‘Menaced by Nationalism’
Four months out from crucial European Parliamentary elections, and things are already getting nasty.
The vote will be a battle between the old guard defenders of European integration and nationalist leaders pushing to take back control of issues like migration, leaving Brussels focused on business and trade.
Italian deputy premier Luigi Di Maio from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement is a case in point. He’s mounted an attack on France, claiming it “never stopped colonizing Africa” and, by holding back countries economically, contributed to waves of migrants towards Europe.
Rome and Paris have clashed before over immigration, with Italy shutting its ports to refugee boats at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron is arguing for a more open Europe. The dispute signals the strategy of divisive dog-whistling that some parties will deploy for the May ballot.
Pushing back against the populist tide will be a major challenge for Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, set to sign a treaty today in the historic border town of Aachen. The pact is little more than a renewal of friendship vows made in 1963. It will take more than that to articulate a compelling vision to drown out the likes of Di Maio.
Brexit moves | With Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans in disarray, Parliament is plotting to wrest control of the process for leaving the European Union. That includes opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who’d been ambiguous on Brexit but last night backed for the first time a plan that could trigger a second referendum. While it’d be unlikely to pass, his Labour lawmakers may feel emboldened to support mechanisms that lead to a softer divorce.
China jitters | President Xi Jinping stressed the need to maintain stability during an unusual meeting of China’s top leaders in Beijing yesterday, warning of “serious dangers.” Concerns Xi cited include the environment (as the administration seeks to curb pollution without stalling growth) and economy. It’s a fresh sign the Communist Party is worried about the social implications of a slowdown, which is being exacerbated by a trade war with the U.S.
Trump’s Davos | He may not be there in person, but Donald Trump still will exercise a strong influence over this week’s gathering in the Swiss Alps. The U.S. president enters the second half of his term without any restraining influences on his “America First” agenda. The unpredictability of Trump's abrupt policymaking may only increase from here, unnerving investors and forcing world leaders to take sides. For real-time coverage of the World Economic Forum, visit our special webpage and follow our live blog.
Struggling airlines | India’s second-biggest airline has been brought to its knees by high fuel prices and intense competition. But the problems at Jet Airways could also damage Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government ahead of an election. Anurag Kotoky and Vrishti Beniwal report a government bailout remains a possibility: Roughly 23,000 jobs are at risk and unemployment is set to be a key campaign issue.
Watchdog under pressure | Facebook’s repeated privacy scandals have infuriated users, lawmakers and data-security advocates clamoring for a forceful government response. David McLaughlin and Ben Brody profile Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joe Simons, who's under pressure to satisfy those calling for increased scrutiny of U.S. tech giants. If not, he risks sidelining his agency.
What to Watch
- The U.S. Senate could vote as soon as today on Trump's government funding proposal, which Democrats have already said they’ll reject, as the record-breaking federal shutdown enters its 32nd day.
- Emin Agalarov, the Moscow pop star who arranged the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in New York at the height of the 2016 election campaign, abruptly canceled his U.S. tour, citing the risk of being detained.
And finally... Australia’s national day in late January is known for barbecues (called sausage sizzles), backyard cricket and... an annual video produced by the country’s lamb industry. The advertisements are lighthearted but provocative, addressing issues including racism. This year’s effort pokes fun at domestic politics and sporting controversies and then asks if Australia would do better by uniting with the much smaller - but better performing - New Zealand. It’s apparently being well received in Australia, but Kiwis say they are just fine on their own.
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