Living in the Year of Unforeseen Consequences

(Bloomberg) --

Europe just witnessed two low-key political developments that may have far-reaching consequences.

The European Union’s executive threatened legal action against the U.K. after Boris Johnson’s government refused to nominate an EU commission member. Despite Brexit, the U.K. is obliged to put up a candidate, and its failure to do so seemed to catch the bloc off guard. The standoff might delay the new EU commission from taking office Dec. 1 and risks further stoking tensions.

In Luxembourg, the European Investment Bank — the EU’s lending arm — opted to stop funding fossil-fuel projects and favor more support for clean energy. EIB director Werner Hoyer called the decision a “quantum leap” in ambition to tackle the No. 1 issue on “the political agenda of our time.”

Both developments, while not entirely out of left field, underscore how unforeseen events can force governments’ hands. Just look at the violent protests in Hong Kong or the political unrest unleashed from Iraq and Lebanon to Bolivia and Chile. Climate protests have erupted in cities across the globe this year.

Oscar Wilde wrote that to expect the unexpected is a sign of a thoroughly modern intellect. More than a century later, it’s advice that politicians would do well to heed.

Living in the Year of Unforeseen Consequences

Global Headlines

Spotlight on | Rudy Giuliani’s role in back-channel efforts to pressure Ukraine will come under closer scrutiny today as the House impeachment investigation hears public testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly ousted as U.S. ambassador to Kyiv in May following what she has described as a smear campaign Giuliani directed.

White-collar protests | Hong Kong professionals joined lunchtime protests in the financial district for the fifth straight day, capping a week of unprecedented violence that began with a demonstrator being shot and seriously injured on Monday and then saw the death of a government employee who police say was hit by a brick. Chinese President Xi Jinping condemned the unrest, which once again threatens to drag into the weekend, as university and school closures left the city practically paralyzed. Click here for more on the economic toll.

  • The U.S. Senate is preparing for quick passage of legislation to show support for the protesters by placing Hong Kong’s special trading status with the U.S. under annual review.

Sanctions master | North Korea is poking holes through a global web of sanctions and generating enough cash to keep its nuclear weapons program moving along as a year-end deadline Kim Jong Un set to reach a deal with the U.S. approaches — with little progress in sight. Kim has yet to make any concessions on his nation’s nuclear program, making it difficult for America’s “maximum pressure” campaign to deliver on what the Trump administration has promised.

Living in the Year of Unforeseen Consequences

Crunching the numbers | The economic experts that 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is careful to cite on the costs of her multi-trillion-dollar policy proposals actually disagree among themselves about how or whether those plans will work. And it highlights Warren’s challenge in convincing voters that she can generate enough revenue to provide free health care, free public college, universal childcare, forgive a portion of student loans and mitigate climate change.

  • The Democratic National Committee has announced the 10 candidates who will participate in the fifth Democratic primary debate in Atlanta on Wednesday.

China’s influence | Sri Lankans face a stark choice as they elect a new president Saturday. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s powerful family has a history of authoritarian rule and is likely to take the country closer to Beijing. His main rival — Sajith Premadasa, from the current ruling alliance — promises more freedoms but faces a credibility test over security lapses that led to deadly bombings on Easter.

What to Watch

  • Lebanon’s major political parties agreed to name businessman and ex-finance minister Mohammad Safadi as the new premier, local media reported, but anti-government demonstrators immediately rejected the choice.
  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is asking companies that mine and buy copper and cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo to do more to fight corruption and child labor.
  • Bolivian interim President Jeanine Anez is struggling to consolidate control as lawmakers and former ministers loyal to ousted socialist leader Evo Morales try to reclaim the levers of power.

Pop quiz, readers (no cheating!). Britain is under increasing pressure to return its last African colony. What is it? Send us your answers and tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at

And finally ... Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s unusual request for his ministers to put aside their squabbles and find a way to rescue a bankrupt steel mill in the southern city of Taranto has laid bare the intense pressure on his fragile coalition. As Ross Larsen and Alessandro Speciale explain, the premier is scrambling for a solution to an industrial crisis — precipitated in part by his own allies — that’s dominated front pages for weeks and provided fodder for the opposition.

Living in the Year of Unforeseen Consequences

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