Geopolitics

Sebastian Kurz: Victim Of Pandemic, And His Own Ego

The rise and fall of 35-year-old Sebastian Kurz was breathtaking in any context. Yet the resignation of the Austrian chancellor offers unique insights into a political scenario that was very much of our COVID times.

VIENNA — Sebastian Kurz is used to being popular. When he was re-elected as Federal Chairman of his party's youth organization in 2012, he received 100% of the votes. And that was exactly the bar against which he, along with all those who basked in his glow, have measured success in the decade since.

Kurz won 99.4% of the votes at the conservative ÖVP party congress this past August. Such a phenomenon might be common in authoritarian regimes, but is rare in a European democracy.

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The Economic Paradox Of The “Post-COVID” Recovery

The current economic recovery is unlike any other in the labor market. For companies in the United States and Europe, recruitment is particularly tough. Resignations are exploding on both sides of the Atlantic and productivity is declining in places like France. These are all paradoxes confounding economists.

PARIS — This is the great upheaval. COVID-19 has disrupted the balance of the labor market in Europe and the United States. As a result, the speed of the rebound in activity is like no other. In the Eurozone single currency market, the unemployment rate, which had already fallen to 7.5% in August, has nearly reached the level it had at the end of 2019. But this atypical recovery still leaves many questions that economists struggle to answer.

The first paradox is that, on both sides of the Atlantic, companies say they are having trouble finding people to hire. An anomaly in periods of economic recovery, since it normally takes time for the rise in unemployment to subside before the first recruitment difficulties appear.

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Immigrants Don't Drive Up Crime: Here Are The Facts

Crunch the numbers, or just look around...and we see that immigrants, wherever they may come from, are not a disproportionate cause of crime or cultural degradation across Europe.

Standing outside Hamburg's Arts and Crafts Museum, I observe a little the traffic and bustle of this historic German port, home to two million people. I notice to my right two German women sitting on the grass in the Carl Legien Platz, gaunt but eager as they prepare themselves a syringe full of some drug. To the left, sitting on the museum's steps, is an African man, wearing a pretty checked shirt and white cap. He wipes his face in despair, trying to decipher a manual for a gadget or contraption.

Once they have had their injection, the women recline to enjoy the buzz, until two policemen arrive. They dryly nod at the African and ask the women for their ID. I observed with fascination and must say, no travel journalist should omit to record these little bits of reality. They are as informative to readers as sight-seeing recommendations or dining tips.

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On The Border Of Bosnia: Voices Of Afghan Migrants

As the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan, the European Union co-signed a joint statement with dozens of nations agreeing that "the Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity" and that the international community was "ready to assist them".

As someone who has been researching the refugee crisis on Europe's borders for years, I found the statement surprising. Before it was making bold statements about events in Kabul, the EU had spent years failing to help thousands of Afghans seeking help at its borders.

Since 2015, more than 570,000 Afghan citizens have sought protection in the EU. Thousands of them remain stuck in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after having been pushed back by the Croatian police catching them on the EU border.

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Economy
Daniel Eckert

Merkel's Legacy: The Rise And Stall Of The German Economy

How have 16 years of Chancellor Angela Merkel changed Germany? The Chancellor accompanied the country's rise to near economic superpower status — and then progress stalled. On technology and beyond, Germany needs real reforms under Merkel's successor.

BERLIN — Germans are doing better than ever. By many standards, the economy broke records during the reign of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel: private households' financial assets have climbed to a peak; the number of jobs recorded a historic high before the pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020; the GDP — the sum of all goods and services produced in a period — also reached an all-time high.

And still, while the economic balance sheet of Merkel's 16 years is outstanding if taken at face value, on closer inspection one thing catches the eye: against the backdrop of globalization, Europe's largest economy no longer has the clout it had at the beginning of the century. Germany has fallen behind in key sectors that will shape the future of the world, and even the competitiveness of its manufacturing industries shows unmistakable signs of fatigue.

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Geopolitics
Lucie Robequain

Australia’s Submarine Slap To France Exposes Brutal Truth About Europe

The military pact between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom is further proof that Europe's influence is eroding. To make up for the absence of a collective defense from the bloc's 27, it is urgent to establish alliances with different countries.

The slap that Australia, along with the United States and the United Kingdom, has just inflicted on us is a reminder of some disturbing truths — which happen to be opposed to the values we cherish. First of all, it reminds us that in international relations, friends don't exist. There are just allies who share common interests. Europeans have long lived with the illusion that the United States, a brotherly country, would only want the best for us and that Joe Biden had a special bond with the land of his ancestors.

The fact that President Biden convinced Canberra to break its commitments with France's Naval Group shows his determination to follow only one course: that of Washington's economic and commercial interests. From this point of view, Biden's actions are much more damaging than Donald Trump's, because they are more thoughtful and effective. This is actually the second time since the beginning of the summer that the French defense has been snubbed: last June, Americans had managed to impose their fighter planes on Switzerland, to the detriment of France's Rafale.

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Geopolitics
Klaus Geiger and Christoph B. Schiltz

Afghan Refugee Crisis: Why Merkel Closed Her Open Border

The Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 ignited a bitter rivalry between Germany's Angela Merkel and Austria's Sebastian Kurz. Merkel was in favor of a "culture of welcome," while Kurz argued for border protection. But with the current Afghan refugee crisis, the German leader is shifting course.

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Six years ago, the now outgoing German Chancellor,Angela Merkel argued that borders cannot be divided by walls. That was on Oct. 26, 2015. Her future Austrian counterpart, Sebastian Kurz, disagreed. "It's simply not true to claim that it doesn't work," he said in an Austrian radio interview. "The question is whether we want to do it or not."

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Geopolitics
Vladimir Soloviev

Sandu Sweep: Moldova Reformist Revolution May Actually Happen

Last year's election of reformist president Maia Sandu was the first step. But now the anti-graft, pro-Europe forces are about to dominate the Parliament. But what will it look like on the ground?

CHISINAU — Moldovan President Maia Sandu and her Action and Solidarity Party (PAS) are confident that they can turn this week's parliamentary election victory into real reform. Yet for some political players, including former president Igor Dodon, this itself is reason to worry about their fate.

On July 11 it was clear that the results from the parliamentary elections in Moldova held the potential to be truly historic for the Eastern European country. The gap between PAS and all other participants in this parliamentary race was getting larger with every passing hour of ballot counting. According to the preliminary data, the PAS could count as many as 63 seats out of 101, the Communists and Socialists 32, and the Shor Party on 6.

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eyes on the U.S.
Clemens Wergin

The Promise And Illusion Of Biden's Visit To Europe

The U.S. president is taking a leadership role among western democracies that was sorely missed. But these complicated times also call for a Europe that does more than just cheer from the sidelines.

-OpEd-

Joe Biden's visit to Europe, which began in the United Kingdom and takes him next to Brussels and Geneva, is about "demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age."

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Son Of A Gunnar
Carl-Johan Karlsson

What Greta Thunberg Reminds Us About The Limits Of Adulthood

Now 18 and officially an adult, the climate activist's message isn't changing. And what about our own grownup rationalizations?

It's 2021, and that means Greta Thunberg can lawfully grab a beer in her hometown pub. Of course, to someone who's started a global movement, dressed down heads of state and fronted Time Magazine as Person of the Year, obtaining Swedish drinking rights may not seem like a big deal.

And yet in her unlikely rise from 15-year-old school protester to global icon, Greta's reaching official adulthood is noteworthy. She made global headlines on her 18th birthday back in January, taking the opportunity to troll her critics: "Tonight you will find me down at the local pub exposing all the dark secrets behind the climate- and school strike conspiracy," Greta tweeted.

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Geopolitics
*Anna Zafesova

Lukashenko To Putin: A New Cold War, Or Something Worse?

Western media like to run headlines warning of a “new Cold War” every time a new conflict or act of repression occurs in post-Soviet authoritarian, But Belarus’ brazen intercepting of a Ryanair jet is something that never would have happened on either sid

-Analysis-

Is history repeating itself, only this time as a farce?

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Sources
Patrick Baudry*

The New Space Race: Europe's Competitive Advantage Is Wisdom

With more and more state and private entities setting their sights on space, Europe will need to assert itself, but in a safe, responsible way.

-OpEd-

PARIS — Space is the most beautiful place on Earth. That's what I realized when I came back from my space flight, on June 24, 1985. But unless we rethink the rules governing our starry sky, space could also present some very real dangers.

Never before has the adventure of space travel attracted so many players, from states to private companies. And no longer is there just one space-race, but many, and much of it driven by the private sector, a movement sometimes referred to as NewSpace. There's the lunar base, the conquest of Mars, new orbital stations, manned space flights and mega-constellations of satellites.

NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station​, rocket launched on April 23, 2021. — Photo: NASA/ZUMA Wire/ZUMA

The latter are particularly problematic, as companies all want their satellites in low orbit to provide high-speed connection, power the Internet of Things, and provide observation services. As such, this tiny strip in space between 400 km (the orbit of the ISS) and 1,500 km is currently being colonized: Starlink already has more than 1,200 satellites in orbit out of the 30,000 to 40,000 devices that are planned.

Amazon is getting on board as well. Its Project Kuiper has already been granted authorization for 6,000 satellites. China, for its part, has allowed 15 Chinese companies to get a share of the pie. And Europe too has made it clear that it wants to get in on other action.

Our near-Earth space could turn into a new sword of Damocles above our heads.

Last year, EU Commissioner Thierry Breton announced the launch of the bloc's own mega-constellation project. But to meet this challenge, Europe will have to change its space economic model, by reducing the cost of its launch vehicles, developing its own processes to manage space traffic and debris, and working more effectively with start-ups. This industrial gamble can only succeed if Europe tackles another equally difficult challenge: establishing responsible operating and regulatory standards within low earth orbit.

As space becomes useful for all, the number of objects orbiting around the Earth is de facto multiplying exponentially. While humanity has put some 9,000 satellites into orbit since Sputnik, a mega-constellation project alone involves two to three times that amount. And as of right now, about 50 such projects are in the works. It's clear, as a result, that we will very soon be confronted with new risks of collision, debris and interference.

In the absence of rules to better anticipate and manage these risks, our near-Earth space could turn into a new sword of Damocles above our heads: a new environmental, technological and industrial trap. Rules should be preventive. Among other things, operators of mega-constellations must be required to assess the environmental impact of their projects.

Patrick_Baudry_French_astronaut

Former French austronaut Patrick Baudry. — Photo: RCA La Radio

Prevention is crucial in a sector where finding fixes — such as the collection of debris — is astronomically expensive at best and improbable at worst. Most of all, let us not forget that how we use space will directly affect our condition and quality of life on Earth!

Europe must respond to this double challenge. If the bloc doesn't decide today to get politically involved in the regulation of low-earth orbit, it will surely lose the little autonomy it has left. We don't want to be left behind. But we also don't want to get caught up in a race without rules. Instead, let's show the way to a safe and well-managed space! Starting today, we must learn to use space in a more responsible way than we have down here on Earth.

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eyes on the U.S.
Lucie Robequain

Joe Biden Won't Fix The World's Broken Diplomacy By Himself

Democrats who reach the White House do not necessarily play into the hands of Europeans. It is up to them to unify their voice to pass their agendas.

-OpEd-

The inauguration of Joe Biden opens a new chapter in the history of the United States, one filled with hopes that may quickly prove to be excessive. A new "New Deal" promises a shift in public health, diplomacy, and welfare for the American people.

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eyes on the U.S.
Julie Chauveau

What Trump's Twitter Ban Means For The Rest Of The World

By closing Donald Trump's social media accounts, the Big Tech platforms have recognized for the first time their fundamental responsibility for the content they broadcast. But for this and other reasons that now also means the regulators must step up.

-OpEd-

PARIS — Do we have the right to silence a man for taking extreme positions, particularly if we are a private company? And what if the individual in question is the democratically elected head of state? These philosophical questions have suddenly become urgent with Twitter's decision to ban the account of the American president, Donald Trump, after the whole world watched in dismay as his supporters invaded the Capitol.

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Geopolitics
Catherine Chatignoux

Rights v. Security: Europe's Inner Battle Against Terrorism

The Schengen Area is not a “sieve” that lets migrants in but, as recent events have shown, it is not a fortress either. The fundamental rights of individuals will always prevail over security requirements.

-Analysis-

PARIS — The journey of Brahim Aoussaoui, the jihadist who carried out an attack that killed three people in the Notre-Dame basilica in the southern French city of Nice on October 29, epitomizes the flaws of the Schengen Area.

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Geopolitics
David Barroux

Europe Is Right To Call Up Big Guns Against Big Tech

Europe is moving forward in a united front to force Big Tech that could lead to a historic showdown on the future of how the digital economy functions.

-OpEd-

PARIS — Facing the rise of Big Tech, which by now has crossed the line far too many times, European states had forgotten the three basic requirements that make any police force effective: political will and backing; the right laws to give it the means to take action; and, finally, it needs to be armed.

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