Should Europe fear the Pacific century?

Delphi in Greece marks the centre of the world. Greenwich near London is the point zero of time. The original meter is stored in France. Europe sets the standard for the world. Its affairs are world politics. Or, that’s how it used to be. The centre of gravity is shifting. Delphi has been replaced as navel of the world by islands in the South China Sea. Thus, Asia with rising China in its middle is moving to centre stage. US is reconfiguring its policy to reflect that. It is pivoting towards Asia and the Pacific. This is where economic growth is. This is also the centre stage for the sometimes cooperative sometimes confrontational power play between the US and China. Europeans are currently preoccupied with the euro crisis and there is little bandwith for thinking long-term and beyond the crisis. Still, some embryonic strands of thinking about Pacific Century are distinguishable. More Asia for the US could spell less Europe and less security in Europe. That’s what some Europeans fear. Such attitudes can be discerned among Baltic states and Eastern Europeans. Other Europeans see Asian power politics as remote. Europe should stay at it’s current level with strong economic and trade engagement (East Asia makes up 27% of EU trade larger than with the US) but a restricted role in Asia on security. That could be designated Europe’s splendid isolation. World politics would have moved on to Asia but without Europe as an engaged security actor. Affinity with this can be discerned in Germany strongly and almost purely commercial approach to the opportunities of Asia. Others would like to see the EU take a larger stake in Asia’s security. In the last decade, the transatlantic alliance was, for good and bad, forged by the joint undertaking in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That era is closing. The US new focus is Asia. UK has realised that and undertaken its own mini-pivot and is keen to see the EU follow suit. The EU still has to sort out what role it can and will play in a world where Asian politics are world politics. Just as Asian nations in the 1990s chased access to European-based organisations like the OECD, the EU is now scrambling for a seat at table in Asia. Europeans aren’t getting an invite for East Asia Summit where the US and Russia are now invited along. I would argue EU has genuine security interests beyond trade in Asia and could raise a stronger voice. The shared values with US is one such foundation. Still, the EU also has its distinct identity on genuine commitment to multilateral solutions and international law (that could make it a credible interlocutor on South China Sea issues for ASEAN and China alike). Other areas of particular EU-strength could be civilian crisis management and conflict resolution (with one success in Asia in Aceh) and counter-piracy operations. A role for EU will not be a pre-ordained element in rising Asia’s architecture. Europe has to work on its relevance: its current irrelevance remains the likely default scenario, along with a lack of joint policy that will secure Europe’s splendid isolation from the new theatre of world politics. (source: Jonas Parello-Plesner – ECFR – 28/06/2012)

Suspendieron a Paraguay y entra Venezuela al Mercosur

Fueron tres anuncios seguidos y sin parar en boca de la presidente Cristina Kirchner: el Mercosur suspendió ayer temporalmente a Paraguay de los órganos del bloque hasta que se lleven a cabo allí elecciones presidenciales; se descartan sanciones económicas contra el país vecino; se decidió incorporación formal de Venezuela como el quinto miembro de este mercado aduanero, lo que se concretará en una reunión especial de los mandatarios en Río de Janeiro el 31 de julio próximo. (Fuente: Clarín – 30/06/2012) 

Todas son decisiones históricas, tomadas en el cónclave mercosureano de Mendoza, fruto de la controvertida destitución del presidente Fernando Lugo por el Congreso paraguayo el viernes pasado, que a criterio de Argentina, Brasil y Uruguay, constituye una ruptura del orden constitucional y, por lo tanto, de la cláusula democrática o Protocolo de Ushuaia. A última hora, Unasur, que sesionó después del Mercosur, decidió suspender a Paraguay de sus organismos hasta la realización de comicios. Las palabras textuales de Cristina al anunciar la suspensión de Paraguay ayer fue que ésta se prolongaría “hasta que lleve a cabo el proceso democrático que instale la soberanía popular con elecciones libres y democráticas”. Dilma Rousseff dijo después que tenían que hacer “los mejores esfuerzos para que las elecciones del próximo abril en Paraguay, sean elecciones democráticas, libres y justas ”. Se refería al cronograma electoral de las presidenciales paraguayas previstas para el 13 de abril de 2013, que el gobierno de Federico Franco se comprometió a respetar. Cristina también anunció la creación de una comisión que siga el proceso de elecciones paraguayas. Ayer, desde Asunción, sucesor de Fernando Lugo consideró las decisiones del Mercosur “deplorables” y en la capital guaraní ya piden la salida del bloque. Una decisión difícil para un país que coloca allí el 55% de sus exportaciones globales. La cumbre de ayer fue inédita en varios sentidos. Fue la primera en la que, en 21 años de existencia, el Mercosur castiga de esta manera a uno de sus 4 fundadores. Pero, además, porque la incorporación de Venezuela, un mercado de 29 millones de habitantes y con características de fuerte importador, fue decidida aprovechando la ausencia paraguaya .

Venezuela había pedido su ingreso pleno en 2004, los gobiernos lo aprobaron en 2006 y sus respectivos Congresos lo ratificaron, menos Paraguay, por ser sus congresistas férreos opositores al chavismo. Con su incorporación, también Chávez quedará protegido de cualquier episodio que sea considerado desestabilizador. Para Cristina, la incorporación de Venezuela como socio pleno permitirá al bloque regional fortalecerse frente a los embates de la crisis global. También se refirió a ella Dilma, cuando tomó de Cristina Kirchner el martillo que simboliza que su país ejerce ahora la presidencia del bloque. Para la brasileña, con Venezuela, Mercosur gana cuerpo en momentos de grandes retos ante la crisis internacional. “Es ejemplo de política y ética para enclaves autoritarios que aún quedan en América Latina, que son herederos de las dictaduras de las extremas derechas”, declaró Hugo Chávez a la prensa de Caracas. La suspensión de Paraguay ya había sido tomada por los cancilleres del Mercosur el miércoles. Pero, no así la incorporación de Venezuela, considerada por algunos como violatoria de los estatutos del bloque y por otros totalmente legal al estar suspendido el socio de sus derechos pero no de sus obligaciones. La declaración firmada por mandatarios justificó la inclusión de Venezuela en “los principios de gradualidad, flexibilidad, equilibrio, reconocimiento de las asimetrías y del tratamiento diferenciado, en términos del protocolo (fundacional) de Ouro Preto”. Ahora Venezuela deberá comenzar un proceso de ajuste de sus aranceles. 

Europeans Agree to Use Bailout Fund to Aid Banks

(…..) Deal reached in Brussels was particularly important for Mr. Rajoy, who had resisted German pressure over the past two weeks to accept tougher bailout terms and can now return to Madrid with agreement in hand that eases concerns over Spain’s creditworthiness by ensuring the rescue will not add to the country’s sovereign debt, as the funding will flow direct to the banks. Spain also ensured that, when its banks are bailed out by the eurozone rescue fund, the fund will not be treated as a preferred creditor. This prospect had deterred some private investors since, in the event of a default, they would have faced proportionately bigger losses. José Maríá Méndez, director general of the association of Spanish savings banks, or cajas, described European deal as “very positive” for Spain. “It now seems to me a fair agreement between European partners that sets the foundation for a banking union”, he said at a conference on the euro debt crisis in the northern Spanish city of Santander. The deal, however, is less favorable for Italy than for Spain, according to Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy, a London consulting firm that assesses sovereign debt. “Mr. Monti only managed to extract a commitment the rescue funds will, if called upon by Rome, purchase limited amounts of government debt provided Italy sticks to its current reform program”, Mr Spiro wrote in a note to investors. “What’s more, any bailout loans to Italy would still be given seniority status”. Monti, an experienced European player and former European Union commissioner, hailed the agreement as a “very important deal for future of the E.U. and the eurozone,” adding, “it is a double satisfaction for Italy.” He had argued that other eurozone leaders must find ways to help “virtuous countries” like his own and Spain, which were fixing their economies and were solvent, but were under speculative market pressure. Countries that request bond support from the rescue fund will have to sign a memorandum of understanding setting out their existing policy commitments and agreeing to a timetable. But they will not face the intrusive oversight of a “troika” of international leaders to which Greece, Ireland and Portugal have been subjected. Eurozone “will be strengthened by this”. Italy has no immediate plans to ask for help from existing funds, he added, on assumption that bond yields would ease after this agreement. The summit outcome was welcomed by the Institute for International Finance, a bank lobby group, though its market monitoring group issued a statement calling for more detail. “The Signal of intention to establish a single supervisory mechanism creating the possibility of recapitalizing banks directly is encouraging”. “Likewise, the indication that EFSF/ESM funds for Spain’s banking sector would not have seniority over private claims reflects an important recognition that such seniority would undermine the objective, breaking the negative feedback loop, restoring confidence in euro area sovereign debt markets”. “Nevertheless, such statements require concrete, immediate steps to give confidence to all parties that these directions will be fully realized”, the statement added.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/business/global/daily-euro-zone-watch.html 

Multinacionales europeas realzan saldo positivo de inversión en Latinoamérica

Representantes de multinacionales europeas como el Banco Santander y Telefónica destacaron el “balance positivo” de inversión en ALC, no sólo para empresas sino para el desarrollo regional. La inversión europea en la región es “de bastante valor añadido”, resumió el director de Economía y de Estructura Financiera de Telefónica, Juan Antonio Mielgo, en el VI Seminario Internacional Unión Europea (UE) – América Latina, clausurado este viernes en Madrid. En su intervención, Mielgo recordó que la inversión europea en América Latina es 10 veces mayor que la china. El compromiso de Europa con América Latina es “obvio” desde hace muchos años, resaltó, para subrayar que, frente las inversiones de otras regiones, la europea tiene “mucho compromiso” con la innovación y el desarrollo, y no está “excesivamente concentrada”. Su empresa invirtió en la región de forma directa 60.000 millones de euros, más otros 60.000 en bienes de equipo, que hace que inversiones de Telefónica supongan el 20% de las españolas y el 10% de la europea en América Latina. “América Latina para Telefónica es una pieza clave del engranaje”, toda vez que aproximadamente la mitad del negocio viene de esa región y dos terceras partes de los clientes. Juan Antonio Mielgo abogó por poner el acento en la tríada mundo asiático-América Latina-Europa, advirtió de 2 peligros de la relación Latinoamérica-China: la “reprimarización de las exportaciones” latinoamericanas y que el gigante asiático “está diversificando sus proveedores” de materias primas. El director adjunto Servicio de Estudios del Banco Santander, Antonio Cortina, destacó por su parte los efectos positivos de la integración financiera, ya que la presencia de bancos extranjeros, a su juicio, contribuyó al desarrollo de las economías y a la estabilidad financiera. El presidente de Américas & Iberia, Wincor Nixford, Javier López-Bartolomé, aludió a las “posibilidades infinitas” que ofrece Latinoamérica, donde, el “número de consumidores sigue creciendo”, de la mano del ascenso de la clase media. En el seminario, celebrado en la sede de las Instituciones Europeas en España, participó el secretario para la Cooperación Iberoamericana de la SEGIB, Salvador Arriola, quien abogó por el establecimiento de “un espacio empresarial iberoamericano donde se pudieran sumar esfuerzos empresas multilatinas, españolas, portuguesas”. (EFE – 29/06/2012)

Beijing, a Boon for Africa

In June 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Zambia warning of a “new colonialism” threatening the African continent. “We saw that during colonial times, it is easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave,” she said, in a thinly veiled swipe at China. In 2009, China became Africa’s single largest trading partner, surpassing the United States. And China’s foreign direct investment in Africa has skyrocketed from under $100 million in 2003 to more than $12 billion in 2011. (source: Dambisa Moyo – NYTimes – 28/06/2012)

Since China began seriously investing in Africa in 2005, it has been routinely cast as a stealthy imperialist with a voracious appetite for commodities and no qualms about exploiting Africans to get them. It is no wonder that the American government is lashing out at its new competitor, while China has made huge investments in Africa, United States has stood on the sidelines and watched its influence on the continent fade. Despite all the scaremongering, China’s motives for investing in Africa are actually quite pure. To satisfy China’s population and prevent a crisis of legitimacy for their rule, leaders in Beijing need to keep economic growth rates high and continue to bring hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. And to do so, China needs arable land, oil and minerals. Pursuing imperial or colonial ambitions with masses of impoverished people at home would be wholly irrational and out of sync with China’s current strategic thinking.

Moreover, evidence does not support a claim that Africans themselves feel exploited. To the contrary, China’s role is broadly welcomed across the continent. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of 10 sub-Saharan African countries found that Africans overwhelmingly viewed Chinese economic growth as beneficial. In virtually all countries surveyed, China’s involvement was viewed in a much more positive light than America’s; in Senegal, 86 percent said China’s role in their country helped make things better, compared with 56 percent who felt that way about America’s role. In Kenya, 91 percent of respondents said they believed China’s influence was positive, versus only 74% for the United States. And the charge that Chinese companies prefer to ship Chinese employees (and even prisoners) to work in Africa rather than hire local African workers flies in the face of employment data. In countries like my own, Zambia, the ratio of African to Chinese workers has exceeded 13:1 recently, and there is no evidence of Chinese prisoners working there. Of course, China should not have a free pass to run roughshod over workers’ rights or the environment. Human rights violations, environmental abuses, corruption deserve serious and objective investigation. But to finger-point and paint China’s approach in Africa as uniformly hostile to workers is largely unsubstantiated. If anything, bulk of responsibility for abuses lies with African leaders themselves. The 2011 Human Rights Watch Report “You’ll Be Fired If You Refuse,” which described a series of alleged labor and human rights abuses in Chinese-owned Zambian copper mines, missed a fundamental point: the onus of policing social policy and protecting environment is on local governments, and it is local policy makers who should ultimately be held accountable and responsible if and when egregious failures occur.

China’s critics ignore root cause of why many African leaders are corrupt, unaccountable to their populations. For decades, many African governments have abdicated their responsibilities at home in return for the vast sums of money they receive from courting international donors and catering to them. Even well-intentioned aid undermines accountability. Aid severs the link between Africans and their governments, because citizens generally have no say in how the aid dollars are spent and governments too often respond to needs of donors, rather than those of their citizens. In a functioning democracy, a government receives revenues (largely in the form of taxes) from its citizens, and in return promises to provide public goods and services, like education, national security and infrastructure. If the government fails to deliver on its promises, it runs risk of being voted out. The fact that so many African governments can stay in power by relying on foreign aid that has few strings attached, instead of revenues from their own populations, allows corrupt politicians to remain in charge. Thankfully, decrease in flow of Western aid since the 2008 financial crisis offers a chance to remedy this structural failure so that, like others in the world, Africans can finally hold their governments accountable. With approximately 60% of Africa’s population under age 24, foreign investment and job creation are the only forces that can reduce poverty and stave off the sort of political upheaval that has swept the Arab world. And China’s rush for resources has spawned much-needed trade and investment, created a large market for African exports, a huge benefit for a continent seeking rapid economic growth. 

Forging a peace plan for Syria

A group of influential countries from U.N. Security Council and Middle East will meet Saturday in Geneva to agree on an action plan for peace in Syria. The situation could hardly be more grave. Since the last spring, many thousands of Syrians have risen up to demand change. While at first they gathered peacefully, in the face of appalling government brutality some have resorted to arms. Others, especially members of minorities, have sat on fence or supported government, they fear the alternative. Resulting maelstrom has shocked the world. Battles have raged through city after city. Whole neighborhoods have been shelled into ruins. Families have been massacred. Thousands have been killed and thousands more detained, while hundreds of thousands have fled their homes. Many civilians are trapped in combat zones, not receiving medical care or humanitarian aid. (source: Kofi Annan – The Washington Post – 29/06/2012)

Violence has reached the capital, Damascus, and has spilled over to neighboring states. And as the chaos deepens, terrorist elements have sought to exploit it. In March, everyone agreed to a six-point plan that provided a ladder parties could climb down and a mechanism, U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, to help them sustain a cease-fire so political negotiations could start. But that plan has not been implemented. After an initial lull, violence got worse. Syria’s government, which bears the biggest responsibility, continues to use extreme violence against both unarmed and armed protesters. For its part, the opposition lacks unity and some elements have intensified their attacks against government forces, installations. Unarmed U.N. observers have had to suspend their activities. They remain at their posts, ready to reengage if the parties show political will. The Security Council will soon decide on the mission’s future. This conflict is among Syrians, and they must be the ones who solve it. But it would be naive to think they could, on their own, end violence now and enter into a meaningful political process. Many external powers are deeply involved. Despite formal unity behind six-point plan, mutual mistrust has made them work at cross-purposes. Intentionally or otherwise, they have encouraged the government and parts of opposition to believe that force is the only option. This serves no one’s interest, least of all that of the Syrian people. It is time for all who have influence on the parties, and all who bear responsibility for international peace and security, to act positively for peace. With the support of the secretaries general of United Nations and Arab League, I have asked participants in Saturday’s meeting to form an action group whose members will work together until peace is achieved. The participants include those with influence on the Syrian government and its opposition. Members must commit to act in unison to end the bloodshed and implement the six-point plan, avoiding further militarization of conflict. It is abundantly clear that violence will not stop without joint, sustained pressure from those with influence, including consequences for noncompliance.

But something more is essential. I expect all who attend Saturday’s meeting to agree a Syrian-led transition process must be achieved in accordance with clear principles, guidelines. There must be a democratic and pluralistic future for Syria that complies with international standards on human rights and protects the rights of all communities. This must include a government of national unity would exercise full executive powers. This government could include members of the present government and opposition and other groups, but those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardize stability and reconciliation would be excluded. The transition would also include a meaningful national dialogue, a constitutional revision subject to popular approval, followed by free and fair multiparty elections. Stability and calm must be ensured throughout by functioning institutions and protection of all groups within Syria’s diverse society. There must be a commitment to accountability and to national reconciliation. There is no substitute for the hard work of helping Syrians forge their own political future, in full respect of Syria’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. The international community has long agreed that any transition must be led by Syrians. We must come together to help the Syrian people embrace and achieve this future through peaceful means. If all participants in Saturday’s meeting are ready to act accordingly, we can turn the tide of violence and embark on a road to peace in which the Syrian people determine their future. If not, the downward spiral will continue, and may soon become irreversible. 

Alejandro Domingo D’Agostino

¿En qué país del mundo, salvo en regímenes dictatoriales, se apresa y mantiene detenidas a personas por el solo hecho de existir una sospecha y sin prueba alguna? (Art. XXV de la Declaración Americana de los Derechos y Deberes del Hombre). En la República Argentina, país donde se habla de respeto y defensa de los Derechos Humanos, de la Justicia plena e independiente, tres ciudadanos nos encontramos privados de todos los derechos sean humanos como constitucionales y procesales desde hace 13 meses. Somos tres pilotos acusados de un horrible delito, del cual somos inocentes. Gracias a artículo publicado en Página 12 nos enteramos de dicha acusación y procedimos a ponernos a disposición del Juez Torres. La acusación se realizó a través de una declaración del cineasta Enrique Piñeyro, desde la cual se califica de “sospechoso” un vuelo de Navegación Nocturna de Instrucción, realizado el día 14 de Diciembre de 1977 desde el que, según Piñeyro, se arrojaron al mar los cuerpos de las integrantes del Grupo de la Santa Cruz. Los 3 hicimos ese vuelo de Instrucción, lo cual consta en planillas; pero eso es todo lo que fue: entrenamiento para volar de noche. Pese a que se probó por testimonios de pilotos, personal de Plan de Vuelo, operadores de Torre de Control, informe exhaustivo de la Prefectura Naval Argentina que ese vuelo fue realmente de instrucción y el testimonio de Pilar Caldeiro, sobreviviente de la ESMA, que dice haber visto a las integrantes del Grupo de la Santa Cruz con posterioridad, para el Juez Torres, la Cámara Federal y la de Casación sigue siendo un vuelo “sospechoso” sin otro motivo, mas allá del que nosotros entendemos POLÍTICO. Tal atropello a nuestra libertad no termina aquí ya que también se nos acusa de 56 privaciones ilegítimas de la libertad que nada tienen que ver con el vuelo mencionado. Como si estas violaciones a nuestros derechos procesales y humanos fueran poco, se nos ha negado la excarcelación sin ningún motivo, pese a reunir todos los requisitos y condiciones establecidas por ley como ser: residencia, grupo familiar, trabajo y ausencia de antecedentes penales. ¿Es esto tener respeto por el derecho y la justicia? Y por último, encontramos indignantemente irónico que el cineasta Piñeyro, quien nos acusa a nosotros, se pasee por los medios manifestando que los jueces por una simple “sospecha” no pueden privar de la libertad a nadie, y que tampoco los periodistas pueden insertar en la opinión pública la idea de culpabilidad de una persona sin tener una sola prueba. Señor Piñeyro, ¿Usted se olvidó lo que Ud. y Página 12 hicieron hace 13 meses? ¿No es acaso lo que tan vehementemente denuncia en su película? Con tristeza, nosotros le contamos que lo único que hizo realmente fue destruir familias dignas, nuestro trabajo y por sobre todo nuestra libertad. Y todo, sin una prueba que lo sustente. Esa “simple sospecha” de la que habla, nos quitó nuestro derecho de ver crecer a nuestros hijos y nietos durante estos 13 meses de prisión. Por esto, esperamos que realmente se haga justicia con nosotros y todos los involucrados en esta mentira. La causa es pública y su nro. es 14217/03 del juzgado N°12 a cargo del Sr. Torres, Secretaría 23. Gracias por su tiempo y desde ya contamos con su apoyo para la difusión de esta información. Los imputados: Mario Daniel Arru, Alejandro Domingo D’Agostino y Enrique José De Saint Georges.