domingo, octubre 09, 2016




Europe’s Leadership Crisis

Guy Verhofstadt
. Newsart for Europe’s Leadership Crisis

BRUSSELS – The European Union’s list of crises keeps growing. But, beyond the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” vote to leave the bloc, Poland’s constitutional-court imbroglio, Russian expansionism, migrants and refugees, and resurgent nationalism, the greatest threat to the EU comes from within: a crisis of political leadership is paralyzing its institutions.
As if to prove the point, EU member states’ leaders (with the exception of UK Prime Minister Theresa May) met recently in Bratislava, Slovakia, in an attempt to demonstrate solidarity, and to kick-start the post-Brexit reform process. The attendees made some progress toward creating a European Defense Union, which should be welcomed, and toward admitting that the EU’s current organizational framework is unsustainable; but there was scant talk of meaningful institutional or economic reform.
Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s refusal, at the close of the summit, to appear onstage with French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all but confirmed fears that rudderless leadership is fueling institutional dysfunction. A summit that was supposed to be a display of unity revealed only further division.
EU leaders must take responsibility for this latest failure. For starters, they must stop issuing empty declarations. The EU’s institutional impotence is apparent, especially to its enemies. So now it faces a stark choice: a leap forward toward unification or inevitable disintegration.
Few Europeans want to make that choice. Many politicians are afraid of paying a high domestic political price for pursuing an agenda of EU reform. They argue that pushing for further integration in the current political climate is reckless, and that the EU should focus on doing less, better.
But that is a false trade-off. The EU could build a more integrated economic-governance model to increase investment and create jobs, while at the same time streamlining its operations to address common complaints about red tape and dysfunction.
Few European leaders seem to understand that the real risk to the EU – and to their own political futures – is the status quo. And with populist movements across Europe pummeling traditional parties in the polls, the window for delivering real change is quickly closing.
It does not have to be this way. Too many leaders are paying lip service to domestic nationalists and populists, mistakenly thinking that this will preserve their domestic poll ratings, when they should be showing genuine leadership and fighting for the common good.
Upcoming national elections in France and Germany will be bellwethers for the future of European leadership. In recent German state elections, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its government partner, the Social Democratic Party, experienced notable losses, which could mean that Germany’s grand coalition is at risk ahead of next year’s election. Meanwhile, support for the far-rightAlternative for Germany (AfD) continues to grow.
Merkel has two choices: She can move to the right, as former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has done in his latest bid for the French presidency, or she can fight to hold the center by addressing the AfD’s simplistic arguments head on. The choice is clear: Merkel should stand and fight, while also advancing an alternative vision for modernizing the EU.
Defeating populism will require leaders to acknowledge the people left behind as a result of globalization, but also to dispel the myth that there is a quick fix, or that globalization can simply be reversed. Contrary to populist arguments, protectionism will not reduce youth unemployment or income inequality. If EU countries reject trade deals currently under discussion, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the EU’s share of world trade will decrease, and the European economy will suffer for it.
Likewise, if the eurozone fails to integrate further by strengthening its economic-governance structures, Europe’s ongoing financial crisis will only continue, impeding social mobility and undermining social justice. It is time for EU leaders to make these arguments more effectively.
Across the West, the 2008 financial crisis triggered a political fight that is still in progress. It has changed from a battle for accountability and reform to a clash between visions of open and closed societies, between a global consensus and policies still operating at the national, local, or even tribal level.
If the EU is going to quell the revolt against globalization, free trade, and open societies, it will need more leaders and fewer managers. European leaders, frankly, should know better than to blame EU institutions, hypothetical trade deals, and refugees for their own failures to tackle unemployment and reduce inequality.
The EU’s current crisis-management playbook is running out of pages. We in Europe can either put our heads in the sand while the European project slowly dies, or we can use this crisis to start a new project of renewal and reform.
Here, too, the right choice is clear: EU leaders should offer Europeans a new social contract, based on the understanding that people’s legitimate fears about globalization should be met with a collective, progressive European response.
The EU has been a major force behind globalization, and only the EU has the power to help manage the consequences. European leaders must explain to their voters why nationalism cannot.

Damp squib: China’s foreign investment
For two decades, foreign direct investment flooded into China at an astonishing clip. But after reaching a peak of some $300 billion in 2013, foreign inflows have cooled just as Chinese direct investment overseas has skyrocketed.
To win back jittery investors, China’s leaders have promised to liberalise investment laws. On Saturday several much-heralded revisions to China’s foreign-investment laws will come into force. Leaders promise a shift from a regime reliant on politicised administrative approvals to a registration system involving just a short “negative list” of forbidden investments. Sadly there is less to the latest reforms than meets the eye.
Nothing in them puts foreign firms on an equal legal footing with local ones, for example. Also, there are already signs of bureaucratic resistance to the shift to a registration system. Leaders must do more if they want to persuade foreign investors the welcome mat is out.

The Best News You Don’t Know

Nicholas Kristof

    A schoolgirl in Nairobi, Kenya. Credit Tobin Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images        

The world is a mess, with billions of people locked in inescapable cycles of war, famine and poverty, with more children than ever perishing from hunger, disease and violence.
That’s about the only thing Americans agree on; we’re polarized about all else. But several polls have found that about 9 out of 10 Americans believe that global poverty has worsened or stayed the same over the last 20 years.
Fortunately, the one point Americans agree on is dead wrong.
As world leaders gather for the United Nations General Assembly this week, all the evidence suggests that we are at an inflection point for the ages. The number of people living in extreme poverty ($1.90 per person per day) has tumbled by half in two decades, and the number of small children dying has dropped by a similar proportion — that’s six million lives a year saved by vaccines, breast-feeding promotion, pneumonia medicine and diarrhea treatments!
Historians may conclude that the most important thing going on in the world in the early 21st century was a stunning decline in human suffering.

 A crowded train in Mumbai, India. Credit Rajanish Kakade/Associated Press                    

O.K., you’re thinking that I’ve finally cracked up after spending too much time in desperate places. So a few data points:
■ As recently as 1981, when I was finishing college, 44 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. Now the share is believed to be less than 10 percent and falling. “This is the best story in the world today,” says Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank.
■ For the entire history of the human species until the 1960s, a majority of adults were illiterate. Now 85 percent of adults worldwide are literate and the share is rising.
The U.N. aims to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, and experts believe it is possible to get quite close. In short, on our watch, we have a decent chance of virtually wiping out ills that have plagued humanity for thousands of generations, from illiteracy to the most devastating kind of hand-to-mouth poverty.
Yet the public thinks the opposite, that poverty is getting worse. A poll to be released Thursday by Motivaction, a Dutch firm, finds that only 1 percent of Americans surveyed realized that global extreme poverty had fallen by half over 20 years.
I wonder if those of us in journalism and the humanitarian worlds don’t err by focusing so much on human misery that we leave the public with the misperception that everything is always getting worse.
I’ve covered massacres in South Sudan, concentration camps in Myanmar and widespread stunting in India, but it’s also important to acknowledge the backdrop of global progress. Otherwise, the public may perceive poverty as hopeless and see no point in carrying on the fight — at just the point when we’re making the most rapid gains ever recorded.
When I first made the acquaintance of the developing world, as a backpacking law student in the 1980s, sometimes riding on tops of trains or buses and writing articles to pay my expenses, the most gut-wrenching aspect of poverty I encountered was ubiquitous blind beggars, robbed of dignity and any chance to be productive.
This is much less common today, partly because humanitarian aid — despite real shortcomings — has made a profound difference in health. The heroic work of former President Jimmy Carter and pharmaceutical donations from Merck have made river blindness less common. Vitamin A capsules costing 2 cents a dose have reduced blindness as well. Antibiotics have helped curb blinding trachoma. And a simple $25 surgery developed by a Nepali ophthalmologist, Dr. Sanduk Ruit, lets people suffering from cataracts see again.
The scenes of blind beggars on every street corner will soon be gone forever.
Cynics scoff that if more children’s lives are saved, they will just grow up to have more babies and cause new famines and cycles of poverty. Not so! In fact, when parents are assured that their children will survive, they choose to have fewer of them. As girls are educated and contraception becomes available, birthrates tumble — just as they did in the West. Indian women now average just 2.4 births, Indonesian women 2.5, and Mexican women just 2.2.
So in a moment we can return to urgent needs worldwide, from war to climate change to refugees.
But first, let’s pause for a nanosecond of silence to acknowledge the greatest gains in human well-being in the history of our species — not to inspire complacency, but rather to spur our efforts to accelerate what may be the most important trend in the world today.