World News Brief, Friday July 19

Greece passes civil service reform bill as condition of bailout; detention of Chinese scholar raises fears Beijing is cracking down on activists; protests in India after children die from poisoned school lunches; Yemeni al-Qaeda leader dead in drone strike; and more

Top of the Agenda: Greece Passes Controversial Civil Service Reform

The Greek parliament on Wednesday narrowly passed a civil service reform demanded by international lenders as a condition for a €6.8 billion bailout disbursement (FT). More than 25,000 public-sector employees were put on notice for dismissal by the end of the year; Greece's creditors consider the civil sector badly bloated (LAT). Protests in downtown Athens, where demonstrators shouted anti-austerity slogans and called for the government's resignation, were shut down Thursday as German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble visited amid a massive security presence (AP). Schaeuble defended austerity measures by insisting there is "no convenient shortcut" to resolving the country's economic crisis, despite rising poverty and unemployment.


"On paper, the country's leaders in Athens would seem to be well-practiced reformers. But it is a course that led to the collapse of the Socialist government under Georgios Papandreou--and one that could ultimately destroy that of his successor, current Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. His coalition came close to collapse last month in the wake of his unilateral decision to shut down public broadcaster ERT. The station is back on the air, but Samaras lost a coalition partner, leaving him with a majority of just a handful of delegates in parliament," writes David Böcking for Der Spiegel.

"When [EU officials] defend austerity, they do so from a framework of the European treaties, which tell them in great detail how fiscal adjustment must take place and what happens if it does not. It is not so much that they are in denial over the effect of fiscal austerity on unemployment. Some are, some are not. But it is outside their frame of reference. It is no surprise therefore that the system prescribes the wrong medicine," writes Wolfgang Münchau for the Financial Times.

"The more implausible austerity becomes as an economic remedy, the more unchallengeable it seems to become as a political mantra. Its most consistent advocate, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, is up for re-election this September. She is unlikely to change her tune--which is popular among German taxpayers--before that. Nor is she likely to change it if she wins another term," writes the New York Times' editorial board.



Chinese Activist Detained

Beijing police have taken prominent legal scholar Xu Zhyiyong into custody (SCMP), his lawyer said yesterday. While President Xi Jinping has prioritized anticorruption efforts, the arrest--one of dozens recently--has many fearing Beijing is cracking down on activists.

CHINA: Chinese state media accused Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday of ratcheting up nationalist rhetoric ahead of July 21 elections, after Tokyo warned Beijing not to expand gas exploration in parts of the East China Sea claimed by both countries (Reuters).

In this installment of Ask CFR Experts, Sheila Smith discusses the way forward on East China Sea territorial disputes.


Protests in India after children die from poisoned school lunch

Yemeni al-Qaeda leader dead in drone strike


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