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Around George Papandreou, Madeleine Albright and several Foreign Affairs and Prime Ministers, the 22nd Symi Symposium invented the “Hybrid Forum”

July 26th-30th, the progressive family resumed meeting, to discuss the current global and US situation, the future of Europe, and topics such as the lifelong learning systems, narratives of wars and progressive movements of care, energy renaissance, the Balkans, the BRICS. Striking a balance: both in person, the good old way, and through Zoom, the good new way.

Despite the pandemic and other shut borders odds, the Symi Symposium, annually organized by the Andreas Papandreou Foundation, could this year again gather George Papandreou’s political and academic, influencers, friends. Since 2017, The Bridge Tank is being part of what this year was perhaps the first “Hybrid Forum”: a fine combination of core in-house, closed doors debates with tailored amount of Zoom exchanges with leaders such as f. Secretary Madeleine Albright, NATO’s Dy SG Geona, f. Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd or Colette Avital former Presidential candidate in Israel.

Madeleine Albright from DC, George Papandreou from Symi Symposium and Colette Avital from Israel

Symi Symposium conversations take place under the aegis of the “Chatham House” rules; not disclosing the positions of various speakers, topics revolved around pressing issues: with Madeleine Albright and later with Richard Parker from Harvard on the growing understanding that racism in America has something “systemic”, and how generally speaking the US situation relates to the agony of an age when Americans were 80% rooted in American-European white population, now evolving towards a 4-5 streams of populations origins trying to organise a domestic polity; the US now stand at a point where they have to internally negotiate new political alliances: this might possibly be one root of America giving the impression it is now in a mess.

As Greece now chairs the Council of Europe, this edition was additionally a week long opportunity to discuss current issues with
Frank Schwabe, Chairman of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or Francesca Abrogast, Executive Secretary of the Group.

Frank Schwabe’s speech following George Papandreou’s welcome
Francesca Abrogast, here with Denis MacShanne, who was Tony Blair’s Minister for Europe

We also had the usual Symi Symposium conversations with leaders in the Balkans or struggling progressives of different parts of the world, such as Isadora Zubillaga from Venezuela, the Special Representative in Paris of Juan Guaido. Conversations with leaders who have just emerged out of democratic struggles (North Macedonia), or who are now into these (Venezuela) attested that “Democracy is the longest meeting”. In this line, Joel Ruet from the Bridge Tank advocated for a continued discussion with the weavers within all systems.

Isadora Zubillaga, vice foreign Affairs Minister in Guaido’s “Government in charge” from Venezuela, Radmilla Shekerinska, Minister for Defense, North Macedonia, George Papandreou, former Prime Minister of Greece and President of the Socialist International, and Joel Ruet, President, The Bridge Tank.

During the same session, a special conversation with Mircea Geoana gave us the sense that NATO’s Secretariat is quite active at foresight on the risks and threats of the future.

We also discussed the pandemic development through the lens of lifelong learning systems, over three time horizons: so far the reaction against the Covid was a “Defense”, we’ll now need to “Exit” this temporary space and actively prepare to engaging into transformation, e.g. “Enlarging” humanness of systems. On all issues with no boundaries, a care Leadership has to emerge through the right bundle of community, participative democracy, technology, and an Education designed for world and life, not just for jobs. Economics too need to be mobilized: in the eve of automation, how shall robots contribute into revenue, and revenue support a “positive idleness”, that is not a pure ensure but contribution to the society.

It is all the more important to continue this work and not to be blinded by strategic competition, frictions and gaps, but rather recognizing at areas of strategic collaborations: Covid, climate, finance cooperation. The Symposium closed with ground for optimism, noting that in the long course of Energy history, for instance, the world sees the first policy driven energy transformation. It si in a great way also industry-driven and transition has to be Just with a real energy-society integration by policy; this may serves as a case study for a larger renewed Social contract.

Last but not least, Symi was also the occasion to continue exchanging ideas beyond the sessions.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium and now Member of Constitutional Court Erick Derycke, Mrs Dericke, and Joel Ruet

Joel Ruet, Chairman The Bridge Tank

NB: This post is only a personal reflexion on the event and discussions and does not bind in anyway the organizers nor any participant. Quotes are not necessarily attributable to any of the participants, nor to the persons mentioned in this post, but are rather reformulations of some formulas that may have circulated in the forum at some point. 

The joint launch of the EU Hydrogen and EU energy integration strategies, along the industry’s clean hydrogen alliance, suggest Europe is ready to build a world-class energy transition advantage

EU’s Policy making seldom shows such a great coordination across the Union, member states, regions, across different policies and between policy makers and the industry. The 8th of July of 2020 was a landmark announcement that could face up Asian leadership ambitions. This demonstrates the cohesive strength of the European construction, the next frontier being of course an energy transition that is just, inclusive, and participative in process.

Meeting of the Task Force on Fighting global warming in the EU through carbon pricing targeting, coupled with border adjustment mechanism

The Bridge Tank contributed to the Task Force on Carbon Pricing in Europe working group led by former French Minister of the Economy Edmond Alphandéry. With the support of Pascal Canfin, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, it brought together ministers, members of the European Parliament, representatives of think tanks, academics, members of the business community, as well as European authorities and policy makers from various EU member states.

The enormous challenge to overcome the Covid-19 crisis should not hide the most disturbing phenomenon that awaits us: global warming. At European level, the “European climate law” which aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 rightly intends to create a “predictable business environment for industries and investors”. In this regard, this event will examine the introduction of carbon pricing targeting into the European emissions trading scheme. Targeting a predictable price of carbon over time in the ETS would eliminate its current volatility. This stable price environment for energy use decision-making would be a powerful incentive for companies to predictably reduce carbon emissions and thus stimulate investment in the energy transition. As such, this device would go a long way toward achieving the Green Deal’s “net zero greenhouse gas emissions” target. The meeting also explored the economic and social issues linked to the introduction of this measure and focused on the implementation of a carbon adjustment mechanism in the EU.

These proposals met with strong interest from European decision-makers, ranging from Frans Timmermans and Pascal Canfin to ministers from four countries, and personalities such as Pascal Lamy and Laurent Fabius.

At the invitation of Edmond Alphandery, former Minister for the Economy, alongside Pascal Canfin (Chairman of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of the European Parliament) and the former Minister for Italian finance Siniscalo – today VC at Morgan Stanley, including several European ministers and EU DGs, The Bridge Tank’s Joël Ruet & Bridge Tank Board Member Raphael Schoentgen contributed to the pan-European workshop on carbon prices in the framework of the EU ETS reform and the border adjustment mechanism, vouching for these ideas as a core tool without excluding bridge tools for certain energies being deployed such as hydrogen, and the possibility of transition support funds for technologies maturing or by the time the carbon price reached threshold values.

In a very direct discussion with Frans Timmermans, (Executive Vice-President of the European Commission), and the main economists of the Macron Committee on the Economy, and Pascal Lamy former Director General of the WTO on “The European Green Agreement and the role of carbon pricing”. Mr. Timmermans shared with us his optimism on new energies, on all the green industries that are accelerating today, including hydrogen, and for a tripling of the electrification of European energy and an exit from coal. He also shared his wish for an original European vision on energy voluntarism shared with Africa. A great moment of debate.

During the last session of this fantastic working group on the price of carbon set up by Edmond Alphandery, former Minister of the Economy, Jochen Flasbarth, Secretary of State for the Environment, for Nature Conservation, construction and nuclear safety at the German Federal Ministry, Leonore Gewessler, Austrian Federal Minister for Climate Action, the Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, Hugo Morán, Spanish Secretary of State for the Environment, Brune Poirson, Secretary of State to the French Minister for the Ecological Transition, agreed that the EU should consider a carbon adjustment mechanism at the border, not as protectionist measure, but so as to foster economic modernisation and contribution to a local public good. Brune Poirson added the dimension of climate finance and social acceptance – France and Germany are aligned on this point.

Joël Ruet recalled the need to take into account the energy transformation opportunities in Southern Europe, a theme validated by Mr. Flasbarth and Ms. Gewessler, and discuss these matters in confidence with China and India, a key point of attention of The Bridge Tank.

Former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius assessed the Paris Climate Agreement and the contribution that the new “EU team” can make to it: in a framework that must remain compatible with the WTO, ideas on carbon pricing and the adjustment of carbon prices at the borders are progressing. Mr. Fabius also pleaded for consultation or at least information with our partners, including India and China, a subject to which The Bridge Tank is attentive.

T20 Web Conference: Policy Recommendations for a Post-COVID-19 World

Joel Ruet presented the views of the Bridge Tank-convened working group on Promoting Southern actors’ direct access to the Green Climate Fund to de-risk projects and raise additional climate finance flows, written by Joël Ruet, Alessia Ameghini, Adel Ben Youssef, Ban Le, Celine Bak, Alexandre Borde, Paolo Giudici, Axel Michaelowa, Kang Rongping, Aman Srivastava, Leena Srivastava, Anbumozhi Venkatachalam.

Both the 2020-horizon USD 100 billion mobilization for climate and 2025 renewed target remain elusive. Climate negotiations are heading for a deadlock. The largest among multi-lateral climate funds, the Green Climate Fund, targets “greater paradigm-shifting mitigation and adaptation impact”. Structuring and scaling up climate financing implies to focus on differentiating between various risk appetites.

To encourage private additional flows, the G20 should support the GCF’s strategy of efficiently accrediting more Southern actors, becoming a facilitator of blended North-South-South public-private finance and an “educated risk-taking” Fund. This would defuse the climate negotiations crisis and accompany structuring climate finance.

Exchanges and proposals on industry with the Chinese Embassy in Paris

On June 11th, Joel Ruet exchanged views on the international situation with the Chinese ambassador in Paris and French personalities including former ministers Hubert Védrine and François Loos, former Elysée diplomatic advisers Maurice Gourdault-Montagne and Jean-David Levitte, experts Emmanuel Dupuy, Barthelemy Courmont and General Jean-Bernard Pinatel.

Several speakers pointed out that the United States has a position on the substance that will be sustainable even if the form would change with the eventual election of Mr. Biden.

François Loos and Joel Ruet jointly mentioned the persistent difficulties in framing a bilateral China-EU investment treaty, as well as the need to re-industrialise. The Bridge Tank stressed the need for a territorial approach for France that is outside the Anglo Saxon framework focused on “all trade” but also goes in the direction of framing practices between the EU and China.

Ruet stressed that industrial discussions remain at the end of the cycle despite optimistic bilateral statements, recalling with other participants that the 17+1 dialogue must also be brought closer to the EU in order to prepare for the China-EU Summit in Leipzig.

How does the pandemic impact the competition between the United States and China?

An Issue Brief, by Ambassador Philippe COSTE.  

Tensions between the two competitors are escalating, China’s situation vis-à-vis the United States is likely to strengthen and global governance is even more severely lacking than in the past, calling for more of European contruction. 

Download the French text 

► Not only the two powers which hold in their hands a good part of the fate of the planet show themselves little penetrated by their responsibilities towards multilateral insttutions, but everything happens as if the latter have become the closed field of a struggle for influence between the two superpowers. 

► Nevertheless the appreciation of a China that would have gained a relative advantage needs to be qualified. Before the “mask diplomacy”, the Europeans were divided with regard to China: a little wary but very interested in continuing to do business with this country of cocagne. Since then, the proportions have been reversed: Europeans are still interested in doing business but are clearly more suspicious.  

► It is only more urgent that Europe, mobilizes itself even more energetically to call the world to reason. Obviously, between the disputes over Brexit and those over financial solidarity between countries of the North and the South, and with the overwhelming short-term deadlines which beset European governments, the task is not easy, to say the least. But that is not a reason not to try it, with faith and persistency, as it is the only possible way.

Flattening Curves & Lifting Lockdowns in EUROPE – A better method for estimating infection rates

This paper presents a comparative analysis of the COVID-19 outbreak across ten major European countries. It identifies the best and worst performing countries in flattening the curve and promotes a new statistical method for estimating the ‘reproduction rate’ (known as ‘R0’) to analyse individual countries and specific regions, to better target lock-down or easing of lock-down policies and explore the best, fastest and most secure policies, as we prepare for a possible second wave.

The most important criteria for successfully flattening the curve have been early lockdowns. This has had a determining effect on the “epidemic reproduction rate” R0. There remains a significant divergence between the R0s which European governments are reportedly basing their policy decisions on, and the figures presented in this paper. This means that several European countries may under-estimate the extent to which their infection rates are being curtailed and their outbreaks are under control.

Download the report by clicking here.

On Africa and the “Pangolin effect”

Issue Brief, by our Board Member, Mamadou Lamine Diallo, former Head of Political Cabinet to the President of the Commission of the African Union.

Diallo sets out directions for African leaders framing their destiny, in contrast with China’s vision for the Continent, with the backdrop of a note by the French Foreign Affairs, wary on Africa’s answer to the Covid19 that created heated debates. Diallo, on the contrary, uses this “usual forecast exercise” to stimulate African leaders boldness.

FLATTENING THE CURVE – A pan-European comparative analysis of the COVID-19 outbreak

new report published by the Bridge Tank compares the outbreak of COVID-19 across ten major European countries.

This ground-breaking analysis identifies the best and worst performing countries in Europe, and the reasons behind their respective performance in flattening the curve.

Italy, Spain, France, UK, The Netherlands and Belgium are the most severely hit by the outbreak and have struggled to flatten the curve efficiently.

This is mostly explained by the delay in implementing proper lockdown and social distancing measures.

France could soon overtake Italy, and UK is still witnessing an increase of the number of confirmed cases and deaths.

Greece is the best performing country in Europe, followed by Czechia (The Czech Republic) and Romania.

Thanks to early and strict containment measures, they have successfully managed to flatten the curve and slow down the spread of the virus

The contrast between Greece – which suspended public events and closed schools even before the first 100 cases were detected, and Spain – which took similar decisions at a much later stage of the epidemic – is particularly striking.

Germany seems to be an outlier. Though its lockdown measures have been implemented relatively later and not fully, the number of deaths has not reached the levels met by its neighbours but is still progressing quickly in relative terms.

Joel Ruet, Chairman of the Bridge Tank, stated: “In the sea of data about Covid-19, one indicator stands out: the doubling rate of deaths and confirmed cases. It allows to measure how well countries are flattening the curve. With the exception of Germany, we see a strong correlation between an early lockdown and subsequent success in controlling the spread of the virus.

Read and download the report here.

MULTIMEDIA

The Bridge Tank, an independent economic think-tank, is an active member of the T20, the think tank group of the G20. Since the COVID-19 outbreak in China, the members of the Bridge Tank have regularly published on the epidemic and advised numerous governments. The Bridge Tank also mobilised a working group on the future of global health governance to provide recommendations to the UN.

Joel Ruet, Founder and Chairman of The Bridge Tank, is a French economist at CNRS and Ecole Polytechnique. He studied and worked in France, China, India, Senegal and UK. He is a regular commentator on global affairs in international media and speaker at major conferences.

For any media enquiry, please contact: administration@thebridgetank.org

Coronavirus Shows Healthcare Needs Global Governance

BY IRINA BOKOVA, HAKIMA EL HAITE, GEORGE PAPANDREOU, JOËL RUET

We firmly believe it is time to re-consider every country’s health security, using global governance tools that already exist. If we have the will and resources to invest into financial stability or limit global heating, why is health security not on the table too?

https://www.diplomaticourier.com/posts/coronavirus-shows-healthcare-needs-global-governance

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