Davos 2020 diary – day #4

Juan Guaido, President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, speaks during the Special Address by Juan Guaidó session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos. [ World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard]

Welcome to Davos where the 50th edition of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is taking place on 21-25 January. Throughout the week, EURACTIV gives you a glimpse into one of the world’s most exclusive conferences where political and business leaders meet every year to discuss global economic trends.

Venezuelan Guaido seeks support in Davos. Juan Guaidó, the president of the Venezuelan Assembly and self-proclaimed head of state of the country, defied the travel ban impossed by Nicolas Maduro’s regime and is touring Europe seeking support for his government. He stopped in Davos.

“What we want is a free Venezuela, a democratic Venezuela which respects human rights, where you can invest, where we can also make the most of our oil reserves so that we can really unleash the potential that we have,” Guidó told the Forum.

“If we can rebuild our region, consolidate a democratic system which would serve its people, we can stop this disaster,” he added.

Last year, Guaidó’s proclamation as president made a big impression on those attending the Forum. This year, he travelled to Switzerland to meet the world economic and political leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch premier Mark Rutte. Colombian President Ivan Duque backed Guaidó in Davos.

Digital tax discussion “on track” – OECD chief. Tensions between the US and a number of EU countries – namely the UK, France, Italy and Spain – over the digital tax are on the rise. Finance ministers of all four countries argued in favour of an international solution within the OECD to avoid an escalation, as President Donald Trump threatens with further tariffs.

EURACTIV’s Jorge Valero interviewed OECD Secretary-General José Ángel Gurría, who explained that everyone agrees that sorting dozens of national frameworks “would be very disruptive.”

“The next stop will be the end of June, at the G20 meeting, and then, of course, the end of the year, because that is the limit to our mandate given by the G 20. I think we’re on track. There are many proposals, but I think everybody is deciding to have an international solution,” Gurría told EURACTIV.

OECD chief: 'Sánchez government is a response to Spain's political reality'

OECD Secretary-General Ángel Gurría is one of the most-wanted men in the corridors of the World Economic Forum, held this week in Davos (Switzerland). On Wednesday (22 January) he introduced Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in the forum as “one of the great champions of multilateralism”.

How to be a prime minister. Kyriakos Mitsotakis participated in the World Economic Forum for the first time as the prime minister of Greece. Mitsotakis, who has a background on international relations, was asked about how real-life varies from the theory he studied.

“Nothing prepares you for the fast decisions you need to take in office. We have moved very quickly since I took office to make reforms, and I believe we are about to begin a long-term period of economic stability for Greece,” the Greek prime minister said.

A matter of inclusion. Sanna Marin leads a female-dominated cabinet in Finland. One of the youngest heads of government in the world, Marin participated for the first time at the World Economic Forum as prime minister and she spoke a lot about inclusion.

“Maybe it’s not such a big deal in Finland that we have five women in power… hopefully in the future, we have people from all kinds of backgrounds making the decisions in powerful places,” Marin, who grew up in an LGBTI family, told the Forum.

EU leaders discuss ‘Green deal’ in Davos. The World Economic Forum awarded a whole session to the Commission proposal for a European Green Deal. Vice President Frans Timmermans had a chance to exchange on the matter with prime minister Mark Rutte and Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Both welcomed the EU executive’s proposal, while Rutte said he had met with representatives of potentially-affected industries to reassure them.

“I don’t want them to leave. On the contrary, I want them to invest in my country,” Rutte said during the chat, “we can only achieve that [climate neutrality] with more economic growth and jobs.”

Merkel defence of multilateralism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the WEF in her twelfth participation in the meeting. In convulsive times, the EU leader strongly advocated for dialogue and multilateral cooperation. “We always need to talk, including with our antagonists,” the Chancellor told the Forum.

Turning to the fight against global warming, Merkel argued that “the whole way we have lived during the industrial age will need to change,” and praised the dramatic effort Germany is making to move towards climate neutrality. However, she admitted these policies often face resistance in parts of the population and urged leaders to bring people on board.

Meeting the target of the Paris Agreement, she warned, could determine “the survival of the planet.” But the Chancellor spoke about the economy, trade, foreign affairs and Brexit too. Read more here.

Spotted. Commission Vice-President for Economy Valdis Dombrovskis and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic listened attentively to Merkel’s speech on the spot. Her successor at the head of the CDU Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer rallied around the chancellor as she addressed the Forum.

Corruption index. Transparency International presented its 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index during the Forum. Denmark is the only EU member states in the top 5 of the best-perceived countries, although Europe remains the best performing region. Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria are the worst countries in the bloc. More here about the implications for Germany.

Facebook presidential threat. Billionaire and philanthropist George Soros accused Facebook of working to re-elect US President Donald Trump in the November vote, during his annual media dinner in Davos. Soros listed the biggest threats to democracies, including “would-be dictator” Matteo Salvini, and presented his new initiative for an international education network as he defends is literacy is the best weapon against populism. Read our report here.

Guterres warns on apocalypse ‘4 horsemen’. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in Davos on what he considers the main threats towards humankind, climate war, unfair globalisation, geopolitical tensions and the dark side of digital, and colled on collective action to tackle those challenges. “If I had to use two words to describe the state of the world it would be uncertainty and instability,” Guterres told the Forum.

Surviving the XXI century. Yuval Noah Harari, historian and writer -author of the best seller Sapiens-, addressed in a talk his own vision of the main risks for the survival of the human race and quite agreed with Guterres, including that ‘dark side of digital’.

In a very provocative speech, Harari argued the world is facing an ‘Artificial Intelligence’ arms race and whoever has enough knowledge of biology, enough data and enough computing power will be able to hack humans, with terrible consequences. “Soon, corporations and governments will be able to hack people,” he claimed, which would lead to the worst possible totalitarian regimes we have ever seen. As Guterres, he claimed a collective response is the only way to survive.

Quote of the day. “If you like the World Cup, you are a globalist,” Yuval Noah Harari said arguing that the international football tournament is an “an amazing example of global harmony.”

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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