Monthly Archives: May 2014

Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary, has accused China of using intimidation and coercion to assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea and said America “will not look the other way”.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian defence forum, Mr Hagel said China ​had in recent months undermined​ its own claims that the South China Sea was a “sea of peace, friendship and co-operation”. 

Gideon Rachman

Park Geun-hye (Getty)

This is obviously the week for international conferences. The global elite have just convened at the Bilderberg conference in Denmark. Asian politicians and generals have descended on Singapore for the International Institute for Strategic Studies annual “Shangri-La dialogue” – which was opened with a keenly-awaited speech by Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister. Meanwhile, I have just spent a couple of days at the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity – which is billed as the Korean Davos.

The weather in Jeju is a considerable improvement on Davos, as is the fact that the event takes place in a single resort hotel – rather than being spread all over town. However, like Davos, Jeju covers an eclectic range of topics. The core of the discussions are security issues – which is unsurprising given that North Korea is just an hour’s flight away. 

Gideon Rachman

Jean-Claude Juncker (Getty)

The fact that the leaders of the 28 EU nations are not rushing to appoint Jean-Claude Juncker as the next head of the European Commission is being denounced in the European Parliament – and elsewhere – as an affront to democracy. After all, say the parliamentarians, the main pan-European parties in the European elections all nominated leading candidates (Spitzenkandidaten) – who were their standard-bearers and nominees to be head of the European Commission. The poor-old voters were told that, if the centre-right EPP came out ahead, then Mr Juncker of Luxembourg was the chosen one. The EPP have now duly emerged as the biggest bloc and yet European political leaders are not leaping to appoint Juncker. No wonder the voters are bitterly disillusioned, and Euroscepticism is on the march!

Well, that’s the argument, anyway. But it needs to be pointed out that the idea that the European electorate has just risen up – en masse – and demanded that Jean-Claude Juncker should be their leader is laughable nonsense. 

By Stacy-Marie Ishmael

I still remember how I felt when I read these words, Maya Angelou’s words. Because I still feel it today. Breathless, simultaneously more alive and less. How did she know, I wondered, at 11, at 22, at almost 30. How did she know. 

The fallout from the European elections
The recent European Parliament elections have transformed the continent’s political landscape. Anti-establishment parties have scored remarkable victories in countries such as France, Greece and the UK while mainstream forces have done less well. But good results for Angela Merkel’s CDU in Germany and Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party in Italy show voters have not completely turned their backs on the EU. In this week’s podcast, Ferdinando Giugliano is joined by Tony Barber, Europe editor, Hugh Carnegy, Paris bureau chief, and Guy Dinmore, Rome correspondent, to discuss the fallout from the elections

  • Borzou Daragahi reports on how the violence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon is merging into a single sectarian war whose Shia and Sunni protagonists are receiving support from regional powers “amid a dizzying and ever-changing cast of militia leaders, jihadi adventurers, sectarian politicians and rogue gangs dressed up as political groups”.
  • As for the conflict in Ukraine, Courtney Weaver discovers that dozens of Chechen fighters have joined pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, claiming to have been ordered there by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. “They’ve killed one of our guys and we will not forget this,” said Magomed, a 30 year-old Chechen fighter with a wolf tattooed across his chest. “We will take one hundred of their lives for the life our brother.”
  • On the European front, “the outcome of the European elections (at home and elsewhere) paves the way for Italy to play an active role in Europe,” says the Bruegel think-tank as it chews over the success of Matteo Renzi and the Democratic party. But now that Renzi has a mandate, “Italy should play a role and put itself forward as a decided leader in the project of more European integration.”
  • One for a quiet moment and a cup of coffee: The Guardian has gone deep into “enemy territory” and produced an outsider’s guide to the City of London. “I am trying to understand the culture of the City; to find out whether those who work there have learned the lessons of the crash of 2007-08, and if the City can ever be made ‘disaster proof’,” writes Stephen Moss.
  • On that note, Martin Wolf ponders the crisis-prone nature of capitalism and asks what governments must do to minimise the damage without having to resort to the comprehensive measures needed after the last crash.

 

By Scheherazade Daneshkhu

Some good news for a change. Food security - the availability and affordability of food – has got better, according to research published on Wednesday.

The 66-page report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by DuPont, the chemicals company, found that despite last year’s freak weather patterns - drought in California, heatwaves in Australia and floods in Russia – food security improved in almost three-quarters of the world’s countries. 

David Gardner

The focus in last week’s European elections was on the seismic waves of the distinct currents of Euro-populism and reaction that “earthquaked” to the top of the polls in France, Britain (or at least England), Denmark and Greece. But arguably the most intriguing insurgency was Podemos (We Can) in Spain, a phenomenon worth examining outside the swish and swirl of populism.

Much of what I have seen written about Podemos has them “coming out of nowhere” – a cliché employed by politicians and analysts that means “we didn’t see them coming”. Yet a three-month-old party with a budget of barely €100,000 shot into fourth place with one and a quarter million votes and five seats in the European Parliament – similar to Syriza, the Greek left-wing party they plan to hitch up with.

The eruption of Podemos and its compellingly outspoken leader, Pablo Iglesias, has already triggered the fall of Alfredo Perez Rubalcalba, the Socialist secretary general who has presided over the party’s worst electoral performance since democracy was restored in 1977-78. But while obviously a rising current of a new left, Podemos could be a broader catalyst for political change in Spain and beyond. 

Maija Palmer

Tony Barber, the FT’s Europe editor, and Peter Spiegel, Brussels bureau chief on whether populist parties will change European politics.

 

By Gideon Rachman
Read the headlines about political extremism on the march in the European papers this morning and you might conclude that Europe is succumbing to political hysteria. But the biggest danger is not actually hysteria, it is complacency. It is highly likely that, when Europe’s leaders meet on Tuesday night, they will attempt to shrug off the results of the European elections and retreat into politics as usual. That would be a big mistake – possibly a fatal one.