AKE International, the political and security risk management specialists, have released their latest "Ones to Watch". This week it includes how the left-wing ELN guerrillas and the government in Colombia are scheduled to begin the third round of formal peace talks in Ecuador’s capital Quito, and how British government officials have publicly acknowledged that a ‘transition deal’ past the expected formal Brexit date in March 2019 will be needed.
The full list of "Ones to Watch" can be seen below:
Americas: ELN and government to begin discussion on potential bilateral ceasefire
Key Risks: terrorism; insurgency
In Colombia, the left-wing ELN guerrillas and the government are scheduled to begin the third round of formal peace talks in Ecuador’s capital Quito on 24 July. In late June, both parties agreed to discuss a potential bilateral ceasefire agreement in the new round of talks which will last until early September. They also agreed on plans to form a special panel to assess whether conditions are adequate to implement the ceasefire and put an end to hostilities. The ELN for the first time stated it would be ready to abandon hostilities against civilians, including kidnapping, a key government condition to implement the ceasefire. Attacks against key energy infrastructure and the enrollment of minors are also among the actions the government wants the group to halt before the bilateral ceasefire is implemented. Despite ongoing negotiations, attacks will remain likely at least over the coming months.
Asia-Pacific: Corruption Eradication Commission faces important tests in Indonesia
Key Risks: political stability; corruption; protests
This week may prove one of the most eventful in the history of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission, one of Southeast Asia’s most respected institutions. Last week it declared Setya Novanto, the speaker of Indonesia’s parliament, a key suspect in an investigation into around US$149m that was misappropriated from a government ID card scheme. As a member of Golkar, the country’s other political parties might be expected to use the opportunity to take cheap shots at their rivals. But in this case, at least 37 lawmakers from across the political spectrum also stand accused of involvement. Fear of being dragged into the scandal has emboldened a cross-parliamentary committee investigating the KPK for its supposed overreach. This week will prove vital both for the KPK and President Jokowi. Will he stand up for it, and risk alienating politicians, or keep silent, and risk a public outcry?
Eurasia: US expected to expand sanctions this week, Nord Stream 2 may be affected
Sectors: energy; defence
Key Risks: sanctions
The US Congress is expected to pass new sanctions on Russia as early as 25 July. The bill was held up over the Trump administration’s concerns it erodes executive authority given requirements Congress approve loosening Russian sanctions. However, given significant public pressure, Trump is expected to sign the bill. The measures target actors in Russia's cyber and military activities and restrict the ability to work with Russian energy firms, which has raised concerns it could impact the Nord Stream 2 project. A vote is expected on 25 July. The European Union has warned it will retaliate against any implications the bill could have for European energy companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. The original Senate bill, passed last month, read that the US shall continue to oppose the Nord Stream 2 pipeline given its detrimental impacts on the European Union’s energy security, gas market development in Central and Eastern Europe, and energy reforms in Ukraine.
Europe: Fallout of Duda veto and Brexit reality
Key Risks: political instability
British government officials, including International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, have publicly acknowledged that a ‘transition deal’ past the expected formal Brexit date in March 2019 will be needed. The government has floated capping the transition at four years, although some media outlets have reported a target of two. The move comes only a week after British officials acknowledged they would have to pay for previously agreed commitments after leaving the EU. While the acknowledgments are a refreshing dose of reality from the government, major uncertainty remains and is unlikely to abate. In Poland, President Andrzej Duda is likely to spar with the leader of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), although he himself is a member, following his announcement on 24 July that he would veto two major judicial reforms marshalled by PiS. The proposals had prompted major demonstrations and condemnation from the EU.
MENA: Journalists’ trial begins
Key Risks: all
On 24 July, 17 employees of the secularist newspaper Cumhuriyet in Turkey, including journalists and managerial staff, go on trial in Istanbul on charges of aiding a terrorist organisation. The indictment includes claims that some of the journalists communicated with users of the ByLock app, an encrypted messaging app used by some of the organisers of the July 2016 attempted coup. 10 of the 17 indictees have been in pretrial detention for almost nine months, and all face sentences of up to 43 years in prison. The case underlines the extent to which the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has reframed political debate in Turkey, and is willing to pursue any and all individuals it believes not acting in its best interests. Although the government is highly unlikely to target foreign interests and investors, its actions remain a concern amid persistently polarised politics.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Tanzania’s Magufuli threatens to close mines delaying tax talks
Sectors: mining and extractives
Key Risks: license cancellation
In the latest in a number of measures targeting Tanzania’s mining sector, President John Magufuli doubled down on his threats towards multinational mining corporations failing to pay adequate tax, threatening to close down all mines of companies delaying talks with the government over their tax obligations. The move marks another escalation in his approach to dealing with the sector, with Acacia mining in the president’s firing line. Earlier this month Magufuli signed into law three bills, including an increase in royalty rates, removal of the right to international arbitration and renegotiation of contracts. Nevertheless, President Magufuli’s actions will continue to consolidate his popular support, at a time where his approval ratings were low compared to his predecessors. In this climate, further hostile action can be expected, but this populist and short-termist measure will nevertheless constrain economic growth and diminish investor confidence at a time when the country is investing in a number of infrastructure megaprojects.