Despite the soothing presence of Elton John and Cate Blanchett, love, peace and goodwill to all is unlikely to break out at the Davos World Economic Forum next week. Not when Donald Trump is in town.
“Creating a shared future in a fractured world,” is the suitably earnest theme of next week’s World Economic Forum, a staple in the calendar for the motley crew of CEOs, world leaders and a sprinkling of celebrities who gather in the small Swiss town of Davos.
It’s just as unlikely to be a happy week for the self-styled economic and political elite. While financial markets soared to unprecedented highs in 2017, the ‘masters of the universe’ in the financial sector remain toxically unpopular. The old order of free markets and open borders is still under attack.
Last year, the start of the Trump presidency was the talk of the town, although political and business leaders would only criticise Trump off the record. [At the same time, the irony of a self-proclaimed billionaire New York real estate mogul being a Davos ‘outsider’ should not be overlooked.]
This time there will be no such niceties. Trump will address delegates on 25 January, and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has signalled that the US President will use his speech “to advance his America First agenda with world leaders.”
That agenda has so far involved scrapping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and mothballing trade talks with the EU. That could mean a full frontal attack.
Europe will also be well represented. Jean-Claude Juncker, who the Commission concedes is “not a fan” of the Davos meetings, will speak for the first – and probably last – time as Commission President.
If the annual bunfight in Davos faces something of an existential crisis, at least its poster-boy will be in town and is likely to front an international fightback against the Trump doctrine. A Rothschilds banker turned centrist politician, Emmanuel Macron’s Davos credentials could hardly be more impeccable.
One as yet unanswered question is whether Angela Merkel will leave the interminable coalition talks in Berlin to take up the cause of free trade and liberal democracy alongside Macron. A final decision on Mutti’s attendance will take place following a CDU party meeting on Sunday, her spokesman Stefan Seibert told reporters.
If Theresa May’s presence will serve as an irritating reminder of Brexit’s unwanted presence on the EU agenda, trading rhetorical barbs with the US President should come as light relief to Macron, Merkel et al.
After years of navel-gazing about its own existential crises, European leaders will have the novelty of being able to discuss another institution’s problems.
The Commission is unlikely to propose legislation on removing hate speech from internet platforms, Vera Jourova said today. Instead, it will rely on the existing non-binding agreement with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Microsoft, which it insists is working.
EURACTIV France’s Cécile Barbière has been investigating illegal cocoa farming in Cote d’Ivoire and its devastating effect on the country’s protected forests. Read the report here.
This week’s Trans-Europe express comes from EURACTIV Romania, bringing you their take on the country’s new prime minister and the internal power struggles of the ruling social democrats.
Silvio Berlusconi has signed a pact with his right-wing allies ahead of Italy’s March election, promising to slash taxes for top earners and roll back pensions reform.
China and the EU are looking to revive bilateral relations with a tourism drive to stimulate cultural exchange, trade and investment.
Kazakhstan is stepping up its efforts to become the world’s peace broker, suggesting the next round of Russia-Ukraine talks should be held in its capital Astana. Meanwhile, the US is calling for the terms of the Iran nuclear deal to be tightened, with Donald Trump telling Europe it has four months to get a better deal.
Austria’s new far-right interior minister has ordered the creation of border detention facilities to “concentrate asylum seekers in one place”. The EU has had little to say about the government positions offered to the party, once considered a threat to democracy and European values.
The ECJ’s advocate general yesterday hinted that new plant breeding techniques should be exempt from the EU’s GMO legislation. A final court ruling is due in May this year.
Boris Johnson has suggested connecting Britain to the continent with a new 30km road bridge across the Strait of Dover, the world’s busiest shipping lane. Emmanuel Macron was open to the discussion but Theresa May was reportedly unimpressed.
Look out for…
Davos kicks off next week. EURACTIV will bring you the highlights direct from the Swiss mountains.
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