Week in Review

14 September 2018

Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban, at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured).

Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban, at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured).


MOMENTOUS STEP FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION. On Wednesday, in a vote that met a two-thirds threshold needed to validate it, initiates a process to determine punishment against Hungary for potentially breaching democratic norms. Once sheltered by Europe’s centre-right leaders, Prime Minister Orban has now been isolated and left with the far-right to defend his attacks on the rule of law. With both Poland and Hungary retreating from democracy and other European states beginning to sway to the right, mainstream parties of the E.U. must act with urgency to stymie this movement. Mr. Juncker, the president of the European Commission, perhaps said it the best, “The geopolitical situation makes this Europe’s hour: The time for European sovereignty has come”.

ANTI-IMMIGRATION SENTIMENT KILLS. Possibly over 100 migrants have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy. While the Libyan Coast Guard saved nearly 300 and European planes dropped lifeboats, Italy failed to help. The distressed migrants were in the Libyan Search and Rescue area, but the lack of Italian assistance marks an advanced degree of anti-immigrant sentiment. This begs the question of how these migrants are being treated, if they survive their failed journeys to Europe. Doctors Without Borders described their living conditions in Libya as being in “indefinite arbitrary detention”. The new populist government in Italy has certainly exasperated the issues, but in an attempt to savage mainstream politics, the European Union has taken the policy of out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

OPENING OF BORDERS - IN AFRICA. Ethiopia and Eritrea have officially reopened their borders since a strict ban of travel and communication was introduced after a deadly war 20 years ago. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia’s Chief of Staff called the new relations “a frontier of peace & friendship” on Twitter. There has been a remarkable reversal of relations in just a few months. Telecommunications, commercial flights, travel, and an Ethiopian ship has docked at an Eritrean port - all a first in more than two decades. This is after over 80 000 people died in a war, which ensued following Eritrea’s succession from Ethiopian sovereignty in the early 1990s. With families reunited and trade to see a huge boost, both countries are set to see a surge in political, cultural, and economic cooperation.

AUTHORITARIANISM RISING IN CENTRAL AMERICA. President Morales of Guatemala has been a beneficiary of a large scale corruption investigation, which start three years ago, indicted many top officials. This led the way for Morales to win the presidency; three years ago, it seemed that the fragile democracy was ready to consolidate its institutions. Now that the same investigative commission has named the President himself of illegal campaign financing, he has done much to negate the commission’s power and push out its backers. By backing some controversial international policies of the United States, President Morales has avoided criticism from President Trump, enabling him to block My. Velasquez, who led the commission to some of its highest profile indictments, from re-entering the country. There is no telling when this democratic backsliding will end.

COLD WAR TACTICS. President Trump has been compared to former President Nixon several times, usually for his potentially impeachable offences. Now, he can add plotting Latin American coups to the list. According to American officials, the Trump administration was in communication with rebellious Venezuelan military leaders about how a coup may operate to overthrow the authoritarian President Maduro. While the administration eventually decided against assisting in intervention, the news of such consideration may make the rest of Latin America weary of U.S. motives, especially in countries where leaders are less than democratic.

SUPER TYPHOON MANGKHUT TO AFFECT FOUR MILLION. Super Typhoon Mangkhut is expected to make landfall tomorrow morning on the Northern part of the Philippines, putting more than four million in danger. Experts estimate this could be stronger than a 2013 typhoon that killed more than 6000. With 285 km per hour winds, this is just the latest example of how global warming affects poorer nations the most. Only last week did the strongest typhoon hit Japan in 25 years and simultaneously, Hurricane Florence is slamming the eastern seaboard of the United States. It is only a matter of time until the costs of these disasters will outweigh the cost of controlling warming.

YEMENI CURRENCY CRISIS. The Yemeni rial has lost over half of its value against the U.S. dollar since the beginning of its civil war in 2015. The Governor of the Central Bank said Monday that steps have been taken to ease pressure on the currency and measures are being implemented to ensure basic commodities are to be available at appropriate prices. The loss of value continues to threaten large segments of the country, who have already been exposed to and are at risk of starvation. The collapse of the currency has also led to protests, which in combination with the humanitarian crisis and conflict does not bode well for stability in the near or medium-term.