⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds
🇦🇲 Armenia: Members of the EU’s civilian monitoring group were caught in a firefight along Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan on Tuesday (15 August). Azerbaijan has opposed the deployment of EU monitors in the past but denied firing at their vehicles.
🇨🇿 Czech Republic: Prime Minister Petr Fiala has signed a new defence treaty that makes it easier for US troops to deploy in Czech territory. The US has similar agreements with 24 other NATO members.
🇫🇯 Fiji: The US hosted a defence chiefs conference in Fiji this week (14-16 August), attended by 27 nations including China. Prime Minister Rabuka opened the event, saying Fiji wanted the Pacific to be a “zone of peace” despite growing tensions.
🇵🇾 Paraguay: Taiwanese Vice President William Lai landed in Paraguay on Tuesday for the inauguration of newly elected president Santiago Peña. Peña described Taiwan and Paraguay (the island’s sole diplomatic ally in South America) as “brothers”.
🇹🇩 Chad: Niger’s junta-appointed prime minister made an unannounced visit to neighbouring Chad this week to shore up ties. Chadian President Mahamat Déby is a key regional player who visited Niger days after the coup last month.
🇪🇺 EU | Geo-economics
Europe’s golden passports live on
Several European states have tightened the rules around their citizenship-by-investment programs (aka ‘golden passports’) lately.
What’s a golden passport? In short, you get another country’s passport in exchange for making certain investments there. Various programs around the world can get you anything from a visa, to residency, to full citizenship:
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, several cash-strapped EU states got in on the action, generating $27B in investment in the past decade.
But these schemes have also attracted allegations of:
🧾 Tax evasion
🚨 Security risks
💸 Money laundering
🏡 Driving house prices up, and
🕊️ Undermining EU sanctions and principles.
So Brussels issued a recommendation last year that EU members repeal or tighten their schemes. The response has been mixed: Ireland had already axed its scheme, Portugal narrowed its program last month, Italy has now excluded Russians and Belarusians, while Greece just doubled the cost.
Intrigue's take: All countries use visa and citizenship policies to pursue their interests. But the interesting thing about the EU is that while the investments benefit a specific country, the resulting citizenship rights (and obligations) generally extend to the whole bloc. So it’s a classic bind that tests EU unity.
Looking ahead, there’ll always be incentives for cash-starved capitals to sell golden tickets. But it’ll be interesting to see how much these schemes evolve to attract folks with valuable skills (AI, quantum) rather than just hefty wallets.
Also worth noting:
In 2018, journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed while investigating corruption in Malta’s golden passport program, leading to the resignation of the country’s prime minister.
New Zealand granted citizenship to high-profile venture capitalist Peter Theil in 2011, citing “his skills as an entrepreneur”.
📰 How newspapers covered…
A resurgence of violence in Libya
“Reports of agreement to halt Tripoli fighting and release of 444 Brigade's commander”
🇮🇳 India | Geo-economics
India pushes its currency as a dollar alternative
India’s flagship refiner, Indian Oil Corp., purchased a million barrels of oil from the UAE this week, using Indian rupees as payment for the first time.
India’s central bank announced just last year that rupees could be used to settle cross-border trades. By transacting with other countries directly in rupees (rather than using US dollars as an intermediary), the idea is to:
📉 Reduce exchange rate risks
💱 Cut currency conversion costs
🏅 Increase the utility (and prestige) of the rupee, and
🚧 Simplify trades involving parties under US sanctions (like Russia).
Intrigue’s take: Getting paid in rupees (or any other currency) is all good, until you try to spend those rupees and a seller says “sorry, dollars only”.
It’s a classic network effect: most traders still prefer US dollars because most other traders still prefer US dollars. Just like how most folks are still on Twitter (‘X’) because most other folks are still on Twitter.
So sure, there are reasons why neighbouring Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, or India’s major trading partners like the UAE, may accept rupees. And the US itself expects other currencies will gradually become more common. But for now, it seems easier for most folks to just stick with the ol’ greenback.
Also worth noting:
➕ Extra Intrigue
Here’s what we’re reading about journalists and press freedom around the world.
🗳️ Poll time!
Should governments shut down their golden passport/visa schemes?
📊 Chart of the day
Ships are looking at long waiting times to get through the Panama Canal these days, as a prolonged drought drops its water levels. So this chart maps some of the sectors relying directly on the canal. They include inputs for hundreds of other industries, so the potential indirect impact here is vast.
Yesterday’s poll: What do you think will be the next frontier of modern warfare?
🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🚨 Laser weapons (6%)
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🤖 Lethal autonomous weapons (40%)
🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🚀 Satellite weapons (12%)
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 💻 Cyber weapons (39%)
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write in!) (4%)
Your two cents:
🤖 C.O.N: “Drone Swarms. It is not exactly the new frontier, but you can see it from here...”
💻 J.M: “Even though "Cyber" attacks have been common in conflicts since before the turn of the century, the sophistication and enhancements due to AI have set the course for a "Cyber 2.0" evolution.”
✍️ C: “Please be light sabers.”
✍️ A.K: “Calm down folks, the world needs peace.”