Debt: the urgent need for a global recovery initiative

Source: European Union External Action

The growing indebtedness of many poor and middle-income countries is worrying. Developed countries have been hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the developing and emerging world have much less fiscal space to deal with its consequences and a much more difficult access to funding. Some of them have already defaulted on their external debt. If we are not able to deal rapidly with this debt issue, poverty and global instability are likely to increase. It could even fuel a new global financial crisis.

For our discussion with Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen and Development Ministers on the debt issue, we were joined by Ms Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Mr Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Ms Odile Renaud-Basso, the new President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Mr Emmanuel Moulin, The Paris Club Chair (The Paris Club is in charge of coordinating the treatment of the debt of over-indebted countries). We benefited also from the insights of Paolo Gentiloni, Commissioner for Economy, who represents the EU at the G20 Finance Ministers meetings.

A dire global economic outlook

 Kristalina Georgieva presented us a dire global economic outlook: we now know for sure that we are facing the worst recession since the great depression. The IMF projects global GDP to contract by 4.4% in 2020. A partial recovery is expected in 2021, assuming that the prospects of the vaccine will materialise. But this recovery will be uneven, prone to setbacks, and probably particularly harsh for developing countries.

“We are experiencing a reversal in the decline in poverty for the first time in decades, with 90 million people falling back into extreme poverty.”

 

GDP in low-income developing countries (LIDCs) is estimated to shrink by more than 1% this year, whereas average growth in this group has been above 5.5% per year in the last twenty years. The impact will be a reversal in the decline in poverty for the first time in decades, with 90 million people falling back into extreme poverty. In terms of fiscal support to the economy, advanced economies have deployed 20% of GDP this year, including loans and guaranties, emerging markets 6% of GDP, and poor countries only 2% of GDP.

Throughout this year 2020, the IMF has provided financial support to 82 countries, 47 of those being LIDCs. The Fund has in particular increased by 10 what it lends on average to Africa. However, according to IMF estimates, Africa will still face a $345 billion financing needs gap, of which $295 billion for sub-Saharan Africa. We need to close this gap with the support from institutions but also to create conditions for the private sector to step up.

“Africa will face a $345 billion financing needs gap, of which $295 billion for sub-Saharan Africa”

The IMF will expand its lending capacity. The EU has contributed €183 million to the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), which provides debt relief for the 29 poorest and most vulnerable countries, However the IMF still counts on EU Members States to give more resources to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust Fund. The IMF has limited capacity to lend to countries that are most in need. In such cases, capacity development matters as much as financial assistance and Kristalina Georgieva suggested that the EU prioritises this particular aspect. The EU and its associated development banks are committed to work closely on this issue with the IMF.

Breathing space for the poorest countries

The pre-pandemic debt levels for many low-income developing countries were already worrying. The G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), launched last April, has provided some breathing space to the poorest countries. The DSSI was initially foreseen to run until the end of the year. As of November, 46 countries have requested to participate, resulting in about $5.7 billion in deferred payments this year.

“Argentina has again defaulted on its external debt last May and Zambia on 13 November, aggravating the risks of a spiral of sovereign defaults, especially in Africa.”

However it is obviously not sufficient and there has been so far no significant participation by the private sector. Argentina has again defaulted on its external debt last May and Zambia on 13 November, aggravating the risks of a spiral of sovereign defaults, especially in Africa. This could eventually lead to another global financial crisis.

The G20 has taken additional action

Therefore, the G20 has taken additional action at the request in particular of the Union and its Member States. First, by extending DSSI until June 2021, with a possibility to extend it by another six months – something to be decided at the next IMF’s Spring Meeting. Second, the G20 and the Paris Club have agreed on a ‘Common framework for debt treatment beyond DSSI’, enabling the debt restructuring process to be initiated.

“China agreed to the new G20 debt treatment principles, an important step forward. We count now on the same motivation and level of commitment from all partners in this area.”

In recent years, China has become a very important creditor for many developing countries, particularly in Africa. However, it is not a Paris Club member and has not been very proactive on the debt issue until now. China agreed to the new G20 debt treatment principles: this is an important step forward. We count now on the same motivation and level of commitment from all partners in this area.

The EU wants to go further globally

However, we would like to go further: the EU is advocating to extend the G20 debt treatment framework to middle-income countries in need. We also support a new general Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) allocation, an international money issued by the IMF, to cope with the needs generated by the crisis.

To increase Europe’s global weight on this crucial issue, we need also to act more as Team Europe that can harness the strengths of our Member States and of the Union. EU Member States cannot have any real influence if they choose to go alone. In Senegal for example, Team Europe as a whole owns 9% of external debt, similar to the share of China alone.

“While we need to prioritise low-income countries, especially in Africa, some middle-income countries that face serious challenges also deserve close attention.”

 

All Member States have agreed in our meeting that these issues are of high priority. Several highlighted the need to move fast from providing ‘breathing space’ through the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, to deeper restructuring for some countries, and further financial support in many cases. While we need to prioritise low-income countries, especially in Africa, some middle-income countries that face serious challenges also deserve close attention, particularly in Latin America.

As I have said often before, I am deeply convinced of the urgent need for a debt relief initiative at multilateral level (mainly through the G20/Paris Club), accompanied by a concerted diplomatic and economic push to prevent a full-fledged debt crisis. However, debt relief alone is not enough: it has to be part of a renewed model of sustainable financing, especially in Africa.

“Debt relief has to be part of a renewed model of sustainable financing. The EU’s call for a Global Recovery Initiative that links debt relief with investments is key.”

To avoid expanding the gap between those who are ahead and those falling behind, it is crucial to ensure that the future will be green and inclusive, and that everyone can surf on the digital wave. The EU’s earlier call for a Global Recovery Initiative that links debt relief with investments is key here.

The debt problem is here to stay

The subject of debt sustainability for many low and middle-income countries will probably continue to be on our agenda for months. Despite our important internal difficulties, the way we handle this matter, in close coordination with our Member States, will have a decisive influence on Europe’s future role in the world and in particular on its relations with Africa.

UfM: Joint statement by the Jordanian and EU co-presidency on the Fifth Regional Forum of the Union for the Mediterranean

Source: European Union External Action

The 5th Regional Forum gathered Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Euro-Mediterranean region on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration to reaffirm their strong commitment to its values and principles and renew their commitment to enhance cooperation in the region in the interest of peace, stability, development, and shared prosperity.

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in 2008 gave a new impulse to the Process through the establishment of an institutionalized framework with a unique governance model to promote regional cooperation, integration and dialogue in key areas. The Barcelona Process’ original baskets of “Political and security partnership”, “Economic and financial partnership” and “Partnership in social, cultural and human affairs” remain a valuable basis for cooperation in the Mediterranean region. The 2017 Roadmap for Action remains the comprehensive strategic framework for the work of the UfM.

This milestone Anniversary of this year has provided the opportunity to reflect on the past 25 years and look into the future with a renewed vision. The Ministers recognized the scale and nature of the current regional challenges and reaffirmed their support to the work of the UfM to find joint responses to the difficult situations we are confronted with in these days and age.

Peace and stability continue to be main objectives for the UfM members. The UfM can contribute to these goals in the Mediterranean region by creating, through dialogue and cooperation, a political environment that is conducive to the solution, in relevant fora and on the basis of agreed parameters, of the conflicts and the political tensions affecting members  of the UfM. The need to strengthen efforts to solve conflicts and crises that are depriving the region from its right to peace and stability was emphasised.

In this context, all steps were encouraged that contribute to creating political horizons to achieve just and comprehensive Middle East peace and to relaunch effective negotiations to solve the Palestinian Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution and in accordance with international law. It is important that both parties avoid decisions that can undermine trust, including the building of new settlements. The importance of upholding the historical status quo for the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, including with regard to the Hashemite custodianship, was recalled. The indispensable role of UNRWA and the need to support it politically and financially in order to allow it to continue to fulfil its UN mandate was also reaffirmed.

There was also expression of support for the UN efforts in the search of a political solution to the Libyan crisis on the basis of relevant UN resolutions and welcoming of the regional initiatives contributing to these efforts. The objective is to preserve the unity, sovereignty and

territorial integrity of Libya, to stop all foreign interference and achieve national  reconciliation, sustainable peace and stability. In this regard, recent progress within the framework of the Joint Security Commission and the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum is encouraging and welcome.

The need to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis that preserves the territorial integrity  of the country, restores peace and stability, and creates conditions for the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees, in accordance with UNSC resolution 2254, was also emphasised. Full support was expressed for United Nations Special Envoy Geir Pedersen and his efforts to facilitate progress within the Syrian-led Constitutional Committee under UN auspices. There were calls on all parties to engage in good faith in its work, and welcomed the convening of the fourth round in Geneva on 30 November 2020.

Concern is also high about the multiple consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is therefore general agreement on the need to intensify our efforts to contain the pandemic by strengthening cooperation on research and innovation, and exchanging information and scientific knowledge, notably with a view to ensure a global access to vaccines as well as to mitigate the impact on economic growth, employment and social cohesion. It is important to show solidarity and mobilize resources and capacities towards a sustainable post-pandemic recovery paving the way for the creation of more resilient societies and economies in the region.

This year’s Regional Forum highlighted the role that the civil society has been playing over 25 years of Euro-Mediterranean partnership. In this respect, the Anna Lindh Foundation, the only Euro-Mediterranean organisation gathering civil society actors of the whole Mediterranean Basin, is playing an important role for the promotion of intercultural dialogue. The Parliamentary Assembly of the UfM and ARLEM also have to continue to play their role respectively to reinforce inter-parliamentary cooperation and to amplify the voices of local and regional authorities and to promote the territorialisation of the Euro-Mediterranean sectoral policies.

Citizens of the region are increasingly exposed to large-scale disinformation, including misleading, and outright false information. It is important to raise awareness and enhance cooperation with relevant stakeholders in this field, including industry and online platforms,  to fight disinformation and improve tolerance and strategic communication. Ministers also stressed the importance of fighting against terrorism, extremism and the culture of hate that seeks to divide us, and expressed solidarity against all acts feeding  hatred. Ministers called  for additional efforts in combating negative stereotyping, intolerance, culture of hate, stigmatization, discrimination and use of violence based on religion or belief and promote instead harmony and respect for the other.

Building on the experience of the past 25 years, the Ministers have recognised the need to prioritise the areas of action where the UfM can play a crucial role and provide for a comparative advantages and agreed to focus the UfM’s work in the coming years on the following specific areas:

1. Environmental and climate action:

We need to step up our efforts to tackle root causes of climate change promoting sustainable, green, low-carbon and circular resource-efficient economies, and reverse the dramatic loss of biodiversity in the Mediterranean region. Therefore, we  welcomed the initiative for an Action plan to make the Mediterranean a model sea by 2030 to be launched at the One Planet Summit.

 

2. Sustainable and inclusive economic and human development:

Fragmentation in the region has grown in the past year and the gap has been increasing between the countries in the Northern and the Southern shores. Efforts must be focused on the crucial employment challenges, mainly for young people, as well as on the important issue of investment, in order to tackle the very important challenges in this specific domain. We need to tap on the important human capital  and the vast natural resources of our region to deploy its full potential. We need to increase trade exchanges, which will be key for the future of our countries, especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic has harshly hit us. Blue economy can also be an important driver as it has the capacity to encompass growth and sustainability in the Mediterranean basin. Thus, the UfM will intensify regional dialogue in this area and organise a 2nd UfM Ministerial on Blue Economy in Malta in 2021.

 

3. Social inclusiveness and equality as an essential element in the socio-economic development of the region:

In this regard, the importance to fully involve the younger generations, to empower women and promote gender equality, in terms of rights and opportunities, and to create space for civil society were particularly stressed.

 

4. Digital transformation:

Digitalisation is a crucial vehicle towards a smart, innovative and sustainable economic development, which will also facilitate trade interlinkages in the region and could become an essential tool to tackle youth unemployment.

 

5. Civil Protection:

The UfM Platform on Civil Protection should play a key role in the discussion of the common challenges and the concrete actions to develop within the Civil Protection Action Plan for strengthened Euro-Mediterranean cooperation on prevention campaigns, emergency response and crisis management.

Ministerial conferences will take place in the coming months on environment and climate action, sustainable blue economy and energy.

With these objectives in mind, the Ministers reaffirmed the importance to mobilise sufficient financial resources to enable the implementation of UfM labelled projects and  reiterated  their commitment to support the UfM Secretariat, including through more balanced and predictable contributions to its budget.

With the objective to foster a common Mediterranean identity and increase the visibility and ownership of regional cooperation, we declared the 28th of November as the Day of the Mediterranean. Coinciding with the date of the Barcelona Declaration, the Day of the Mediterranean will provide the opportunity to hold cultural events across the region with a view to strengthening ties, promoting intercultural exchanges and dialogue and embracing  the diversity of the region.

Iran: Statement by the Spokesperson on the killing of a government official in Absard

Source: European Union External Action

On 27 November 2020 in Absard, Iran, an Iranian government official and, according to reports, 1 of his bodyguards, were killed in a series of violent attacks. This is a criminal act and runs counter to the principle of respect for human rights the EU stands for.

The High Representative expresses his condolences to the family members of the individuals who were killed, while wishing a prompt recovery to any other individuals who may have been injured.

In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for all parties to remain calm and exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid escalation which cannot be in anyone’s interest.

254 / Cham: 18-Jähriger ohne Führerausweis flüchtet vor Polizei

Source: Swiss Canton Zug – news in German

Zug, 29. November 2020, 11:00 Uhr

254 / MEDIENMITTEILUNG

Cham: 18-Jähriger ohne Führerausweis flüchtet vor Polizei

Ein junger Mann unternahm ohne gültigen Führerausweis eine Spritztour mit dem Auto eines Familienmitglieds. Als er im Chamer Dorfzentrum eine Polizeipatrouille erblickte drückte er aufs Gas, um sich einer Polizeikontrolle zu entziehen.

Am späten Freitagabend (27. November 2020), um 22:30 Uhr, wollte eine Patrouille der Zuger Polizei in Cham den Lenker eines Kleinwagens anhalten und kontrollieren. Als dieser die Polizei, die die Frontmatrix “Stopp Polizei” aktiviert hatte, bemerkte, erhöhte er die Geschwindigkeit und fuhr innerorts mit deutlich übersetzter Geschwindigkeit in Richtung Hünenberg See und Rotkreuz. Während der Fahrt schaltete der Mann im dichten Nebel mehrmals das Licht aus. Auf der Strecke von Honau/LU über Gisikon/LU bis Root D4/LU verlor die Patrouille, die dem Flüchtenden mit Sondersignalen und einem Abstand von rund 200 Metern folgte, fast aus den Augen, da dieser die signalisierte Höchstgeschwindigkeit derart massiv überschritt. Im Kreisverkehr in Buchrain/LU verlor der fehlbare Lenker die Herrschaft über sein Fahrzeug und kollidierte mit der Skulptur. Trotzdem setzte er seine Fahrt fort. Durch den Unfall konnte die Patrouille erneut aufschliessen. Rund 200 Meter nach der Unfallstelle hielt der Lenker mit dem stark beschädigten und rauchenden Fahrzeug an und konnte von den Einsatzkräften festgenommen werden.

Der Unfallverursacher wurde zur Kontrolle ins Spital überführt. Die Staatsanwaltschaft des Kantons Zug hat eine Blut- und Urinprobe angeordnet. Das Fahrzeug wurde sichergestellt.

Es stellte sich heraus, dass der Beschuldigte, ein 18-jähriger Serbe, über keinen gültigen Führerausweis verfügt und das Auto von einem Familienmitglied ohne dessen Wissen “ausgeliehen” hatte. Er muss sich bei der zuständigen Staatsanwaltschaft verantworten.

Im Einsatz standen Mitarbeitende der Luzerner Polizei für die Unfallaufnahme, des Rettungsdienstes Luzern, der Staatsanwaltschaften Luzern und Zug und der Zuger Polizei.

Accident mortel de la circulation – APPEL A TEMOIN

Source: Swiss Canton de Vaud – news in French

Samedi 28 novembre 2020, aux environs de 19h30, un véhicule a percuté une voiture sur l’autoroute A9 entre Vevey et Chexbres en direction de Lausanne. Sous l’effet du choc, la conductrice du véhicule heurté, âgée de 44 ans et domiciliée sur la Côte, a été éjectée de son habitacle. Elle est décédée sur place. Le conducteur de l’autre véhicule impliqué, âgé de 58 ans et domicilié à Lausanne a été blessé et acheminé en ambulance au CHUV. Aucune autre victime n’est à déplorer. De nombreux débris ont été projetés sur la route, ce qui a nécessité la fermeture ponctuelle de la voie gauche de la chaussée Lac. Un dispositif de déviation a été mis en place après la fermeture pour les besoins de l’enquête de la chaussée montagne. Le procureur de service a été renseigné. Il a confié l’enquête à la gendarmerie afin d’établir les causes de cet accident. La Police cantonale vaudoise lance un appel à témoin. Les personnes susceptibles de fournir des renseignements sur cet accident sont priées de prendre contact avec la Police cantonale au 021 333 53 33 ou avec le poste de police le plus proche. Cet événement a nécessité l’intervention de plusieurs patrouilles de la gendarmerie et des polices communales, des enquêteurs de la gendarmerie, du SDIS Riviera, de deux ambulances accompagnées du SMUR et de la DGMR pour la sécurisation et remise en état de la chaussée.

Les Neuchâteloises et Neuchâtelois ont voté sur deux objets fédéraux ce dimanche

Source: Canton de Neuchatel Suisse

29.11.2020

​À l’occasion de la votation fédérale du dimanche 29 novembre 2020, les Neuchâteloises et Neuchâtelois devaient se prononcer sur deux objets fédéraux, à savoir l’initiative populaire « Entreprises responsables – pour protéger l’être humain et l’environnement » et l’initiative populaire « Pour une interdiction du financement des producteurs de matériel de guerre ».

Ce dimanche 29 novembre 2020, deux objets fédéraux étaient soumis au vote. La population neuchâteloise a dit « OUI » à 64,60% (29’809 oui contre 16’334 non) à l’initiative populaire « Entreprises responsables – pour protéger l’être humain et l’environnement ». Les Neuchâteloises et Neuchâtelois ont également accepté à 52,57% (24’024 oui contre 21’676 non) l’initiative populaire « Pour une interdiction du financement des producteurs de matériel de guerre ».

Le taux de participation pour ces deux objets fédéraux s’élève à 41,03%.

Retrouvez tous les détails des résultats neuchâtelois du scrutin fédéral du dimanche 29 novembre 2020 sur www.ne.ch/vote. Les détails présentés sous forme cartographique sont aussi disponibles via www.ne.ch/cartovote.

CorpsDroite

AMERICA/BOLIVIA – Nomina del Vicario Apostolico di El Beni

Source: The Holy See in Italian

Headline: AMERICA/BOLIVIA – Nomina del Vicario Apostolico di El Beni

Città del Vaticano – Il Santo Padre Francesco, il 28 novembre 2020 ha nominato Vicario Apostolico di El Beni , S.E. Mons. Aurelio Pesoa Ribera, O.F.M., Vescovo titolare di Leges, finora Ausiliare dell’Arcidiocesi di La Paz e Segretario Generale della Conferenza Episcopale Boliviana.

Prime Minister of Ukraine discussed trade and economic issues with the Minister of Industry and Technology of Turkey

Source: Government of Ukraine

During a working visit to the Republic of Turkey on November 29, the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal met with the Minister of Industry and Technology of Turkey Mustafa Varank.

Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Urusky, Infrastructure Minister Vladyslav Kryklii and other government officials visited the meeting as well.

The Prime Minister stressed that Ukraine and Turkey have a strong potential in the field of trade cooperation: “I believe that with the signing of the Free Trade Agreement between our countries, we will double this potential from $ 5 billion in annual turnover today to $ 10 billion that we can reach together”.

Denys Shmyhal offered to Mr. Mustafa Varank to resume regular meetings of the Joint Ukrainian-Turkish Group for Coordination of Strategic Cooperation in the Field of Military-Industrial Complex. According to the Head of the Government of Ukraine, this will allow to effectively implement the agreements reached at the level of the Presidents of Ukraine and the Republic of Turkey.

According to the Prime Minister, Ukraine is interested in collaboration with Turkey in the trade, economic, scientific and technical spheres.

For his part, the Minister of Industry and Technology of the Republic of Turkey commended the significant investment and resource potential of Ukraine. Mr. Mustafa Varank stressed that the Agreement between Ukraine and the EU opens up new opportunities for Ukrainian products in European markets.

Mexicans face difficult Christmas due to pandemic

Source: The Holy See

Headline: Mexicans face difficult Christmas due to pandemic

The Christmas Festivities or lack of them is going to leave an ache in the hearts of millions of family orientated Mexicans this year. While many will risk everything and anything to be together and close, for this most holy and cherished festive celebration, many others will remain in isolation, in the midst of pandemic, hoping for a vaccine to return to a normality, which is forever changed.

Prime Minister met with Turkish investors

Source: Government of Ukraine

During a working visit to the Republic of Turkey on November 29, the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal held a roundtable with top Turkish companies with a total investment portfolio of $ 5 billion. The meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Strategic Industries Oleh Uruskyy, Minister of Infrastructure Vladyslav Kryklii, representatives of the Turkey-Ukraine Business Council within the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey and others.

The participants of the roundtable discussed topical issues of doing business in Ukraine.

The Prime Minister stressed that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Ukraine and Turkey are actively developing bilateral relations.

“As the President of Ukraine noted during his meeting with Turkish entrepreneurs almost a year ago, Ukraine and Turkey have a huge potential for cooperation and economic growth,” said Denys Shmyhal.

According to the Head of Government, Ukraine has recently taken a number of concrete steps towards investors. “This is the liberalization of the agricultural land market, reform of the healthcare sector, the development of e-government, as well as the facilitation of conditions for doing business and investing, including the development of public-private partnership,” stressed the Prime Minister.

Denys Shmyhal accentuated that Ukraine has ambitious plans for the construction and reconstruction of Ukrainian infrastructure: roads, bridges, energy and medical infrastructure, as well as infrastructure in the field of water supply and recycling.

“The tools that will enable us to develop these areas are public-private partnerships and state guarantees. We are currently working and have already made significant progress in the legislative plane towards promoting such instruments in Ukraine,” said the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister informed Turkish entrepreneurs that the most promising areas for investment in Ukraine are the agro-industrial complex, processing industry, energy, infrastructure, tourism, as well as those areas in which Ukraine demonstrates a competitive advantage, including IT sector.

“I assure you that the time has come for new, even larger success stories between our states. Ukraine has a wide range of proposals for investment and implementation of modern projects,” emphasized Denys Shmyhal.

The Prime Minister also stressed that Ukraine and Turkey should not slow down their cooperation: “One of the significant steps aimed to promote the development of our bilateral relations should be the signing of a Free Trade Agreement”.

Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Vladyslav Kryklii, for his part, told representatives of Turkish companies that a law on concessions had been adopted in Ukraine previous year, thus giving a positive signal to investors. He also called on those present to participate in concession tenders and privatization auctions in Ukraine.