March. He further stated that the program would be conducted "until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation", which the ECB has pledged to maintain at close to 2%. He told a news conference the ECB would be purchasing euro-denominated investment grade securities issued by euro-area governments and agencies and European institutions. However, "some additional eligibility criteria" would be applied in the case of countries under an EU and International Monetary Fund adjustment program. The value of the euro fell following Mr. Draghi's announcement, falling by more than a cent against the U.S. dollar to $1.1472.
Democrats Oppose Obama's Demand for Fast-Tracking Pacific Trade Deal
21 January 2015 – The Guardian
As expected, Obama demanded the authority to fast track international trade agreements in his sixth State of the Union address. Using the same term he has repeatedly used to describe the deals, Obama said that 21st century businesses needed to sell more American products overseas: “Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages.” As in last year’s State of the Union address, the president brought up China, accusing the Asian manufacturing behemoth of wanting to write the rules for trade in the high growth Asia Pacific regions. Under fast-track, Congress will have to vote on the agreements but is not allowed to make changes to the terms. As fears of fresh offshoring prompted by TPP and TTIP emerge, Obama confronted doubts, promising a new and improved deal. Some trade experts are not convinced, saying that going ahead with the trade deals would contradict his enthusiasm for “middle-class economics” – the main focus of his address.
Russia to Pick Which EU States Can Export Food
21 January 2015 – EU Observer
EU farmers and exporters lost hundreds of millions of euros after Russia imposed the food ban last August in retaliation against EU economic sanctions. Now, the European Commission has agreed to let Russia choose which EU states can be exempt from its food ban. According to a letter from EU official Ladislav Miko to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Dankvert, dated January 16th, and seen by EUobserver, the mechanism for lifting the Russian ban involves the EU issuing health certificates and Russia deciding which member states meet the health standards. But some capitals are concerned Moscow will exploit the new arrangements to reward Russia-friendly EU states and to punish its adversaries. An EU diplomat who is critical of the agreement was quoted as saying, “The Russia sanctions were imposed on all member states, so they should be lifted in the same way."
Michael Froman, Liberal Democrats Clash on Trade Authority
21 January 2015 – Politico
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Wednesday vigorously defended President Barack Obama’s request for trade promotion authority (TPA) in the face of opposition from liberal Democrats opposed to more trade deals. The TPA bill, also known as fast-track legislation, would allow the White House to put trade deals before Congress for simple up-or-down votes without amendments. The bill is considered key to wrapping up the trade agreements in progress because it provides negotiating countries with the assurance that Congress won’t undo the provisions of the deals. The top trade official’s remarks responded directly to charges that the legislation transfers too much congressional authority over trade to the White House and allows secret negotiations on trade deals that will wind up facilitating a “race to the bottom” to boost corporate profits.
Italy Prime Minister Renzi: “My Dream Is Parity” Between Euro and Dollar
21 January 2015 – The Wall Street Journal
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that he welcomed the recent decline in the euro and that he wished the Eurozone’s single currency traded at the same level as the U.S. dollar. A greater drop in the currency’s value would provide a boost to Italy’s large export sector as its economy struggles to emerge from a long period of stagnation. Investors have been abandoning the euro in recent months as the ECB has eased monetary policy and signaled more action in its effort to battle stagnant growth and slowing inflation across the Eurozone. The euro fell 12% against the dollar in 2014 and has extended its losses this year. On Wednesday, the euro traded at $1.1570. Mr. Renzi also welcomed plunging oil prices, saying they would be a boon for the Italian economy, which is a large importer of energy, and the country’s consumers.
Davos 2015: World Bank chief makes climate action plea
21 January 2014 — The Guardian
The president of the World Bank urged the international community to help developing nations cope with a warming planet as the first day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos was dominated by calls to make 2015 a year of action on climate change. Jim Kim called for rich and poor countries to put aside their differences over tackling climate change as he warned that the hottest year on record in 2014 was evidence of accelerating global warming.
Ukraine asks International Monetary Fund for new financial rescue program as economy worsens
21 January 2014— Fox News
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday on the sidelines of an economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, and said in a statement that the Ukrainian leader had sought to replace the country's current $17 billion bailout package with a new one. Ukraine's economy and public finances have been devastated by the war in its eastern region, the slow pace of reforms, and a lack of foreign investment. The U.S. and European Union have in recent days pledged more money to Ukraine, but only on condition that Kiev enacts more of its promised economic reforms.
Indian Defense Minister invited to International Security Conference in Moscow
21 January 2014— RBTH Network
Sergey Shoigu invited his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar to take part in the International Security Conference in Moscow. Indian servicemen are invited to take part in the Military World Games in August, the regular Tank Biathlon Championship and the “Air Darts” competitions. India’s participation in last year’s Tank Biathlon and the Air Darts competitions as observers “became a land mark event.”
Turkey PM at Davos highlights priorities of G20 presidency
21 January 2014—Al Arabiya Network
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called for national ministers to set aside their parochial interests and act in the broader interests of humanity, according to a press release. During its presidency of the G20 group Turkey will prioritize an inclusive approach to global growth, the implementation of decisions taken by the economic group, as well as investment and trade, the country’s prime minister said in Davos on Wednesday. Davutoglu said he hoped to address the growing challenge of youth unemployment and to increase the number of women in the workforce in 2025 by 100 million. There are more than 2,500 participants at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, which runs from Jan. 21 to Jan. 24.
Bulgarian President Reaffirms His Stance Against Russian Aggression in Ukraine
21 January 2014— Novinite
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev devoted considerable time of his speech on the completion of his third year in office on Wednesday to the country's foreign policy. The president carried out an active foreign policy in the past year, having completed 28 visits, in which he represented the Bulgarian position at different international formats – bilateral, regional, European and global. Plevneliev identified the Ukrainian crisis as posing the most serious threat to European peace and security after the Second World War. According to him, the security environment in Southeastern Europe and the Black Sea dramatically changed in 2014. The Head of State expressed concern that at present there was an attempt to substitute the rule of law in Europe with the rule of interests.
Russian FM Says Ukraine Peace Talks to Focus on Frontline
21 January 2015 – The New York Times
Prior to a meeting of the Normandy Quartet in Berlin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia reached an agreement with rebels in eastern Ukraine to restore the prior line of division, as well as for them to move heavy artillery behind said line. In Ukraine, however, rebel forces were moving weapons towards Luhansk, where a fight for control of two strategic checkpoints is growing; reporters noted nine howitzers, six anti-tank cannons, four Grad rocket launchers and 15 tanks on convoys en route to one of the checkpoints. Lavrov said that a return to the original line of separation, agreed to in Minsk in September, would help to de-escalate the fighting, as the current frontline is different due to rebel gains. He also said that OSCE monitoring could expand to more sections of the Russian-Ukrainian border if the OSCE was able to reach an agreement with rebel forces.
Ukraine calls up 50,000 reservists after sharp escalation in hostilities
20 January 2015 – The Telegraph
Following the death of at least six civilians on January 20th in Donetsk, the Ukrainian government has called up 50,000 reservists and volunteers to strengthen its armed forces, its fourth call since April. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier invited the other members of the Normandy Quartet (foreign ministers from Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia) to meet in Berlin on January 21st in order to try to revive peace talks, calling the increased violence a “threatening situation” needing “political compromises.”
Russia denies new Ukraine troop incursion as civilian casualties mount
20 January 2015 – Euronews
Shelling has increased in Donetsk as the Ukrainian military has begun to amass “large numbers of troops and weapons around the city.” Civilian casualties have also increased, with five killed and 26 injured in a 24-hour period. Reports also claim that Ukrainian troops were able to recapture nearly all of the territory lost to the rebels at the Donetsk airport. The Ukrainian government has accused Russia of sending troops into eastern Ukraine, an allegation denied by the Russian Defense Ministry as “absolute nonsense.” Each side continues to accuse the other of violating the Minsk ceasefire agreements and targeting civilians.
Report: Unemployment to Continue To Rise over the Next 5 Years
20 January 2015 – EurActiv
By 2019, more than 212 million people will be out of work globally, compared to 201 million today, according to the report World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2015. While the employment situation has improved in the United States and Japan, it will remain difficult to find a job in a number of advanced economies. The ILO predicts that if the steep decline in oil and gas prices are sustained, they may improve the employment outlook somewhat in many advanced economies, but will hit labor markets in major oil and gas producing countries hard, particularly in Latin America, Africa and the Arab region. “The trends we see are worrying, but we can improve the overall economic picture if we tackle underlying weaknesses, in particular the continued lack of aggregate demand, stagnation in the Eurozone, uncertain prospects for productive investment, especially among small enterprises, and mounting inequality,” Guy Ryder, the director general of ILO, stated.
IMF Cuts Forecasts, Says Slowdowns in Europe, Japan, BRICS Outweigh Boost from Cheap Oil
20 January 2015 – U.S. News & World Report
The International Monetary Fund lowered its forecasts for global growth over the next two years, warning Tuesday that weakness in most major economies will trump gains from lower oil prices. The IMF downgraded projections it issued in October by 0.3 percentage point each, predicting global growth at 3.5 percent this year and 3.7 percent in 2016. "New factors supporting growth — lower oil prices, but also depreciation of the euro and yen — are more than offset by persistent negative forces, including the lingering legacies of the crisis and lower potential growth in many countries," IMF director of research Olivier Blanchard said. Meanwhile, weaker prices for oil and other commodities are sapping growth prospects for countries in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Overall world trade is anticipated to accelerate in advanced economies, growing 3.7 percent in 2015 and 4.8 percent in 2016, up from 3.0 percent last year.
Putin Suffers a One-Two Punch on Sanctions and Bonds
20 January 2014 – The Fiscal Times
Russian state-run media last week saw a glimmer of hope that, within Europe at least, resolve to continue with the sanctions imposed on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine might be fading, citing an unidentified “diplomatic source,” who claimed that Austria, Hungary, Italy, Cyprus, Slovakia, France and the Czech Republic all support that lifting the sanctions. Such a shift would play to the advantage of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has tied Russia’s national pride tightly to the invasion of Crimea and its continuing influence over Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal reported on a document composed by the EU’s foreign relations section, suggesting multiple ways in which Europe could begin improving ties with Moscow, and various scenarios under which the sanctions could begin to be lifted. The media reported the document indicated a softening of the EU’s stance on sanctions. Friday Moody’s Investors Service became the second ratings agency in a week to downgrade Russia's government bond rating.
Most governments conceal data despite G20 pledges, study says
20 January 2014— Reuters
The Web Foundation ranked eighty-six countries in the Open Data Barometer on how readily their governments make data available, including information on government budgets and spending, public sector contracts, company ownership, health services and education. Myanmar, Haiti and Mali were ranked the least open and transparent countries in a global index of government data released on Tuesday, which found that most governments do not make official data openly available to the public. Despite pledges by the G7 and G20 to improve transparency in government data, which could help reduce corruption and improve state services, data remained locked away from public view in more than 90 percent of nations surveyed. Indonesia, China and Peru were the most improved countries compared with last year's rankings, while Kenya had the biggest fall, to 49th from 22nd position. Nearly 80 percent of countries studied saw an improvement on last year, but outside high-income countries there was a widening gap between those able to establish and sustain open data programs, and those where open data activities have stalled, moved backwards, or not yet begun.
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