International Polity - Current Affairs for January,2017

Month and Year:   
▼ Bulgarian president Ruman Radev takes oath   [01-20-17]

Bulgaria's new president, Rumen Radev, took his oath of office on 19th Jan 2017. He will take over the post from Rosen Plevneliev.

Radev is the country's fifth democratically elected president. He was sworn in at a ceremony in Parliament on 19th Jan 2017.

The swearing in ceremony also incorporated Vice-President Iliana Yotova.

53-year-old Radev is the former chief of the Bulgarian Air Force.

He defeated the ruling center-right party's candidate in a November election.

This triggered an early parliamentary vote to be held in the spring.

Radev indicated that he will work for improving social systems and the economy.

Bulgaria is a Balkan country of 7.2m.

It joined EU 10 years ago. The country is the poorest member of the 28 nation bloc.

Bulgaria's presidency is primarily ceremonial.

The head of state has no executive powers and all major policies must be approved by parliament.

But the popular election gives the post more influence and authority.

Radev's first task will be to appoint a caretaker government after Prime Minister Boiko Borisov's center-right coalition government resigned.

He also has to dissolve parliament and set a date for general elections.

▼ Antonio Tajani : Next president of the European Parliament   [01-19-17]

Italian conservative and former spokesperson for Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, Antonio Tajani has been elected the new president.

63-year-old Tajani is a former EU commissioner as well.

He will head the European Parliament, taking over from Martin Schulz of Germany.

Tajani defeated fellow Italian Gianni Pitella for the post.

The European Parliament has the power to block/amend EU laws. It will have a final say on whether the Brexit deal will be approved with the UK.

Tajani secured 351 votes, Pitella, 282. The contest ran for its maximum 4 rounds.

European People's Party, under which Tajani fought, benefited from a coalition. The ALDE or parliament liberals were its ally, who hope to curb the influence of anti EU populists.

Pitella was a socialist.

ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt withdrew his candidacy, paving the way for Tajani's victory.

EPP candidate Tajani dedicated his win to those who succumbed in Italy earthquake and the victims of terrorists.

The Centre-Right now controls three major EU institutions. These are the EU Commission, Council and Parliament.

EPP is the biggest group in the parliament followed by the Socialists & Democrats group fielding Pitella. ALDE liberals are the 4th largest group.

Meanwhile, Martin Schulz is leaving the EU parliament to return to national politics in Germany.

The successor to him will have to sign off the deal for Britain's exit from the EU by late 2018-early 2019.

Know More About the European Parliament

  • European Parliament (EP) is the directly elected parliamentary institution of EU.
  • President: Antonio Tajani, EPP, since 17 January 2017
  • Vice Presidents Number: 14
  • Leader of largest political group: Manfred Weber, EPP
  • Leader of 2nd largest political group: Gianni Pittella, S&D

▼ UK unveils 12 point plan to leave the EU   [01-19-17]

United Kingdom unveiled her 12-point plan to leave European Union.

This is for implementing Brexit deal within two years in phased manner.

The priorities include:

  • Control over immigration;
  • Securing the rights of EU citizens in Britain;
  • Committing to retain workers’ rights;
  • Building a strong trading relationship with EU and rest of the world;
  • Removing Britain from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice; and
  • Making Britain an attractive place for investors and students.
In June 2016 referendum, UK had voted to leave the EU (a single market and the customs union with the 28-nation economic bloc). The vote was by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1%.

▼ PM May: British Parliament to vote on Brexit   [01-18-17]

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK will make a clean break from the European Union. It will leave its single market of some 500 million people.

Ms. May said on 17th Jan 2017 said that Britain must regain control of its laws and borders.

She called on the bloc to negotiate a free-trade agreement that will benefit both sides.

UK will seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement.

Ms. May also announced Britain’s Parliament will be able to vote on the final divorce deal reached between the U.K. and European Union.

She did not address what would happen should there be a vote against the agreement.

The British pound rallied as Ms. May focused on keeping Britain open to global trade.

Ms. May rejected both the “hard Brexit” label and “soft Brexit” but wants a new relationship in the interests of both Britain and the EU.

Britain is quitting the EU’s single market in goods and services in order to gain control over immigration.

Losing single-market access alarms many in Britain’s huge financial services sector.

Ms. May said she would invoke Article 50 of the EU’s key treat by March 31. This will formally begin a two-year process of negotiating Britain’s departure.

▼ Ecuador to chair G-77   [01-16-17]

The country will chair at the head of the world’s largest organization of developing states to tackle tax havens and the corruption they breed.

President of Ecuador Rafael Correa assume the chairmanship of the Group of 77.

The charge was summed in New York on 13th Jan 2017. G-77 is the the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries at the UN.

This marks chairmanship for the first time in the Andean nation's history.

G-77's mission is to promote South-South cooperation and enhance joint negotiating capacity within the UN system.

Ecuador will work to ensure that tax havens be banned to avoid corruption, money laundering, and tax evasion."

Correa is leading the campaign against corporate and individual tax fraud by example.

He has launched a national referendum in Ecuador. In this, citizens will vote in February on a proposed ban on public servants or elected officials keeping money in offshore tax havens.

Correa launched national and international campaigns against tax avoidance after the Panama Papers leaks.

He wants to use Ecuador’s one-year term as head of the coalition of 134 nations from the Global South to demonstrate that at the UN, the General Assembly should make the most important decisions.

Ecuador: Know More

  • Capital: Quito
  • Currency: United States Dollar
  • President: Rafael Correa
  • Official language: Spanish

▼ Donald Trump appoints son-in-law Jared Kushner in White House role   [01-10-17]

President elect Donald Trump appointed his influential son-in-law Jared Kushner as a White House senior adviser on 9th Jan 2017.

This puts estate executive Kushner in position to exert broad sway over both domestic and foreign policy.

It will influence particularly Middle East issues and trade negotiations.

Kushner is married to Trump's daughter Ivanka. She will not be taking a formal White House position.

Mr. Kushner’s own eligibility for the White House could be challenged, given a 1967 law meant to bar government officials from hiring relatives.

Mr. Kushner will resign as CEO of his family’s real estate company and as publisher of the New York Observer.

The anti-nepotism law had appeared to be the main obstacle to Mr. Kushner joining the White House.

Know More About Jared Kushner

  • Born: January 10, 1981 (age 35),
  • Place of Birth: Livingston, New Jersey, United States
  • Spouse: Ivanka Trump (since 2009)
  • Education: Harvard University (2003), Frisch School.

▼ Sir Tim Barrow : Britain's new ambassador to the EU   [01-6-17]

Theresa May government has appointed a new ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow who faced down Vladimir Putin and is likely to move forward in Brussels.

Barrow has been appointed as Britain's new EU ambassador after a life-long career in the foreign office which saw him serve in senior roles twice before for Brussels.

He also held the post of Britain's ambassador to Moscow between 2011 and 2015; this marks one of the most testing periods in relations between the two nations.

Appointment of Sir Tim is in contrast to Sir Ivan Rogers who was termed a pessimist as opposed to Sir Tim who is a “pragmatic problem solver,” according to Downing Street ministers.

Sir Tim has also served as a rep to the EU Security Committee and as Ambassador to the Western European Union.

He was appointed political DG at the foreign office in March 2016 after leaving his role in Moscow. Rogers had a negative view of Brexit and possibly could not lead the negotiations after the PM triggers A50.

Crucial Dates in the Brexit Timeline

  • January 2017: SC to deliver verdict on whether May can trigger A50 using a royal prerogative rather than a Parliament Act.
  • March 31, 2017: Deadline set for invoking A50 by notifying the EC of Britain's intention to leave the EU.
  • Sept 30, 2018: EU chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier to wrap up Britain's exit from the Union.
  • March 31, 2019: Theresa May Govt to wrap up Brexit negotiations.
  • May 2019: Britain formally exits EU following ratification of Brexit by all member states.

▼ Haiti elects Jovenel Moise as next President   [01-5-17]

Jovenel Moise has won the Haiti November 20th Presidential election, ending the protracted electoral paralysis that had gripped Caribbean country's politics for a year and more.

Haiti provisional electoral council on 3rd Jan 2016 indicated Moise was the majority winner with 55.6 percent of the votes, turnout being low at 21 percent.

Moise, a previously little known businessman ran on behalf of the Tet Kale party of former president Michel Martelly who ended term without an elected successor.

But Moise's major challengers - Jude Celestin, Jean-Charles Moise and Maryse Narcisse - also contested the preliminary results of the latest elections.

The final official results gave runner-up Celestin 19.57 percent, Jean-Charles Moise 11.04 percent and Narcisse 9.01 percent. Moise lacks popular support with just 21 percent of voters participating in the electoral process.

48-year-old Moise runs a banana export company; Setting it as a model for rural development, on the campaign trial he popularised himself as Banana Man.

He is to be sworn in on Feb 7, 2017 taking over from interim president Jocelerme Privert who came to power in 2016. An October 2015 vote saw Moise win but an independent commission found massive fraud. Moise came first, defeating 26 other candidates.

Moise's closest rival had 19.5 percent of the votes, according to council spokesperson Nicole Simeon. Supporters of other leading candidates marched in the capital's streets in protest of the electoral council's decision.

Fanmi Lavalas party supporters called for the placement of their candidate as president instead, while supporters of left-wing candidate Jean-Charles Moise also led protests after initial results were released in October, 2015.

Know More About Haiti

  • Capital: Port-au-Prince
  • Currency: Haitian gourde
  • Population: 10.32 million (2013) World Bank
  • Official languages: French, Haitian Creole French
  • Struggling to rebuild after hurricane in 2010, the country suffered major losses since.
  • More than 60 percent of people living in Haiti survive with less than two dollars per day.
  • Haiti has a debt of more than $2 billion.
  • Growth is expected to be just one percent in 2017, due to a lack of public and private investment.
  • In early October, Hurricane Matthew left damage of more than $2 billion in the south of the country.

▼ Paul Ryan retained as speaker of House of Representatives   [01-5-17]

US lawmakers voted to retain congressman Paul Ryan as speaker of the House of Representatives. He will be leading the 115th Congress before president elect Donald Trump's inauguration on 20th Jan 2017.

US House members voted 239 to 189 to re-elect Ryan to the key post over top Democrat and former speaker Nancy Pelosi.

5 other lawmakers voted for others. As speaker of the House, Ryan will lead the 2 year incoming session of the house. He had opposed Donald Trump during the Presidential race and even had refused to campaign with the him ahead of the November 2016 election.

Know More About the US Speaker's Office

  • Type: Presiding officer of one chamber in a bicameral legislature
  • Residence: Washington, D.C.
  • Seat: United States Capitol, District of Columbia, U.S.
  • Nominator: Those qualified to be a representative; in practice member of the house and party leadership.
  • Appointer: U.S. House of Representatives
  • Elected by the House, sworn in by the Dean
  • Term length: At the House's pleasure; elected at the start of each session, and upon a vacancy
  • Constituting instrument: U.S. Constitution
  • Formation: March 4, 1789
  • First holder: Frederick Muhlenberg (April 1, 1789)
  • Succession: Second in the Presidential Line of Succession
  • Website: Speaker.go

▼ Robert Lighthizer is US trade rep for Donald Trump government   [01-5-17]

President elect of the United States, Donald Trump named prominent trade attorney Robert Lighthizer as his chief trade negotiator. He will be in charge of negotiating deals and engaging in trade relationships with other countries.

Before this, Robert Lighthizer had served as the Deputy United States Trade Representative under the Ronald Regan administration and is known for harsh critic of China’s trade practices.

He has extensive experience in striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of the US. Lighthizer has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans.

During his stint in the Regan Administration, he played a major role in developing trade policy and negotiating roughly two dozen bilateral international agreements on a variety of topics from grains to steel.

About the Office of the US Trade Representatives

  • Formed: 1962
  • Preceding agency: Office of the Special Trade Representative
  • Headquarters: Winder Building 600 17th St. NW Washington, D.C.
  • Employees: 200
  • Website: www.ustr.gov
  • Parent agency: Executive Office of the President of the United States

  • Current Trade Rep executives Under Obama Administration

  • Michael Froman, US Trade Representative
  • Robert Holleyman, Deputy US Trade Representative
  • Michael Punke, Deputy US Trade Representative (Geneva)

▼ Egypt hands over Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia    [01-2-17]

Egypt’s government has approved a deal to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia and sent it to parliament for ratification, despite a legal dispute over the plan.

The deal, announced in April 2016, caused public uproar and protests by Egyptians who said the uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanafir belonged to their country.

The controversy has become a source of tension with Saudi Arabia, which has provided Egypt with billions of dollars of aid but recently halted fuel shipments amid deteriorating relations.

In June 2016, Egypt’s higher administrative court annulled the agreement, saying Egyptian sovereignty over the islands could not be given up. The Egyptian government lodged an appeal.

Egyptian state advisory body recommended the court uphold its original decision.

Tiran and Sanafir are situated in the narrow entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba leading to Jordan and Israel.

Saudi and Egyptian officials say they belong to Saudi Arabia and were only under Egyptian control because Riyadh asked Cairo in 1950 to protect them.

Lawyers who opposed the handover said Egyptian sovereignty over the islands dated to a 1906 treaty, which was before Saudi Arabia was founded.

Know More About Tiran & Sanafir

  • Sanafir Island is an island in the Straits of Tiran east of Tiran Island.
  • It is administered by Egypt.
  • Area: 33 km²Max length: 8.7 km
  • The Tiran island is located at the entrance of the Straits of Tiran, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.
  • It has an area of about 80 square kilometres (31 square miles).

▼ Social democrat Sorin Grindeanu named PM of Romania   [01-2-17]

Socialist-democrat Sorin Grindeanu was on 30th Dec 2016 named as the PM of Romania.

Romanian president Klaus Iohannis signed the official decree naming Grindeanu as the new Prime Minister.

Iohannis turned down the appointment of Sevil Shhaideh, an economist who could have been the first female Muslim PM of Romania.

Grindeanu will now face the confidence vote in the Romanian Parliament on his programme and cabinet nominees.

Once the appointment has been approved, 10 days will be given to name the government ministers.

The appointment of Sorin Grindeanu as the Prime Minister will now put an end to a political crisis that was sparked by the Iohannis's rejection of Sevil Shhaideh as the Prime Minister.

The president offered no reasons for his rejection of Shhaideh.

Shhaideh's husband worked in the Syrian Agriculture Ministry for 20 years before emigrating to Romania in 2011.

Shhaideh's name was proposed by the Social Democratic Party after its thumping poll victory on in December 2016 elections when it won 45 percent of the vote that was enough to form a majority coalition with its partners The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE).

Know More About Sorin Grindeanu

  • Grindeanu is a member of the Social Democratic Party which has won the Dec 2016 elections.
  • He is also the Chairman of the Timis county council.
  • Grindeanu is seen in Romania as a disciplined soldier within the Social Democratic Party ranks and has joined the party when he was young for his Leftist convictions.
  • Graduated from the Faculty of Mathematics in Timirsoara West University in 1997 and served as the Minister of Telecommunications and Information Society in Victor Ponta's cabinet.

▼ US slaps sanctions on 7 Pakistani entities   [01-2-17]

The United States has slapped sanctions on 7 Pakistani entities associated with the missile programme of the country.

An official notification by the US Department of Commerce said the entities added to the EAR or Export Administration Regulations list.

It has been determined by the US government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.

All the 7 have been placed on the entity list under the destination of Pakistan.

These 7 entities have been identified as:

i. Ahad International

ii. Air Weapons Complex

iii. Engineering Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

iv. Maritime Technology Complex National Engineering and Scientific Commission,

v. New Auto Engineering

vi. Universal Tooling Services

Pakistan is denying wrongdoing in connection with the nuclear or missile programme.

US government held that there was reasonable cause to believe on specific and articulable facts that government, parastatal and private entities in Pakistan are determined to be involved in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy of the US.

The conduct of these 7 entities raised concerns regarding the prior review of the exports, re-exports or transfers of item subject to the EAR involving these persons.

A possible imposition of license conditions or license denials on shipments to persons will enhance the ability of the department to prevent EAR violations.

The placement on the list imposes a license requirement for all items subject to the EAR and license review policy of the presumption of denial.

The license requirements apply to any transaction in which items are to be exported, re-exported, or transferred to any of the entities or in which such entities act as purchaser, intermediate consignee, ultimate consignee or end user.

No license exceptions are available for exports, re-exports or transfers to persons being added to the entity list in this rule.

Restrictions will apply to acronyms used by entities to help exporters, re-exporters and transferors.

Notification does not specify the violations committed by these entities and does not provide details of items exported, imported or re-exported by them.

▼ China blocks Indian proposal to list Masood Azhar as a terrorist   [01-2-17]

China has once again blocked India’s proposal in United Nations to list Pathankot terror attack Mastermind Jaish-e-Muhammad’s Chief Masood Azhar as a global designated terrorist under 1267 Sanctions Committee.

This is third time China has put technical hold to declare Pakistan based JeM Chief global terrorist. China was the only member in the 15-nation UN Security Council (UNSC) to put a hold on India’s application.

All other 14 members of the UNSC supported India’s bid to place Azhar on the 1267 sanctions list that would subject freezing his assests and travel ban.

India has expressed concern over China move and mentioned that it confirms prevalence of double standards of China in the fight against terrorism.

Masood Azhar

  • Masood Azhar is the founder and leader of the UN-designated terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed.
  • It is active mainly in the Pakistani administered Azad Kashmir.
  • Born: July 10, 1968 (age 48), Bahawalpur, Pakistan
  • Organizations founded: Jaish-e-Mohammed, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen

Chronology of events
Former human rights lawyer Nana Akufo-Addo (72) was sworn in as new president of Ghana.
President-elect Donald Trump accepts the US intelligence community's conclusion that Russia engaged in cyber attacks during the US presidential election and may take action in response, as per his chief of staff on 8th Jan 2016.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has entered into a Bilateral Advance Pricing Agreement (BAPA) on the with Indian subsidiary of a Japanese trading company.
Leaders of Australia and Japan have agreed to boost cooperation between their militaries; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull signed an upgraded defence agreement
China has made it clear that the One China policy is non-negotiable and no one can change it.