Wednesday, 29 January 2020

A plan that has no wings

The “peace plan” President Trump presented yesterday is not acceptable to the Palestinian side, as the initial reactions have shown. There is no surprise here. The document is basically an endorsement of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s views and an instrument to boost his chances during the forthcoming general election. Apparently, it is not adding any support to the Prime Minister’s electoral fortunes, but it is too early to conclude so.

The important point is that one of the two parties to the solution does not recognise President Trump’s initiative as positive. The President, if he really wanted to move the peace process forward, should start by a couple of goodwill gestures. He should authorise the reopening of the Palestine Delegation in Washington, a delegation he ordered to be closed in 2018. He should also resume the US funding contribution to the UN Agency that provides support to the Palestinians (UNRWA). And be much clearer about the future of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, two extremely sensitive points. Here, his position should be that both issues must be part of the agreement, without any position of force being stated since day one. Finally, he should establish a link between his vision and the Arab Peace Plan of 2002.

Well, all this is daydreaming, on my side. The truth of the matter is summarised by one single word: partiality.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

A one-sided peace plan

I decided long ago not to write about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The main reason has been that I do not see a solution to it unless the United States plays a balanced role in the peace process. The US is the only country that can help Israel to adopt a reasonable approach and encourage the country’s leaders to engage the Palestinian side in a mutually beneficial way.

With time, the trust has been seriously eroded and peace has become less and less viable. The basis for a resolution has gradually been undermined. In fact, the obstacles have gained additional volume during the past few years.

Today, President Trump launched what he calls “a peace plan” for Israel and Palestine. The plan is very close to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ambitions. Secondly, it does not consider that peace must come from within, from the involvement of the parties to the conflict. In the case, the Palestinians have not been heard, they have been excluded from the plan’s design. They could still be interested in taking this project and negotiate it. But I doubt. The proposal goes too far in the Israeli direction. And without the Palestinian buy-in there is no true plan.

Let’s in meantime wait for a more detailed reaction from the Palestinian side. Even if one can guess what it might be.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Lots of billions lost to flu

Today, we are challenged again to reflect about resources, availability of wealth and how vast amounts of money can be spent wisely or just evaporate. It is also a call to reflect about priorities, decide on the appropriate ones and how to fund them. More concretely, all this is about uncertainty and its impact on capital markets, on short-term decisions and, in the end, on the minds of people.
Today’s uncertainty is about the coronavirus.

More concretely, almost every stock in the STOXX 600, the largest European share index, are trading since this morning in negative territory, in the red, as the specialists say. This represents around 180 billion euros the investors have lost during the day, just today. This is about 2% of the entire capital invested in those companies. But it is a lot of money that has faded away.

The investors are pessimistic about the impact of the virus and the capacity to control its transmission. A friend from the East Asia region told me that, in the current state of world affairs, “when China sneezes, the rest of the world catches the flu virus!” It is not exactly like that. But for sure the Europeans that negotiate in the capital markets got high fever today.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Beijing and the coronavirus messages

The Chinese people are now very well connected through social media. They share information and images freely, as long as they make use of the approved platforms and applications and the subjects are not politically censored. The people’s information is more trusted than the official information provided by the government and its media-subordinated outlets.

This is now the situation with coronavirus epidemic. Most of the information is obtained through social platforms. And they show that the health services are under extraordinary pressure and cannot respond to all the demands. They also show that some districts bordering the affected areas are taking local initiatives that are not necessarily approved by Beijing. These initiatives included roadblocks and interdictions. They have all the trademarks of spontaneous, impulsive actions. That seems to indicate serious panicking and a bit of chaos. 

It is true that this is a major challenge. The messages coming from the centre, from the leadership, show concern but lack the necessary reassurances that an emergency like this one requires. I get the impression that the official communication strategy is still unclear and unfocused.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Coronavirus: a complex emergency

The Chinese leaders are deeply concerned with the risks of propagation of the coronavirus. This is a highly infectious disease. It is disrupting the daily lives of millions in China and becoming a major political challenge for the authorities, besides being an extremely complex public health problem. The exceptional measures taken so far cannot last for too long without creating a vast discontentment among the Chinese people, particularly those who live in the most affected region, the Hubei Province. The gravity of the current situation and the fact that it keeps expanding fast explain the attention President Xi and his party’s top bosses are paying to this health emergency.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Greta, the Davos star

Greta Thunberg came out of this year’s Davos meeting as a giant, a fundamental voice in today’s world. Throughout the conference she behaved with decorum. She was her own person, no pretentiousness and no deviation from her core message, which is the best approach when you are leading a campaign. The clarity and intelligence of her speeches impressed me once more. And all that at the age of 17.

Thursday, 23 January 2020


I am impressed by the presentations made so far by the House Impeachment Managers. They are building a serious case against President Trump. It is smart to repeatedly quote statements proffered in past occasions by those that today are dead against the impeachment.  

We all know that the case will be dismissed in the end, because the President’s party will decide along partisan lines. Their decision is to protect the President, independently of the merits of the case. And the President, then, will try to ride on that acquittal and move to a higher gear in terms of his re-election campaign. OK, it’s expected, it is part of the political game. He will take a discernible advantage of his malpractices. But the Democrats had no other option but to impeach. Today, more than ever, it is important to act based on principles.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Young people have travelled to Davos 2020

Everybody knows that Professor Klaus Schwab, the creator and the soul of the annual Davos conference, is a very sensible and intelligent person. This year he has given a lot of space to the very young. They participate as speakers in various forums at the Davos World Economic Forum 2020. And they are all over, in the rooms and corridors where key global issues are being discussed. The teenagers and the young people he invited are also very diverse in terms of ethnicity and place of origin. But they have a few common traits. They are seriously committed to their cause, they do not act for the limelight, meaning that they are genuinely interested in creating a mass movement and just be part of it, and they are very good at communicating their messages. In the end, beyond all the problems they raise, they carry a banner of hope. They value values, and that’s the way forward. That is a big change in international affairs. And the Davos meeting shows that political leaders are getting to realise that they better listen to these young activists.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Davos messages

From today’s reports about Davos (WEF 2020), I take home two important observations. One, that we should always keep in mind the two billion people that are the poorest in the world. The bottom 2 billion. They can be lifted out of poverty if there is political will. And they are the ones that will be the most impacted by climate changes and environmental crises. The second one is about the political leaders. They must show a new level of commitment and leadership. They cannot just think about the next elections. They must learn how to speak to the people about the future and positive change. Values must prevail over opportunism.

Monday, 20 January 2020

France has become a political pandemonium

The French political atmosphere is not acceptable. There is too much mass violence on the streets, too many social demands that are far from being realistic, all that combined with excessive fragmentation and radicalisation of the political parties. Parties have become very marginal in the setting of the national agenda.

The country needs some deep social reforms but there is no political actor strong enough to carry them out. President Emmanuel Macron has not been able to put across his view of the country’s future. He speaks to a small minority that is still prepared to listen to him. He lost the leadership of the process. His concern now is to minimise the opposition to his person and his initiatives. It is sad to see him being overtaken by the radicals that populate the trade unions and the political class. He is walking a route called failure. I am not sure he will be able to change the course of such a route.
All this has a serious impact on his capacity to play a leading role in the transformation of the EU. Macron’s domestic difficulties translate into a very weak and distant capacity to shape the European politics.

We are unfortunately very far from the hope he represented when elected.

We are also very surprised by the radicalism France is experiencing. There is no other country like that in the EU political space.