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  • Author: Luca Franza
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Dolphins are being spotted in harbours, canals in Venice have never looked so clean and the temporary ban of corridas has spared the lives of a hundred Spanish bulls. Looking at the bright side of things is an admirable quality, but we should not get too carried away with the idea that COVID-19 is good for the planet. Besides the anecdotal phenomena quoted above, the collapse of mobility and economic activity induced by COVID-19 are generating meaningful short-term consequences for the environment. These include a sharp reduction in Hubei’s and Northern Italy’s air pollution levels and a likely reduction in global CO2 emissions in 2020. Rejoicing over such news rests on a short-sighted view. The interlinkages between COVID-19, energy and climate issues are so complex that we are actually looking at a mixed bag of consequences.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Pollution, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Francesca Ghiretti
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The bilateral relationship between Italy and China is back in the spotlight one year after the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on China’s Belt and Road Initiative. To date, Italy is the second hardest hit country by COVID-19 pandemic after China. Despite strict measures in place to limit the crisis, numbers keep rising, placing the national health care system under severe strain.
  • Topic: Health, Bilateral Relations, Foreign Aid, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Italy, European Union
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Italian armed forces need to adjust to a changing operational environment, whereby threat levels are on the rise and the United States is more reluctant to lead military operations than in the past.
  • Topic: International Relations, NATO, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elisa Murgese
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: China’s 2018 import ban on mixed “recyclable” plastic waste revealed deep-rooted problems in the global recycling system and uncovered the wasteful and harmful nature of the recycling trade. Repercussions have been global. In April 2019, Greenpeace East Asia took a closer look at the top plastic waste importers and exporters globally. This data details the 21 top exporters and 21 top importers of plastic waste from January 2016 to November 2018, measuring the breadth of the plastics crisis and the global industry’s response to import bans. Two core trends emerged from China’s ban and the Greenpeace analysis.
  • Topic: Crime, Environment, Trafficking , Waste
  • Political Geography: Europe, Malaysia, Asia, Italy
  • Author: Nicola Bilotta, Alissa Siara
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: One of the key priorities of the new European Commission is to enhance the EU’s geopolitical credentials and “learn to use the language of power”, as stated by the incoming EU High Representative Josep Borrell. The EU’s ambition is two-fold: to increase the Union’s ability to project power and influence at the global level, including through increased integration and coordination among member states, and secondly to enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy from the US in the political, military and economic domains. Both objectives, ambitious in the best of circumstances, are today under severe strain by the COVID-19 crisis. Implications will be long-lasting and multidimensional, and for Europe, its impact will have a direct bearing on its ambition for strategic autonomy, touching each of the three pillars outlined above.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Economy, Autonomy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Alessandro Marrone
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic will negatively affect the defence field from a budgetary, industrial and politicostrategic point of view, particularly in Europe. Depending on the pandemic’s duration, its economic consequences and national and EU responses, effects may range from contained damages to a much wider European security crisis.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Crisis Management, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Daniele Fattibene
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development stands at a crossroads. While Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have progressively entered the political discourse and agendas of numerous states, without long-term financial investments, building a more just and sustainable future will remain little more than a rhetorical embellishment.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Elena A. Korosteleva, Irina Petrova
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Resilience has recently emerged as a possible solution to address the increasing dysfunctionality of national and global governance, strengthening its ability to deal with the frequenting crises and the adversity of VUCA – the more vulnerable, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – world around us.
  • Topic: Politics, International Relations Theory, Institutions, Coronavirus, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Tommaso Emiliani
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The killing of top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by a US drone strike on 3 January 2020, followed by the Iranian retaliation on US military bases in Iraq, left many Europeans wondering how – if at all – the European Union can foster de-escalation in the Middle East. The EU is presently stuck between a deepening strategic rift with its US ally and its inability to advance its independent interests and policies vis-à-vis Iran. It is now clear that Europe cannot protect its relations with Washington while also salvaging the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iranian nuclear deal. Borrowing from an old Persian proverb, Europe cannot have both God and the sugar dates.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Military Affairs, Trade, Transatlantic Relations, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Middle East, United States of America, European Union, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Luca Barana
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The European Commission’s Joint-Communication “Towards a Comprehensive Strategy with Africa”, published on 9 March 2020, envisioned the beginnings of a new and more equal partnership with the African Union (AU).[1] Meanwhile, COVID-19 has had an unprecedented disruptor effect on the world scene. Its impact dramatic and long-lasting, the crisis may also be an opportunity to move beyond policy principles and actually consolidate the EU–AU relationship. The Commission aspires to structure this new course of EU–AU relations around five thematic partnerships and ten actions so as to concretely step up cooperation. A common thread emerging from the Communication is the need to strengthen multilateralism and the rules-based international system.
  • Topic: Migration, United Nations, Multilateralism, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, European Union, African Union
  • Author: Nona Mikhelidze
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: On 25 March, one month after Russia registered its first confirmed case of Coronavirus, President Vladimir Putin announced a week of paid national holiday and invited Russians to stay home in a televised address to the nation. Further measures were subsequently introduced to limit the spread of the virus, while authorities prepared emergency plans to safeguard socio-economic conditions in the country. Initiatives included providing a new support package to businesses hit by the pandemic, a monthly bonus to medical personnel and the construction of new hospitals, following the Chinese model. Meanwhile, the constitutional referendum meant to extend Putin’s term limit as president was postponed. Originally scheduled for 22 April, this delay is due to Putin’s concern for public health and the multidimensional impact of the pandemic, a perfect storm involving quarantine measures, declining living standards, inflation and a weakened exchange rate, rising prices and increased job insecurity. Taken together, these challenges could jeopardise the outcome of the referendum. A recent poll conducted by the Levada Center in March highlighted a very slim majority (45 per cent) in favour of Putin’s constitutional amendments.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Soft Power, Coronavirus, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Italy
  • Author: Nicoletta Pirozzi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Every era has its symbols. In 1984, Mitterrand and Kohl held hands on the battlefield in Verdun, coming to symbolise the importance of peace in the pursuit of European integration. Today, in times of COVID-19, the so-called “Coronabonds” could have emerged as the symbol of a new Europe, one that is ready and able to do what it takes to collectively overcome the present crisis. Yet, what some member states consider an indispensable emblem of European solidarity, namely debt mutualisation to face an unprecedented symmetric crisis brought about by COVID-19, is regarded by others as an ultimate excuse for moral hazard. As a result, Europe could end up with a politically more digestible European Fund, as proposed by Commissioners Paolo Gentiloni and Thierry Breton, designed to issue long-term bonds.[1] Or, as outlined by the Eurogroup, a Recovery Fund that is “temporary, targeted and commensurate” to the extraordinary costs of the current crisis, helping to spread them across time.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Governance, Finance, Economy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, European Union
  • Author: Joseph de Weck
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Do you want to know how Beijing would like Europe to act? Take a look at Switzerland. Switzerland and China have been close for decades. It was the first Western nation to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in January 1950. Bern wanted to protect investments in the new People’s Republic from nationalization and hoped Swiss industry could lend a hand in rebuilding China’s infrastructure after the civil war. Being friendly to China paid off, but only 30 years later, once reformer Deng Xiaoping took the reins of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 1980, Swiss elevator producer Schindler was the first foreign company to do a joint venture in China. Today, Switzerland is the only continental European country to have a free trade agreement (FTA) with China.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, International Trade and Finance, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia, Switzerland, Sweden
  • Author: Geoffrey Sloan
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: This essay draws on the author’s previous work, specifically: The Geopolitics of Anglo-Irish Relations in the 20th Century. The greatest failure of the European referendum campaign in 2016, which can be attributed to both sides, was the inability to articulate an understanding of Britain’s geopolitical relationship to Europe. By geopolitics, I do not mean its current usage: interpreted merely as a synonym for international strategic rivalry. I refer, instead, to classical geopolitics, which is a confluence of three subjects: geography, history, and strategy. It draws attention to certain geographical patterns of political history. It fuses spatial relationships and historical causation. It can produce explanations that suggest the contemporary and future political relevance of various geographical configurations.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Brexit
  • Political Geography: Britain, Europe
  • Author: Alexander Luck
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: On June 6, the Wall Street Journal set off an avalanche of commentary by reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a drastic reduction in U.S. troops deployed in Germany within a space of only six months. The move was met with significant pushback in Washington and Brussels, causing Congressional Republicans to raise their concerns in letters and public statements. Trump’s announcement, however, was in fact an extension of earlier plans mooted in June 2019, when the administration first suggested moving at least 1,000 troops from Germany to Poland. At the time, Trump suggested that the proposed move was to “affirm the significant defense cooperation between our nations.” Washington picked up this potential troop move again in a rather unrelated context following a spat over the German refusal to participate in a naval mission in the Persian Gulf to deter Iran, reinforcing the notion Trump keeps using American deployments in Germany as a bargaining chip for any interaction on foreign policy with the Merkel government.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Tony van der Togt
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: A global multilateral rules-based order, supported by a pro-active and interventionist United States, is gradually being replaced by a more fragmented world, in which geopolitics and geo-economics are becoming the dominant factors and universal rules, norms, and values are increasingly questioned. For the EU such developments are particularly challenging, as it has long perceived itself as a post-Westphalian soft power, mainly projecting its norms and values in its relations with both its direct neighbors and the world at large. A more isolationist US, a more assertive Russia, and the growing global influence of China have raised questions about the EU’s place and role in the world, which become even more pertinent after Brexit. Therefore, Commission President Von der Leyen intends to lead a “geopolitical Commission” and we are hearing calls for European strategic autonomy or even strategic sovereignty.
  • Topic: International Relations, European Union, Geopolitics, Multilateralism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • Author: Matteo Villa, Marta Foresti, Elena Corradi
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Migration is often envisioned as a movement from origin A to destination B. But, even for forcibly displaced people, migration trajectories are much more complex and can be made up of multiple displacements. This study aims to look at how decisions to migrate are shaped and what it is that drives, diverts or deters migratory movements across borders. It focuses on how education in emergency (EIE) affects the migratory decisions of forcibly displaced people. What impact does EIE have on the living conditions of forcibly displaced people in countries of transit? How does the perspective of education in emergency affect their decisions on when, where, and how to migrate further?
  • Topic: Education, Migration, Displacement
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Author: Giulia Di Donato
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: During the last four decades, China experienced impressive economic growth, becoming one of the leading powers of the global economy. After a century of humiliation imposed by Western and Japanese colonial powers, today the country is demonstrating a strong desire to achieve its national rejuvenation (guojia fuxing). Indeed, under the iconic leadership of President Xi Jinping, China is adopting an increasingly assertive international behavior, balancing the need to protect its sovereignty and strategic interests related to economic and security issues, and the ambition to restore its role of a great power[1]. In this context, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - a massive infrastructure project to improve connectivity between the East and the West, increase regional cooperation and facilitate trade and investments - has been described as China’s grand strategy championing its global governance ambitions[2]. Indeed, BRI-participating economies represent more than one-third of global GDP, and over half of the world’s population (OECD 2017).
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Economy, Grand Strategy, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Matteo Villa, James F. Myers, Federico Turkheimer
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: In an ongoing epidemic, the case fatality rate is not a reliable estimate of a disease’s severity. This is particularly so when a large share of asymptomatic or pauci-symptomatic patients escape testing, or when overwhelmed healthcare systems are forced to limit testing further to severe cases only. By leveraging data on COVID-19, we propose a novel way to estimate a disease’s infected fatality rate, the true lethality of the disease, in the presence of sparse and partial information. We show that this is feasible when the disease has turned into a pandemic and data comes from a large number of countries, or regions within countries, as long as testing strategies vary sufficiently. For Italy, our method estimates an IFR of 1.1% (95% CI: 0.2% – 2.1%), which is strongly in line with other methods. At the global level, our method estimates an IFR of 1.6% (95% CI: 1.1% – 2.1%). This method also allows us to show that the IFR varies according to each country’s age structure and healthcare capacity.
  • Topic: Health, Pandemic, Data, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy, Global Focus
  • Author: Matteo Villa
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: COVID-19’s lethality in Italy is a highly discussed figure. When compared with other major countries, Italy’s 9.9% case fatality rate (CFR) as of 24 March 2020 is the highest by far. But relying on this figure is misleading. By itself, the CFR tells us almost nothing about COVID-19’s plausible lethality (infected fatality rate, or IFR). On the opposite, recent studies place China’s IFR at 0.7%. By relying on this figure, ISPI’s best estimate for COVID-19’s plausible lethality in Italy is 1.1%. The gap between the IFR and the CFR figures can be largely attributed to the number of infected persons that have not been tested and, therefore, escape counting. ISPI estimates that the number of active cases in Italy is at around 530,000 as of 24 March 2020, or almost ten times larger than the official count of 55,000 active cases. This paper shows that the CFR is an unreliable indicator of COVID-19’s plausible lethality, and there is not enough evidence to suggest that Italy’s IFR is much higher than expected. On the opposite, a direct comparison between the CFR and the IFR is much better placed to paint a more realistic picture of the evolution of the ongoing epidemic.
  • Topic: Health, Pandemic, Data, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy