Over the last 12 months, oil prices in global markets have been volatile. This has been a problem for some (Russia, Saudi, Venezuela), and a blessing for others (China and India). For some governments, the Russian government in particular, falling oil prices pose a serious threat.
The new EU Commission finds itself in the middle of a shooting-out between two increasingly outspoken camps: Should growth be stimulated by quantitative easing, and by state-induced spending programs? Or should austerity policy be continued, accompanied by structural reform in the southern EU countries? This is indeed a question that indicates a divide – mostly between Germany, Finland and the Baltic countries in the second groups, and most of the others in the first. The problems of France and Italy to push their budget deficits below the 3 per cent limit of annual debt against GDP. The southern governments not only encourage themselves, but also Germany to increase spending, forget about balancing the budget (to be reached in Germany in 2015 for the first time in decades), and instead start spending and investing into infrastructure and other goodies. A related fight is going on in the ECB, where a majority supports the line of Mario Draghi to do “whatever it costs” to save the Euro, against some other central bank governors criticizing the lax attitude of the ECB, buying very questionable state bonds ignoring their market value.
Pasu Au Yeung/Flickr/Creative Commons
During the last weeks, tens of thousands took part in demonstrations in Hong Kong, demanding – in different ways and forms – more democracy. The protests were set in motion when China’s National People’s Congress announced that candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 chief executive elections would have to be approved by a Beijing-controlled committee; this, according to the protesters, contradicts the principle of universal suffrage that was established in the handover agreement in 1997. More recently some of the protest leaders became more daring and called for “self-determination” and “independence”.
So far, no meaningful procedure of conflict resolution has been established. The Beijing leadership tries to remain invisible, but calls the shots behind the curtains. The local administration is general powerless and clueless. Increasingly, ‘ordinary’ Hong Kong citizens feel embarrassed and harassed by the ongoing blockades of main thoroughfares and businesses.
In the mainland, many mid-level officials explain their conviction that the current form of governances is not sustainable. Against this background, Hong Kong could also be treated as a laboratory. But currently, the dominant position seems to be to prevent by (virtually) all means a June 4, 2.0. From the outside it is not clear what, if any, spaces for compromise exists.