Morning Brief

EU Economic Negotiations Enter Overtime

What was planned as a two-day summit is now in its fourth day as a disagreement drags on over what form recovery funds should take.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron speak together ahead of an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, on July 18, 2020.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron speak together ahead of an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, on July 18, 2020. Francisco Seco / AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: EU leaders are still deadlocked on the fourth day of the European Council summit, heavy flooding hits China and India, and what to watch in the world this week.

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‘Frugal’ Four Holds Firm as EU Negotiations Enter Fourth Day

Talking face-to-face was supposed to make things easier. Instead, negotiations between heads of government and state representing the 27 European Union member states have dragged on to an unprecedented fourth day, as disagreements over how to disburse recovery funds continue to hold up any deal. They reconvene today at 4 p.m. in Brussels (10 a.m. in Washington).

The biggest point of division lies in the proposed €750 billion economic recovery fund, which initially was to take the form of €250 billion in loans and €500 billion in grants. The balance of those two mechanisms has shifted as negotiations progressed over the weekend, with the so-called frugal four of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden (along with frugally-leaning Finland) pushing for less money toward grants and tighter accountability measures.

European Central Bank Chief Christine Lagarde has urged all sides not to move hastily. “From my perspective, it’s better to agree on an ambitious facility along these lines, even if it takes a bit more time. I would hope that the leaders agree on something that’s ambitious rather than fast,” Lagarde told Reuters.

Tempers frayed over the course of the weekend. French President Emmanuel Macron at one point compared the apparent obstinacy of the frugal four to the behavior of former British Prime Minister David Cameron. Raphael Glucksman, a French member of the European Parliament, went further on Twitter, labelling the Netherlands a tax haven (un paradis fiscal) and accusing the frugal four of holding the rest of the EU hostage. 

Funding unity. As Susi Dennison wrote in Foreign Policy on July 17, the division is also reflected by citizens in European countries, according to a poll taken by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR): countries that would benefit from the recovery fund generally support it, but citizens in countries that would be net contributors to the fund do not.

Some good news? But there is some good news for Europe’s future, according to the ECFR poll, even if today’s talks end without agreement: 63 percent of Europeans believe the pandemic has shown the need for more European cooperation, especially when it comes to dealing with global threats.

What We’re Following Today

Russians protest over governor’s arrest continue. Thousands of Russians took to the streets of Khabarovsk, a city bordering northeast China, on Saturday to protest the arrest of Governor Sergei Furgal. The protests—the biggest the city has ever seen—have grown since Furgal’s arrest on July 9 for the alleged murder of businessmen in 2004 and 2005. Furgal, who defeated the Kremlin-backed candidate in the 2018 gubernatorial election, remains in detention in Moscow.

Flooding in Asia. Nearly four million people in Nepal and India’s northeastern state of Assam have been displaced by heavy flooding caused by monsoon rains. Officials on Sunday said that 189 have died so far in the flooding, caused by an overflowing Brahmaputra River. “The flood situation remains critical with most of the rivers flowing menacingly above the danger mark,” Assam Water Resources Minister Keshab Mahanta told Reuters.

In China, authorities dynamited a dam on the Chu river, a tributary of the Yangtze, in an attempt to lower water levels swollen by heavy rainfall. The rains have caused 1.8 million people in the country’s central and southern regions to be evacuated so far.

Iran suspends triple execution. Iran has suspended the executions of three Iranian men, aged 26 to 28, charged in connection with anti-government protests in late-2019. Appearing to acknowledge a Farsi hashtag calling on the Iranian government to block the executions, government spokesman Ali Rabiei called the social media campaign “a civil action by citizens (trying) to be heard.” Iran had been urged by U.S. President Donald Trump as well as human rights groups not to go through with the execution.

The World This Week

The sixth round of  Brexit negotiations between the European Union and United Kingdom begin on Tuesday, July 21. The agenda includes talks on a “level playing field” for economic competition, fisheries, and law enforcement cooperation.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits London for a day of talks with British counterparts. He is scheduled to meet with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to discuss China and Hong Kong as well as a U.S.-UK free trade agreement.

On Wednesday, July 22, Pompeo will visit Denmark. There he will meet with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, as well as Faroese Foreign Mininster Jenis av Rana, and Greenland Foreign Minister Steen Lynge. 

On Wednesday July 22, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin delivers his annual address to parliament on the performance of the government.

On Sunday, July 26, it will be 100 days until the U.S. presidential election.

Keep an Eye On

Guterres calls for new vision post-pandemic. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a new approach to global governance in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “It is exposing fallacies and falsehoods everywhere: The lie that free markets can deliver healthcare for all; the fiction that unpaid care work is not work; the delusion that we live in a post-racist world; the myth that we are all in the same boat,” Guterres said while delivering the annual Nelson Mandela lecture. Guterres also called for universal healthcare, debt write-offs for the developing world, and stiffer carbon taxes.

German state leaders lobby against troop reduction. The premiers of the four German states of Bavaria, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, and Rhineland-Palatinate have called on the U.S. Congress to block White House plans to reduce the number of U.S. troops in their country by 9,500. All four states currently house U.S. military bases. The premiers made the request in a letter to 13 U.S. lawmakers, including Republican Sens. Inhofe and Romney.

Rouhani says almost a third of Iranians may have had coronavirus. Up to 25 million Iranians—more than 30 percent of the total population—may have been infected with the coronavirus, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Saturday. The number is far higher than the official count of 271,606 reported on Saturday. An official from Iran’s coronavirus task force clarified that the 25 million represented “mildly affected patients who … did not need to seek medical advice.”

Odds and Ends

Italian police have intercepted a shipment of coffee beans from Medellin, Colombia that would have given a bigger kick than a triple espresso. Upon seizing the package, police found approximately 150 grams of cocaine had been painstakingly inserted into each coffee bean. According to police, their suspicions were raised when the shipment’s addressee “Santino D’Antonio” matched the name of the crime boss in the action movie John Wick II.

The coronavirus pandemic has coincided with a decline in the number of premature births, according to emerging research discovered separately in both Ireland and Denmark. The phenomenon has also been observed in the Netherlands and in Australia. It’s not yet known what caused the drop, although the positive effects of lockdown—cleaner air, less exposure to infection generally, and less time commuting—have been suggested as possible reasons.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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