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Monday, October 16


Monday, October 16

Deadline approaches for Catalan President Carles Puigdemont


Catalonia reaches deadline for independence declaration

Deadline approaches for Catalan President Carles Puigdemont
Photo: Daniel Biskup/BILD

Today marks the Spanish government’s deadline for the Catalan government to declare whether it intends to secede. Madrid has threatened to suspend the region’s autonomy if it dithers on deciding.

In a post-referendum speech to the regional parliament, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont hedged on unilaterally seceding, saying he wished to negotiate with Madrid. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy rejected talks, instead giving Puigdemont until today to clarify his position.

Neither leader appears ready to back down as each must serve his constituency. For the Catalan president that is the over 2 million who voted to leave Spain; if he backs down he’ll avert suspended autonomy but lose his parliamentary majority. Mr Rajoy must satisfy the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards—including many Catalans—who have protested against independence.

The likely outcome appears to be snap elections in Catalonia. A victory for the governing pro-independence parties would prolong the current crisis and force Madrid to consider giving greater autonomy to the region. If pro-union parties prevail then the door will shut on independence—for now at least.


EU foreign ministers discuss Trump’s move against Iran deal

Merkel and Trump do not see eye to eye on the Iran deal
Photo: Kay Nietfeld/DPA

The European Union Foreign Affairs Council will meet today in Luxembourg. President Donald Trump’s decision not to certify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is certain to top the agenda.

Trump’s choice has been met with disapproval in Europe. The leaders of Britain, France and Germany released a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to the pact, which limits Iran’s nuclear capabilities. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the deal “is working and delivering” and that Trump does not have the power to scuttle it.

Indeed, Trump is not unilaterally abandoning the deal, rather throwing the decision to Congress. The House and Senate have 60 days to reimpose sanctions on Iran, which is unlikely as Congress is wary of damaging US international reliability.

Expect the agreement to remain in place. But, Trump has dealt another blow to America’s credibility in upholding international agreements, already tarnished by his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. To European leaders, the famed dealmaker has become an unreliable deal-breaker.


American-Japanese bilateral discussions today

Vice President Pence and Japan’s Finance Minsiter Taro Aso
Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP

In a second round of economic talks between their two countries, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso will meet with US Vice President Mike Pence in Washington DC today.

In April, Pence and Aso engaged in similar talks, with the US advocating a potential bilateral free trade agreement. The vice president used the opportunity to push for the opening of certain Japanese markets, like agriculture.

Much to America’s chagrin, Tokyo hiked tariffs on frozen beef imports from the US from 38.5% to 50% in July. As Japan is the primary importer of US chilled and frozen beef, expect the vice president to discuss easing that tariff during the meeting.

It is unclear if Japan would prioritise the creation of a US-Japan free trade agreement right now. Tokyo has its hands full as it tries to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership sans the US. Currently, the Abe government might rather try to counter Chinese economic expansionism through the TPP-11, which does not include Beijing, than focus its efforts on a forging a new, bilateral agreement with Washington.

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Drills and hacks on the Korean peninsula, Jakarta’s new governor

US-South Korea naval drills
Photo: James Kimber/Stars and Stripes

South Korea and the US will begin 10 days of naval exercises to the west and east of the Korean peninsula, a move which will raise the ire of Pyongyang. The drills are the latest in a flurry of military activity in the region. Last Tuesday, American strategic bombers flew over the peninsula; on the same day, South Korea’s defence ministry admitted that North Korean hackers stole 235 gigabytes of military plans co-written by the US. They reportedly included a ‘decapitation strike’ to assassinate Kim Jong-un and other senior figures in Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, the speaker of Russia’s upper house will meet with top lawmakers from North and South Korea on the sidelines of the IPU Assembly in St Petersburg. Pyongyang has reportedly rejected efforts to bring the two delegations together for direct talks.

The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan will meet in Geneva. Despite a ceasefire, the two neighbours are still technically at war over Nagorno-Karabakh—a disputed territory controlled by Armenia. Violence in April 2016 highlighted the volatility of the frozen conflict; today’s talks are designed to open dialogue and prevent such flare-ups.

Results are expected to filter out from Austria’s election. Politico will have live updates here.

Anies Baswedan will be sworn in as the governor of Jakarta.

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