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Crossroad Years

Crossroad Years Sensing 2019, with a tint of 1989 and a glow of 2020+

Human beings are obsessed with identifying trends and motifs in the passage of historical ages and to personalize, even deify, their geographical cradles. From the very sages of cultures and civilization(s) to the common folk, it seems that every turn and twist of time might have a logic of its own, as every chunk of space is teeming with life in its particular rhythms. This craze prevails. It is “sustainable”.

2019 was a year that looked unspectacular on many accounts. Exempli gratia: it did not host an edition of the Olympic Games, nor a world football championship. For many, enough reason to be forgettable. For others, it is just another year out of Trump’s whimsical reign or of the Brexit saga, to mention two of the outstanding subjects of “mondain talking” in the “global village”.

1989, on the contrary, is an extensively celebrated year. And it is one of the reasons that 2019 acquired a breeze of fame, marking its 30th anniversary. 1989 marked not the end of socialism, but the end of the illusion that it is “the” geo-economic alternative to the Western capitalism, nor the end of “the” Cold War, but the start of a warm truce, in an eternally glacial geo-politics.

2020 is the year coming after most of the reveries on 1989, performed in 2019, have been exhausted and it is also the beginning of the third millennium (or 21st century) “twenties”. This year is full of fears on arguably incoming (and, if so, definitely global) financial and/or ecological and/or technological crises. Or put differently: all eyes on computers/climate/China.

The coming documentary dossier, recollecting 2019 events, with a look back to 1989 and a (fore)sight beyond the 2020 horizons, is just a journalistic “essay”, not an ultra-professional study. It is made by students in two master programs at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies – “Diplomacy” and “Geopolitics” – as a testimony of their concerns about such crossroad years.

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Calendar

January
New Candidates for Old Dilemmas – Brazil in 1989 vs. 2019
Ioana Zamfir & Florian-Alexandru Vlad

February
Changing Names but Not Identities: The Case of North Macedonia
Ciprian-Mădălin Iliescu

March
Inter Spem et Metum: Italy Signs on to the Belt and Road Initiative
Ilinca-Iulia Ilie

April
The Sunset of an Era in the Land of the Rising Sun
Roxana-Andreea Alecu

May
A (Nuclear) Chain Reaction: Iran’s Retreat from the Nuclear Deal
Elena-Adriana Vlădescu

June
G20: A Diamond with (Still) Many Rough Edges to Smooth Out
Andreea Sandu & Ioana-Andreea Chiciuc

July
Two Continents, One Vision at the 17th EU-Canada Summit
Bianca Zaporojanu & Valentina-Alexandra Niță

August
Of Missiles and Men: Implications of the US Withdrawal from the INF Treaty
Valentin-Ionuț Costea & Georgian Ioniță

September
Huffing and Puffing or Just Bluffing? A View on the Iranian Attack on Saudi Arabia’s Oil Production
Iuliana-Denisa Androne & Cătălina-Elena Anghelescu

October
Microscopic Victories That Animate Macroscopic Hopes: Polio Vanquished
Alexandru-Cezar Colceru

November
UN: “Zimbabwe Is on the Brink of Man-made Starvation”
Ioana-Cosmina Farmate

December
The French Revolution, Take 2?
Ștefania-Cristina Bădîrcea & Ioana-Andreea Catană

Dealing with the Climate Change Crisis, One Summit at a Time. Now: Madrid
Ioana-Ruxandra Lesnic

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January 

New Candidates for Old Dilemmas – Brazil in 1989 vs. 2019 

Ioana Zamfir & Florian-Alexandru Vlad

In 1985, the military dictatorship in Brazil came to an end, when Tancredo Neves was elected President by the electoral college. After his death, José Sarney, the elected Vice-President, took office. Although there were suspicions regarding Sarney’s affiliations, since he was a member of the military regime’s official party, Sarney’s Government was in charge of the gradual redemocratization of the country, as Neves promised. In 1986, the National Constituent Assembly was instated and promulgated a new Constitution on November 5, 1988.

The 1988 Constitution laid the groundwork for the first direct presidential elections in Brazil, in 1989. It is one of the most important events in Brazil’s political history, as those were the very first elections in almost 30 years, when citizens could vote directly for their president-to-be. Since none of the twenty-two candidates who qualified for the election race managed to obtain the majority of valid votes in the first round (November 15, 1989), a second round was held on December 17, with Fernando Collor de Mello, of the National Reconstruction Party, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, of the Workers’ Party, as the main contenders. The two candidates had quite singular careers. Collor started out as an unknown politician and rose steadily. In the other corner, Lula was originally a metalworker. Collor defeated Lula in the 1989’s controversial presidential race, when Abílio Diniz, a businessman, was the victim of political kidnapping a few days prior to the second round of elections. This incident is acknowledged as an attempt to sabotage Lula’s campaign, by associating the event with the left wing.

Lula did not lose confidence after failing to win the elections in 1989. He continued to run until 2002 when he was finally elected, featuring a slogan of “peace and love”. The success of his two terms marked Lula’s terms as the best years for many Brazilians, especially for the working class. Taking all these aspects into consideration, it is safe to say that a candidate in Lula’s image had the potential to be one of the people’s favourites for the 2019 elections, who could make the runoff against Bolsonaro. Thus, once again, Brazil found itself at a turning point, and on October 7, 2018 the most important presidential elections in the country’s history took place. For the last two decades, the Workers’ Party has led the country, but now Jair Bolsonaro, representing the Social Liberal Party, won the majority. He is considered a far-right candidate, known for his ultraconservative and deeply offensive rhetoric.

During the military regime (1965-1985), Jair Bolsonaro began his military career as an army captain. When this regime collapsed, Bolsanaro entered politics as a devoted far-right conservative. He continuously shows an affinity for the military dictatorship, an aspect which helped him gain a lot of support from the population, especially in a period characterized by crime and violence. Consequently, Bolsonaro is seen as a solution for Brazil, a country in a deep crisis. As of January 1, 2020, he is the President-Elect of Brazil. There are many questions that still need to be answered, but the biggest ones at this point are: Is Bolsonaro the best choice for Brazil? Will he be able to defeat the crisis that arose in the country? Is he going to end the political corruption, the crimes and the violence against its own people? Only time will tell whether history will repeat itself or not. 

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February 

Changing Names but Not Identities: The Case of North Macedonia 

Ciprian-Mădălin Iliescu

February 12, 2019 marked the end of a 28-year long dispute, as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) officially changed its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

After declaring independence from Yugoslavia back in 1991, the country chose to use the name Macedonia. This act severely worsened its relations with Greece, which is home to a region with the same name. The problem stemmed mainly from the use of the term “Macedonian”, and its historical origins. Macedonia was a Hellenic kingdom that Alexander the Great hailed from. The region was Greek speaking and Greek in culture. Alexander was born in Pella, Macedonia’s capital, which today is located near Thessaloniki in Greece. North Macedonians, on the other hand, descend from a Slavic tribe that was granted permission to settle on the outer parts of the Byzantine Empire. When their Slavic descendants, speaking a Slavic language, started naming their country Macedonia, the controversy ignited. This was taken further when Macedonians started claiming that Alexander the Great was “their” national hero. And while most historians agree that the Slavic Macedonia has no connection with ancient Macedonia, the name remained unchanged.

Contrary to news headlines, the name change is only a small part of the deal between the two neighbours. In fact, the question on the ballots written for the 2018 referendum regarding this issue simply stated: “Are you in favour of European Union and NATO membership by accepting the agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?”

The question above represents what truly matters to the country: once the deal was finalized, Greece (a member of both EU and NATO) would provide full support to North Macedonia’s membership applications to both alliances. This is especially important since the decision of accepting future members to the EU (including negotiations) has to be unanimous. Furthermore, the integration of more Balkan countries into the EU and NATO is seen by most members as a way of improving the region’s stability, a space fragmented by wars and conflict throughout the past few decades.

Zoran Zaev, the current Prime Minister of North Macedonia, was hoping that the vote would be a resounding success and would muster full support for the deal with Greece. However, opposition parties successfully boycotted the vote, which resulted in an underwhelming 37% turnout, which was too low for it to legally pass according to the country’s law. And even though over 90% of those who did vote were in favour of the deal, such a result was probably obvious to most from a statistical point of view. Still, Mr. Zaev decided to push forward with the deal anyway, by changing the country’s constitution, with a two-thirds vote in their Parliament.

For NATO, the agreement has followed through. The Republic of North Macedonia is expected to become a full NATO member in 2020, once Spain (the only country left to agree) ratifies the accession protocol. The EU situation, however, is more delicate. On October 12, 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron blocked North Macedonia from opening EU membership talks. This in turn was seen by many as a duplicitous move on the EU’s part, since the latter had promised to start entry talks, provided that the Macedonians put an end to their disputes with Greece (among other conditions). France claims that North Macedonia still needs more reforms before talks can be initiated. Paris was alone in its rejection, which unfortunately for North Macedonia was enough since, as stated, unanimity is a requirement. Jean-Claude Juncker called the event “a major historical mistake”, while EU Council President Donald Tusk stated: “It’s not a failure, it’s a mistake. I feel really embarrassed”.

As a result, pro-democracy citizens of North Macedonia felt that the doors to the EU were “slammed shut” in their face for no apparent reason despite their recent efforts – at least, for now. In addition, Zoran Zaev finds himself in a precarious position. Pro-EU North Macedonian voters, with their hopes shattered, will return to the polls on April 12, 2020, for the parliamentary election. Opposition parties, on the other hand, have all the ammunition required to fire at the current Prime Minister: the EU’s refusal, the controversial manner in which the name change was effected, as well as the bitterness of an important part of the population over this decision.

Following the signing of the Prespa Agreement, the EU had an opportunity to prove its power as a promoter of stability, peace and economic growth. France’s decision regarding North Macedonia (as well as Albania), could be a major contributor into sinking the Balkans back into fragmentation and instability. Yet, the European Union (mainly France) refused to give North Macedonia a chance to even negotiate. Whether North Macedonia will be willing to give the EU a second chance in its turn remains to be seen this April. 

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March 

Inter Spem et Metum: Italy Signs on to the Belt and Road Initiative 

Ilinca-Iulia Ilie

Whether we are talking about the combined military efforts of Syrian troops and international forces which culminated in the fall of ISIS, or the political turmoil that plunged the United Kingdom into chaos beyond the Brexit deadline of March 29, one thing can be said for sure – the month of March 2019 had the international community torn between a sense of hope and fear. The terrorist attacks at the Christchurch mosque, New Zealand, appealed to the generalized state of international civilian vulnerability, with some reassurances coming from the various Aviation Administrations’ decision to ground the Boeing 737 Max, following two airplane crashes.

Given the common theme of hope and fear for the future, one cannot help but point out Italy’s decision to sign on to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as a milestone of the emerging architecture of trade in Eurasia. On March 23, 2019, during a lavish ceremony at the Villa Madama in Rome, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte shook hands with the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, officially making Italy the first major Western and G7 power to enter the BRI.

At that time, a number of questions arose from Italy’s decision, especially given the major potential implication for the known world order. First of all, would this act have a domino effect, resulting in other Western powers joining the BRI? Given EU-China doubts and the US-China trade frictions, would Italy’s decision impact its international standing? How much exactly would Chinese economic influence extend globally? Almost one year later, we can only say with certainty that Greece is the only fully vested BRI participant, and that Italy just received light disapproving comments from Washington and other EU member states. Nonetheless, taking into consideration that the US-China relations are sailing towards calmer waters with the phase-one trade negotiations being to some extent agreed upon, there are reasons to expect more auspicious relations between China and the West in 2020, despite occasional tensions. This being said, it is worth revisiting the premises for Italy’s participation in BRI.

Romeo Orlandi, Vice President of the Italy-ASEAN Association and President of the Think Tank Osservatorio Asia, explains in an interview for The Diplomat that Italy’s interests are threefold. The first two reasons are economic by nature; Italy seeks to restore commercial balance in bilateral trade, and it also needs to attract foreign investments. He then presents a more politically oriented rationale: “the current government is inspired by anti-establishment sentiments and the EU is identified with the traditional order”. Compared to geostrategic and political interests, the economic interest tends to isolate itself as one of the most important criteria in Italy’s decision.

If the economic landscape of Italy is anything like an ancient Greek theatre, then China’s presence is nothing short of a “Deus ex Machina” intervention. Over the last ten years, Italy managed to attract Chinese foreign investments adding up to 23 billion USD. What is more, the current populist government of Conte is trying to secure greenfield investments and believes that strengthening ties with Beijing will help to finance fiscal reforms at a national level. Consequently, the current Italian government chose to take decisive action, despite or because of years of lacking concrete achievements in Italy’s policy towards China. Another change needed to be made concerning Italy’s position on China at EU level, resulting in coordinated efforts of Italian officials to downplay security and economic risks related to BRI participation.

We should not forget that, despite initial negative reactions to Italy’s participation, each EU Member State respectively has a business model with China. Germany already has five joint railway projects with China, and Emmanuel Macron’s recent visit in China brings back to our attention how aging French infrastructure represents an opportunity for cooperation under BRI. Following the visit to Italy, Xi Jinping went to France, where he presented President Macron with orders for Airbus worth tens of billions of euros. Therefore, following the rationale of economic interests, there are plenty of EU Member States that could intensify cooperation with China, and eventually sign on to BRI. Even without a formal entrance into the BRI, Eastern states (including EU members and aspiring members from the Balkans), for instance, have their own framework for cooperation with China, the “17+1”. With the Huawei ban in the US, China has turned to Europe as a potential market for the 5G technology. According to the European Union Lobby Register, Huawei spent in 2019 more than 3 billion USD on advertising and lobby campaigns. And, despite the public reluctance of EU leaders, European stakeholders seem to be more than happy to take on the 5G offer. Italy’s Industry Minister, Stefano Patuanelli, stated in December 2019, that “Huawei offers the best solutions at the best prices”.

However, the strengthened Beijing-Rome ties may open the door to black swans. The political environment in Europe is a constant negotiation of spheres of influence. On one side you have major European powers, such as France and Germany, with contrasting views, that try to fill the power vacuum left by the United Kingdom. Then you have the Russian Federation’s expansion, North Stream 2 project, interests in the Black Sea, and the United States’ mixed responses. When you add China, another member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) along with Russia, in the mix, a number of issues arise.

John Mearsheimer predicted that we should be expecting a strong alliance meant to balance Western powers in the decades to come. The SCO summit from June and BRICS summit from November reinforced this idea. With the Black Sea emerging as the meeting point of NATO and SCO spheres of influence, there is no way of predicting what increased Chinese presence in the area would bring in terms of security and stability. From China’s perspective, Italy’s participation in the initiative most certainly carries a symbolic connotation. It is safe to say that Italy’s decision gave courage to China to further pursue other European partners. This is true especially for CEE countries, where China continues to strengthen its economic presence via the “17+1” format.

If we are to turn back the clock to 30 years ago, we would notice how the international landscape was yet again dominated by a sense of hope and fear. While the fall of the Berlin Wall announced an era of promise and freedom, the thwarted protests in the Tiananmen Square secured the Chinese Communist Party’s grip on power. Paradoxically, 1989 was the year that announced an autocracy as the rising power of the 21st century. It is important to note that in the last month of 2019, the Chinese Ambassador to France openly asked the European Union to back the Belt and Road Initiative. Despite the lack of overt political support, economic premises for BRI participation exist all throughout Europe. Therefore, 2020 can be a year full of surprises in what concerns EU-China relations. Italy’s participation in BRI has the potential to remain in history as the Western World’s first step towards what scholars call the Asian Century. Just like Marco Polo’s journey into China, Italy seems to take the lead travelling along the new Silk Road.

While Asian countries, such as Sri Lanka or India, are warning of risks, such as political servitude and unpayable debt, maybe an unignorable economic need is all that is required to sign on to BRI, the “project of the century”. 

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April 

The Sunset of an Era in the Land of the Rising Sun 

Roxana-Andreea Alecu

The Emperor of Japan has abdicated. One might ask oneself, why is this event so important? And there is a simple answer: because of its historical significance. He is the first Japanese monarch that made the decision to willingly abdicate in 200 years. Everyone was taken aback by this decision and it was something new for the Japanese Imperial Family and the citizens of Japan.

To begin with, let us sketch the portrait of the emperor. His birth name is Tsugu Akihito and he was born on December 23, 1933. His father was Emperor Hirohito and he succeeded to the Chrysanthemum Throne on January 7, 1989, starting the Heisei era. Japanese Emperor Akihito abdicated on April 30, 2019, after 30 years of ruling the country. He was succeeded by his son, Naruhito, and a new era began, Reiwa (“beautiful harmony”). The succession to the Japanese imperial house is regulated by a special law, not by the Constitution, a law which provides neither for abdication nor the possibility of a woman coming to the throne. In order for this change to be possible, the Diet, the parliament of Japan, had to adopt a new special law that would allow Emperor Akihito to give up the Chrysanthemum Throne. At the abdication ceremony, due to the importance of this event, several foreign personalities were invited, including other royal families in the world, as well as heads of states.

Let us have a look at the reign of Emperor Akihito. Due to the 1946 Constitution, the emperor lost his political power, remaining only with the position of “symbol of the State and the unity of the people”. Even though he had no power in the parliament or government, he performed other duties, such as maintaining international relations with other states, receiving international guests, and visiting other countries to maintain Japan’s peace and prosperity. Also, he kept in touch with the people, being a constant figure in the eyes of the populace. He was close to them during difficult times such as natural disasters, visiting the affected areas as well as the victims of these incidents. The people had a solid affection for their emperor.

While in the year 2019, the emperor stepped down, 30 years ago – more precisely, in 1989 – he ascended to the throne. Since the beginning of his reign and up until his resignation, Akihito had tried to restore the image of Japan to the world. He had sought to fulfil Japan’s peaceful vision as exemplified by his countless visits with Empress Michiko to former battlefields in the Asia-Pacific region, where he paid tribute to the victims of the Second World War. Akihito expressed regret over the actions of the Japanese military in China and Korea. He helped build a peaceful image of Japan and strengthen relations with South Korea and China, leaving the past behind, even when Prime Minister Shinzō Abe promoted an active military policy for Japan.

For 30 years, the Emperor restored Japan, restored its prestige, brought its people close, tried to maintain a union and ensured the continuity of the imperial family on a better path. Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko’s official titles will henceforth be Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita, respectively. 

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May 

A (Nuclear) Chain Reaction: Iran’s Retreat from the Nuclear Deal 

Elena-Adriana Vlădescu

Exactly one year after the US retreat from the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, Tehran announced on May 8, 2019 reciprocal actions. Under this agreement, Iran had limited its uranium exploitation capacity in exchange for lifting most international sanctions. Also, the main stipulations of the nuclear agreement with Iran include the closure of more than two thirds of its centrifuge – reducing the number from 19.000 to 6.000; removing or diluting 95% of the country’s uranium and allowing extended program controls over a period of 25 years.

On the same day, Iran announced that it was suspending the implementation of some of the commitments made under the agreement, in response to the unilateral denunciation of this pact a year before by the US. Therefore, according to the Supreme Council of National Security, Iran will cease limiting its uranium reserves. Tehran gave 60 days to the other countries involved in the agreement to put into practice their promises to protect the banking and oil sectors against Washington sanctions, which in turn announced a further tightening of economic sanctions against Iran, threatening to take further measures if Tehran does not radically change its attitude.

Four days later, on May 12, four oil tankers from Saudi Arabia were damaged near the Fujirah port of the Gulf of Oman. The oil was to be delivered to the American customers of the largest oil company in the world. Fortunately, the attack did not result in oil leaks or human injuries, even though the ships were significantly damaged as a result of the assault. Two days after the strikes on the Gulf of Oman oil tankers, two oil pipelines in Saudi Arabia were attacked by explosive-armed drones, the event being described by Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih as “a terrorist act on global oil supply”. The two oil pipelines that were hit belong to the Saudi company Aramco, and the raid forced the oil company to suspend its operations for a period of time.

Although Saudi Arabia had not explicitly blamed Iran, US officials said that they suspected Tehran, though it is not clear whether the attack was linked mainly to Iran-US tensions, to the Yemen civil war that began in 2015 or to the intervention led by Saudi Arabia there. On the face of it, these moves are the result of the aggressive strategy adopted by the US Administration against Iran over the past two years, in which it constantly called on the Tehran regime to change its attitude, condemning the regional activities, support for terrorism and nuclear ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran. On May 25, a few days after Donald Trump warned that in the event of a conflict the official end of Iran would take place, he declared that ongoing tensions with Iran represent a national emergency.

Going back in time, around 1989, international isolation and strained relations with the United States complicated Iran’s efforts to rebuild its nuclear program. German companies withdrew from Iran, and, under strong US pressure, several foreign governments refused any nuclear cooperation with Tehran. To this day, Donald Trump has wanted to change American policy towards Iran and has consistently condemned the Tehran regime, characterizing it as fanatical. In the period between 1980 and 1992 the relations between the two states were marked by tensions, with little exceptions, when their relationship was virtually frozen. A possible improvement could have occurred in 1989, when Iranian President Akbar Rasfanjani facilitated the release of US hostages from Lebanon. In the United States, however, Iranian aid was seen as simply “a good thing done late” that did not deserve any special thanks.

It is clear that the relationship between the US and Iran has deteriorated progressively since Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House, as he has replaced prior diplomatic postures with isolation and coercive measures, a completely opposite approach to the diplomatic openings created by his predecessor. It seems that the current relationship between the two states is regressing to the one before the nuclear agreement. 

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June 

G20: A Diamond with (Still) Many Rough Edges to Smooth Out 

Andreea Sandu & Ioana-Andreea Chiciuc

Another year, another G20 Summit. In 2019, the summit took place between 28-29 June and was hosted by Japan. Eight other invited countries and representatives of nine international organizations joined the European Union, along with 19 members of the G20, making it the largest summit ever hosted by “The Land of the Rising Sun” and the first G20 summit to ever take place in this country.

“With great support from all, I am determined to lead the Osaka Summit to great success”, this was the message of Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, who led the debate on the issues that all countries face: global sustainable development, climate change and energy, digitalization, global finance, labour and employment, gender equality and women’s empowerment in society.

The first day of the summit was overshadowed by the China-US trade war, the presence of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, and Theresa May’s confrontation with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, over the Salisbury poisonings. Although the commercial tensions were still in the foreground of the international landscape along with other pressing issues, the ministers of the participating states did not have to confront each other; on the contrary, they collaborated and recognized the global need for an upright, transparent, sustainable partnership with a modern system of taxation that would encourage free trade. Prime Minister Abe played an essential role in facilitating discussions between the two conflicting parties, “the dragon” and “the eagle”. Worried it could lose its most significant customer, China reacted to the unilateral US measures and accused the US of protectionism. The US has promised to lower tariffs to promote an open market and to diminish its level of protectionism.

The talks were not all “milk and honey” when it came to the actions to be taken in combating climate change. The Paris Agreement was of course called into question and the leaders acknowledged the success it represents. The intensification of the efforts for elaborating plans of action to mitigate and adapt to the impacts caused by climatic change were discussed and accepted by all the countries present. The press did not lack commentaries and remarks during the summit, thanks to Vladimir Putin’s bold statements, and Donald Trump’s ever-present tweets being in the spotlight and creating broad topics for discussion.

Although most countries have stated that they will attempt to support the financing of innovation measures and technologies to reduce carbon emissions and to promote lasting development in vulnerable areas, the agreement ended with the continued decision by the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Instead, the US is committed to promoting economic growth, security and environmental protection for its citizens. It uses clean, advanced and renewable fossil technologies so as not to endanger the future of generations. The US remains a world leader in reducing carbon emissions, while the economy continues to grow; this is also due to the innovative measures taken but we should not forget that the US is also ranked as one of the biggest polluters on the planet.

In spite of the as yet unflinching decision of the United States to withdraw from the agreement, this summit brought together the leaders of the most powerful and most resource-intensive economies in the world. The world of actors playing on the “grand chessboard” has emphasized its diversity in terms of states, regional blocs, so-called private empires, powerful NGOs in the last decade like never before. It is not easy to think that 30 years ago this was all just a beautiful dream. With a Germany still split in two after the Cold War and with rising global tensions, in 1989 states were negotiating to embrace modal security and democratic peace.

After 1990, in response to the new political and security needs, NATO and the WTO were forced to change their roles, functions, and strategies. The “London Declaration on the North Atlantic Transformed Alliance” was the result of a high-level meeting held in London at George H.W. Bush’s proposal on what NATO should look like. Seeking the new European order, attempts were made to unify the market, and while Western countries were beginning to prosper economically, the Soviet Union was struggling to withstand changes from outside. This was the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union and democracy was slowly gaining ground, not only in Eastern Europe but also in Central Asia.

Although sometimes it has proved hard for such a diverse group of countries to reach consensus, the world today looks like a much friendlier place than it looked 30 years ago, and this is largely due to the phenomenon of globalization. 

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July 

Two Continents, One Vision at the 17th EU-Canada Summit 

Bianca Zaporojanu & Valentina-Alexandra Niță

Even unnoticed for many, the EU-Canada summit is by any standard an important event that helped strengthen diplomatic relations between two of the most powerful entities of the world. We should begin by clarifying what is meant by “bilateral agreements”, namely the establishment of reciprocal arrangements for reducing trade barriers between states. The two parties involved attempt to obtain the most favourable results for themselves through strong negotiations. The main objective of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union (CETA) is to create jobs, strengthen economic relations, and stimulate trade with the world’s largest market. Two years after the most ambitious agreement with the EU in the field of services and investments went in effect, the 17th EU-Canada Summit took place on July 17-18, 2019, in Montreal, Canada.

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, hosted the leaders of the European Union, i.e., the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. At the negotiations table, the leaders of both parties worked towards finding solutions for the challenges they faced, especially climate change, the defence of democracy through a rules-based order, international security, terrorism, human rights, and promoting gender equality. The success of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which helped people and businesses thrive on both sides (despite some noisy popular rejections), particularly giving Canada preferential access to over 500 million EU consumers, was also brought up.

EU and Canadian leaders have concluded the Summit triumphantly with a desire to promote cooperation to address global challenges. Canada shares the EU’s vision of the world and the values they have discussed are benchmarks for other states and, therefore, other partnerships. Essentially, they adopted a joint statement and signed a new partnership to improve the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans. They restated their firm commitment on respecting the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and they are determined to assume leadership through ambitious long-term strategies to reduce greenhouse gases by 2030 and to strengthen bilateral cooperation in all relevant forums.

Additionally, the EU and Canada did not hesitate to emphasize their position towards Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the JCPOA nuclear agreement). It was reaffirmed that this agreement is of major importance in the field of nuclear non-proliferation worldwide, and that Iran must make significant progress towards being compliant. Another sensitive topic that has been addressed is migration, a global reality that creates both beneficial circumstances and challenges for migrants, countries of origin and countries of destination, whether they are settling or just passing through. This brings into discussion the development of programs for social and economic integration of migrants and refugees, taking into account their respective national capacities and competences.

Both parties successfully concluded negotiations for a new Passenger Name Record (PNR) agreement. The purpose of this agreement is to enhance security while ensuring respect for privacy and the protection of personal data.

Looking back, we may find a “proxy” for the EU-Canada summit in the G7 ambiance, where both the major economies of the EU and Canada are present. Between 14-16 July 1989, the 15th G7 Summit was held in La Défense, Paris-France, also known as the “Summit of the Arch”, because it marked the bicentennial of the French Revolution. As declared from the outset, the G7 format tries to ensure coordination and cooperation between the most industrialized and prosperous countries – France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and, Canada.

The purpose of that summit was to simultaneously clarify and resolve the differences between its members, and to encourage good practice in making the best economic decision at that time. Some of the issues addressed in this decisive event were the international economic positions of various countries and the improvement of economic efficiency, commercial and development issues, international cooperation against AIDS, and the situation of the underdeveloped countries. Canada highlighted the importance of setting global warming goals and standardizing environmental data through UN intervention and support. The creation of a “report card” with data on the state of the climate change situation and the forecast for the coming years was also tackled. The summit also marked the creation of one of the main international security achievements of the G7: The Financial Action Group (FATF) fighting against money laundering and terrorist financing.

Summing up, the lines of continuity in (some of) the world’s biggest state-players’ discourses are easily noticeable, still also the rolling pace of challenges (and opportunities) ahead of them. 

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August 

Of Missiles and Men: Implications of the US Withdrawal from the INF Treaty 

Valentin-Ionuț Costea & Georgian Ioniță

After the US’ formal exit from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) with Russia on August 2, 2019, many problems arise, including the possibility of a resumption of nuclear weapons competition. This withdrawal presents problems for European security and non-proliferation efforts, and may influence the extension of other arms control treaties, like the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty).

Since the time of the Cold War, it was known that mutual destruction was a certainty if war ever broke out; starting from this point, the two superpowers started dialling back their nuclear forces on a reciprocal basis, through reductions in numbers, means of delivery and bans on certain types of technology, like the development of intermediate range intercontinental ballistic missiles. That’s why an important event took place in December 1988 when the INF treaty was signed by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and represented perhaps the most important part of a series of arms control agreements that defined the post-Cold War Euro-Atlantic security structure. The INF Treaty interdicted the United States and the Soviet Union from possessing, testing and deploying ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometres (300 to 3,400 miles). This agreement led to the destruction of nearly 2,700 missiles (1,846 by Russia and 846 by the United States).

The situation at the end of the 1980s was somewhat stable, but the collapse of the Soviet Union complicated things, as it was uncertain whether Russia would be strong enough to fill the void. After a period of uncertainty, the answer came swiftly as Vladimir Putin’s era helped Russia restore its status as a global power, thanks to its massive military force and use of energy resources. It was clear that relations between the US and Russia were at the very least complicated, but the fear of destroying each other prevailed. Paradoxically, the security climate was safer in those days than now, since there are many more nuclear powers, which are also not signatories of these accords, and because trust is at an all-time low. A new arms race is about to start, with Eastern Europe in its crosshairs. If the nuclear threats towards Europe in the 1980s led to the implementation of the INF, its annulment imperils security in Europe and even in Asia as the US and Russia are no longer bound by the treaty’s restrictions. One can say there is some stimulus for the countries situated on the Eastern border of NATO to strengthen their cooperation and consolidate their military capabilities.

The year 2019 began with a political declaration by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, backed by Donald Trump, that the United States intended to withdraw from the Treaty because Russia violated it by developing SSC-8/9M729 missiles (any of which could reach any European capital) and could quickly expand deployment, while, on the other hand, the US already tested some ground-launched cruise missile with a range of more than 500 km. As far as can be noted, Russia’s strategy was to covertly develop these capabilities. The missiles serve as insurance policy for a “just in case” scenario in the unpredictable future. Moreover, the deployment of the 9M729 occurred only after the illegal annexation of Crimea, which suggests that Moscow did not make its move in Crimea until it felt ready for a possible war with the West. These missiles are particularly well-suited for surprise attacks as they can bypass launch detection systems and tracking during flight, hitting their distant targets without much warning.

It is due to this very infringement of the treaty by Russia that the INF no longer exists. Trump warned in October 2018 that the US will exit the treaty if Russia fails to comply. NATO supported the US decision, albeit grudgingly, while Russian officials denied allegations and responded with a charge against the US for violating the treaty. From our point of view, putting pressure on Russia is the best move that can be made, especially in terms of sending a clear message as well as forcing the Kremlin to react and allow Washington to analyse their intentions. On the other hand, neither United States nor Russia will be directly affected from a failure of this Treaty, European NATO allies being the ones directly interested in the current situation.

That said, despite NATO’s initial backing for Trump’s decision due to the growing military threat that Russia poses to NATO’s Eastern border, we can expect further analyses of long-term effects to bring some nuances to this support. The smaller countries are interested in observing how the situation will play out and what it might bring, because of their vulnerable position and lack of adequate military equipment. Although this decision had a massive echo around the world, and some might question the White House’s resolution, it is difficult to expect anyone to abide by the constraints of a treaty when the other parties do not. Nobody doubted the usefulness of this Treaty as some 2,700 missiles were destroyed (three quarters of which were Russian missiles), but its binding power was thrown out the window the minute one of its signatories went against it.

In our perspective, the Cold War did not end in 1990, but shattered in many pieces and is much more dangerous than before. With the official withdrawal of the United States starting in the summer of 2019, a new arms race is about to erupt and how this will evolve is something beyond the predictive powers of either geopoliticians or foreign policy experts. Ending an agreement like this is bound to have long-term repercussions, for we can no longer be sure that other treaties will remain stable if this one has been technically suspended, and practically every nation will develop new technologies revolving around hypersonic missiles.

The greatest concern after the end of this treaty is the possibility of another agreement being indirectly affected, namely the START Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) due to expire in 2021 and, seeing how the negotiations process took place, we doubt that a new extension will be accepted. Trump said at one point that he wants to replace this agreement with a new nuclear weapons treaty that would include China. But it is very unlikely that China will accept such an agreement with a much smaller nuclear arsenal than that of the US or Russia (most Chinese missiles are conventional, not nuclear). And, if now, after the conclusion of the INF Treaty, the possibility of a nuclear arms race has surfaced, it follows that, if this treaty also expires, this race will be inevitable. Russia has no problem if this treaty expires. With NATO support, the US must pursue the extension of the New START agreement in order to reduce the risks created by a possible nuclear arms competition. For the good of all, this agreement must continue.

From the European point of view, things are much more complicated, facing an unpredictable Brexit and Russia’s aggressive attitude; Europe needs the US more than ever both militarily and politically, despite a coldness between the Trump Administration and European leaders. The modern types of warfare, including economic warfare, cyber-attacks or using propaganda to change public opinions, have brought the world into an unexpected situation. Owing to this, we believe that even if the intentions are to develop new types of weapons, this is and will become a war of intimidation and psychological submission, not a shooting war.

No matter how many treaties might change or fail, nobody is willing to start a new destructive war because, in the end, war does not determine who is right, only who is left. We can also add that the traditional form of warfare based on military force will fade in terms of importance and relevance in the future, and economic warfare will eventually emerge as the preeminent means of settling disputes, while all of the sophisticated military arsenal will be seen as a means of intimidation as opposed to an effective desire to engage in a military conflict. Many bad decisions have been made throughout history, but we strongly believe that the world has developed enough so that the desire to accumulate power will be replaced with wisdom. Additionally, we would like to state that history can teach us precious lessons, if we take them into consideration, like the desire for peace supported by the memory of what two World Wars brought to Europe.

To sum up, we consider that we must see beyond some political declaration, and, if it is necessary, to remind world leaders that they should act in order to preserve the safety and the pace around the globe no matter what challenges might arise. 

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September 

Huffing and Puffing or Just Bluffing? A View on the Iranian Attack on Saudi Arabia’s Oil Production 

Iuliana-Denisa Androne & Cătălina-Elena Anghelescu

During the first days of September 2019, one might have thought that the month would go by without any significant event happening in our ever dynamic world. However, on a hot Saturday, in Saudi Arabia, drones claimed by Houthi rebels attacked two Saudi Aramco refineries, one in Abqaiq and one in Khurais, causing massive fires and damage. Even though the fires were put under control, almost half of Saudi Arabian oil exports and 5% of the global production were disrupted. Given regional politics, many were wondering if this was an attack orchestrated by Iran. American and Saudi officials backed this scenario, claiming that Iran was behind the attack, even though Iran denied having any involvement in it. Even United Nations experts carried out an investigation to identify the origins of the attack, but they have not been able so far to conclude whether the weapons were indeed of Iranian origins.

Despite the fact that the production capacity and exports were almost back to normal after approximately two weeks, this incident caused a clear destabilization of oil production and global financial markets, leading to the highest increase of oil futures contract price since the 1990 oil price shock. On one hand, one of the most significant reactions came from US President Donald Trump, who stated that, in order for the energy prices to stabilize, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve of the US could be released. Additionally, he imposed a new series of sanctions against Iran, hindering the Central Bank of Iran’s ability to purchase American dollars, provoking economic hardship but also limiting, therefore, Iran’s ability to mobilize resources to strike again.

On the other hand, powers like China, Japan, Russia, Turkey and the EU (especially through the JCPOA signatories) supported the idea that no accusations should be made until further investigations clarify the origin and authorship of the attack. The tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have been regional rivals for more than three decades, have their origins not only in religious differences, but also their fight for control over their most important natural resource, i.e., oil, as well as relations with the U.S and other Western countries.

In 1989, after the Hajj Clash, the ties were severed between the two countries, with Iran boycotting the Hajj (the pilgrimage which is mandatory for every Muslim) after Saudi Arabia reduced the number of Iranian Pilgrim visas. The relationship between them improved after the election of a new Iranian president, Akbar Rafsanjani, in 1989, and trade and direct flight between Saudi Arabia and Iran increased remarkably thereafter. Nevertheless, after years of apparent stability, the shift in power in Tehran in 2005 caused a sudden deterioration of relations, as both countries wished to increase their regional influence, engaging in proxy battles in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan.

At the moment, it is difficult to accurately estimate the future of the relationship between the two countries, until both of them are willing to compromise and find a solution to peacefully co-exist. Nevertheless, both are two big players in the Middle East and will need to re-establish diplomatic relations to effectively work together for the region’s development.

If neither of them is willing to talk and compromise, the idea of permanent war in the region, mainly through proxies, becomes all but certain. 

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October 

Microscopic Victories That Animate Macroscopic Hopes: Polio Vanquished 

Alexandru-Cezar Colceru

As we mark on the calendar the first days of 2020, everyone is reflecting about the past decade and the new one that awaits. Most people would look back to year 2019 and think about the worst things that happened: the uncertainties of the Trump Administration, climate change and natural disasters (wildfires in California and Australia, winter heat waves, flooding and typhoons), civil wars, crisis and protests (Syria, Venezuela, Yemen). But I prefer to see the optimistic part of it, showing that there is still potential for positive evolution in humanity, and we are neither hopeless nor helpless. The New York Times came to the following conclusion: “In the long arc of human history, 2019 has been the best year ever” (N. Kristof, 2019). And it is true. In health, education, security and freedom, the world is showing great improvements.

In order to prove the assertion, the following official statement from October 2019 will be investigated: “In a historic achievement for humanity, two of three wild poliovirus strains have been eliminated worldwide” (United Nations News, 2019).

Humankind and disease have coexisted. A variety of epidemics and plague had a major impact on our evolution, but only recently have we gained the knowledge and skills to address them and to attempt to eradicate diseases. One of the deadliest diseases is Poliomyelitis but, fortunately, it is targeted to (belatedly) be the second human disease ever eradicated through vaccination, the first being Smallpox.

Poliomyelitis is an acute viral infection that is spread directly or indirectly from person to person and it can often lead to permanent paralysis. The virus circulation is facilitated mostly by poor sanitation and has been documented since 1789. Vaccination, the only way to fight this disease, represents a powerful example of social and health change. Undertaken in large-scale programs, the oral polio vaccine has made an enormous contribution to human and animal health, especially in the developing world. Today, the type 3 virus is only present in 3 countries (Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan), marking an impressive decrease of 99% of polio cases.

This kind of news is uplifting and enlightening, but I cannot help wondering how stand compared to 30 years ago. The world began to take action in 1988 when the World Health Assembly set a target that, by the year 2000, the disease would be eradicated. This was subsequent to successful national programs to eradicate the disease in developed countries like the US. This was a mass response to the unavailability of vaccines in developing countries, the group at higher risk of infection. So, 30 years ago, polio caused more than 350.000 cases of paralysis while, in 2019, only 366 cases of polio have been reported. This global initiative involves billions of dollars, millions of children and health workers and 30 years of work in hundreds of countries.

To conclude, 2019 was a year full of important events that left their footprints on the history of humanity. As the world faces a spread of misinformation over vaccine safety, eliminating polio provides a shining counter-example. So, the future may look bright. With new discoveries and inventions in technology and medicine, a few years from now we will hopefully stop worrying about high mortality rate caused by epidemics, poor sanitation or poverty. 

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November 

UN: “Zimbabwe Is on the Brink of Man-made Starvation” 

Ioana-Cosmina Farmate

Much of Africa is largely unknown or misunderstood. The stereotypes associate it with war, famine, debt, corruption and dictatorship. And while most of it is ruefully true, it is essential that we do not forget why Africa is important for and why it is crucial to preserve its culture and people.

Africa represents a barometer for economic justice. Until Africa will reach prosperity and provide a decent life for its people, the world as a whole will not be prosperous. On the other hand, a fourth of the world’s countries are on this continent and each of these countries has a seat in the United Nations. Their vote will always be highly influential. However, many of Africa’s problems are not caused by geography or climate, but by people, which makes it very volatile, with a lot of ethnic conflicts and vicious cycles of poverty and violence. It is thus necessary to address its major man-made problems: crime, war, inequality, disease, hunger, education, human rights, inflation, debt, poverty and overpopulation. These problems will lead us to the most affected country right now: Zimbabwe.

“For the first time in 20 years, Max Rosenfels, whose family has toughed it out for almost a century in this arid, wind-swept region of southern Africa, is enjoying a productive season. The rain has been unusually promising and the end of the civil war in Matabeleland, this region of the country, has meant farming without danger”. This was Zimbabwe 30 years ago. “Millions of rural Zimbabweans are too poor to plant and farm corn, the country’s staple food. Zimbabwe faces an economic crisis where shortages of cash, fuel and electricity cripple people’s access to basic food”. This is Zimbabwe in November 2019.

Once known as Rhodesia and “the breadbasket of Africa”, today Zimbabwe, the realm of dream and worry, has become unable to provide food to its own inhabitants. About 60% of Zimbabwe’s population is now starving, lacking access to the bare minimum of public services, including health and safe water. The crisis could only take a turn for the worst, due to severe price instabilities, unilateral economic sanctions and widespread corruption. Women and children are especially affected with 90% of children between six month and two years not consuming enough food.

There are some key elements that have led this country to such a deadlock: unstable governance, an economic meltdown, inflation, drought and a calamitous cyclone. Livestock conditions continue to aggravate despite the start of rainfall season. The country will experience one of its worst food security crises in recent years. The ongoing impecunious macroeconomic environment will continue to impact livelihoods. The pricing of most goods and services is strongly influenced by the high parallel market exchange rate for foreign currency.

The solution? An urgent reform is needed. More specifically, reforms in the agricultural and food sector in order to reduce as much as possible the country’s dependence on imported food and encouraging alternative models. Efforts should also be made to create conditions for the production of seeds and to ensure better preparations for the climate shocks that hit the country.

Now one may be wondering how the hunger in Zimbabwe can affect us. In addition to the issues of sympathy and emotions and, of course, that everyone should have the right to a decent life and food, we will have to consider the importance of this diverse and multi-ethnic continent, because, not only Zimbabwe is affected, but many other countries, like Somalia, Mozambique or Burkina Faso. First of all, let us think about why is Africa so poor, despite its natural resources like land, flora and fauna, oil or solar energy.

To gain a better understanding of the issue, we should take a look back in history. The colonial powers are said to have left behind a decimated socio-cultural climate, largely due to slavery and unbalanced development models. These events left people unable to positively determine their future without falling back into pre-colonial tribal conflicts and cycles of repressions and impoverishment. Some were also crippled by international policies concerning, for instance, the trade in agricultural products, which led to them importing food from highly-subsidized producers in developed nations, at the expense of their farmer class.

The continent loses more money each year than it receives in aid, investment and remittances. In my opinion, the first step to help Africa is not giving it money, but providing help and education and implementing reforms to educate the population on how to better survive. All the money that Africa has thus far received has been, due to extreme corruption, managed by its dictators and not used in aid of its people.

Therefore, it is not just Africa that needs to be saved, but its people. 

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December 

The French Revolution, Take 2? 

Ștefania-Cristina Bădîrcea & Ioana-Andreea Catană

Having struggled through the violent protests of the Yellow Vests movement in 2018, France is paralyzed again as of December 5, 2019 by a strike supported by all unions. In his 2017 campaign, candidate Emmanuel Macron vowed to end the pension deals that France can no longer afford and said he wanted “to clarify and stabilize the rules of the game once and for all”. Two years later, he is rewarded with the biggest national strikes in many years that aim to stop the reform which would cancel the benefits that many former employees claim and many current ones stand to gain – more specifically, the transition from a special pension scheme, depending on the field of activity, to a universal one, based on points. However, many employees are unhappy because the government changes the rules “during the game”, cancelling the benefits they were promised when they signed contracts. The unionists claim that they will lose up to 800 Euros per month once this universal system goes into operation.

The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that Paris shopkeepers say they have lost 60% of their turnover in comparison with the previous year, when Paris was affected by the Yellow Vests protests. As compared to December 2017, the turnover is 80% down, they say. The national trade union Confédération Générale du Travail released a statement saying that approximately 1.8 million people took to the streets in 260 rallies around the country. The power cuts in the south-east and centre-east will be followed by even bigger ones, said the union Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail.

The resignation of Jean-Paul Delevoye, who was in charge of preparing the pension reform, has precipitated a full social conflict against this emblematic project of President Macron. The consequences were harsh. For instance, the number of accidents increased by 40%; the fire department spokesman said that they had to step in 600 times from December 5 to December 14, compared to 450 times in the same period last year. Moreover, the interventions of firefighters have been considerably delayed on some streets of the capital and on the outskirts, due to the heavy traffic.

Besides, the country risked being “paralyzed” not just for a day. Why? Because of the saturated transport network. The ground transportation was not the only one rendered more difficult. Air traffic controllers went on strike as well. As a result, hundreds of flights were cancelled on December 5. Among the large companies affected by these movements is Air France which runs 30% of the domestic flights and 15% of the external ones. EasyJet also called off over 230 flights. Speaking of transportation, in Paris over 70% of all train drivers went on strike and only two subway lines out of 16 and less than half of all buses travelled. A quarter of schools remained closed – 170, to be exact. Universities have been closed since the beginning of the month.

Some people who poured into the streets of France in December 2019 chanted “Macron dégage!” or “Macron out!”. Thirty years ago, in December 1989, when the Romanian people took to the streets, they chanted “Jos Ceaușescu!” (that is, “Ceaușescu out!”). The chaos in Bucharest and Paris spanned both countries. Victims and accidents have existed in both cases. However, the similarities end here. The Romanian people wanted a complete overhaul of a bankrupt system, whereas the French on the streets now want to stop a reform that might be very good in the long run for their country but which affects everyone’s individual interests. The international community, who rallied behind the Romanian people then, now shows little sympathy for those on the streets of France. 

 

Dealing with the Climate Change Crisis, One Summit at a Time. Now: Madrid 

RIoana-Ruxandra Lesnic

Nowadays, every social media outlet, newsletter site and TV show are flooded by what has become a passionate hysteria about the “climate change”. Needless to say, several page-turning events, even calamitous ones, have taken place during 2019. We could ordinarily start to name such cataclysms as devastating floods, wildfires throughout the world, extreme heat waves, record-breaking air pollution levels and intense droughts. Although no can dent the gravity of the current situation and diminish the uninterrupted effort of an impressive number of individuals, IGOs (intergovernmental organizations) and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that are constantly working their absolute best to raise any awareness, no massive improvement has yet been registered.

As international authorities become more and more concerned about such matters, clearly of the utmost importance, states from all around the world host annually meetings, summits and conferences, all bearing the same issue: the climate emergency. The 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP25, is the 25th United Nations Climate Change conference, which was hosted by Spain, in Madrid, under the Presidency of the Chilean government. This particular summit was held with special regards to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, (initiated within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – UNFCCC) dealing, broadly, with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance.

In terms of negotiation, although no consensus on the topic of carbon market (which concerns Article 6 of the Paris Agreement) could be reached at the COP24 summit, various politically difficult decisions must yet be made. Measures to alleviate the critical emissions and the Kyoto Protocol come to embrace this matter. However, amid the constant worsening of the climate crisis, the UN Secretary General António Guterres points forward on the forefront of the international agenda, throughout 2020, issues such as the necessity to encourage financial and economic actors to accelerate the process to shift from the grey to the green economy. Amid general priorities, key themes were highlighted: securing previous commitments, advocating for nature-based alternative solutions, caring for those severely affected by cataclysms and nevertheless, implementing the Summit’s initiatives aiming at the deep decarbonization of key economic sectors.

Granted, no palpable result is to be expected in the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, a considerable amount of work has already been carried out by many countries (mostly developed ones) on assessing impacts and vulnerabilities to climate change, as well as considering possible adaptation options. Although there is still much effort to be done, all of the UNFCCC-organized workshops, summits and expert meeting emphasized that this should not be an obstacle to progress being made on further implementing adaptation.

 
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OEconomica No. 1, 2016