In-depth reporting, data and actionable intelligence for policy professionals – all in one place.
POLITICO's must-read coverage on the 2022 U.N. General Assembly, the world’s biggest diplomatic platform.
Press play to listen to this article
Voiced by Amazon Polly
POLITICO’s must-read briefing on the world’s biggest diplomatic stage.
By SUZANNE LYNCH and RYAN HEATH
Send tips here | Tweet @suzannelynch1 and @PoliticoRyan | Listen to the newsletter and view in your browser
Good morning from New York, where it’s Day 2 of the U.N. General Assembly high-level week. Today will see the general debate kick off at around 9 a.m. with an address by everyone’s (not-so) favorite bad-boy president, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and a series of other leaders speaking throughout the day.
The other main attraction is a global food security summit co-hosted by the European Union, United States and the African Union. Playbook hears that the forum on food security was initially an EU proposal, but the Americans were keen to have a bite of the pie, dangling the prospect of an appearance by Joe Biden. However, the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II threw a spanner into the works, with Biden now not due to give his address until Wednesday. European Council chief Charles Michel is in the chair for the EU side.
To set you up for today’s food summit, Ryan sat down with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
‘RUSSIA AT WAR WITH ALL OF EUROPE’: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told Ryan in an interview that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is at war not only with Ukraine, but with the whole EU: “He’s using energy as a war tool,” Sánchez said, because he is threatened by the bloc’s values.
Europe’s energy system is now “a market that doesn’t function,” Sánchez said, requiring creative new policies that would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago. But those policies must not be used to push back climate targets: “Don’t use this energy crisis to block moving forward on the climate crisis,” he said.
Better together: Overall, Sánchez believes Putin is pushing the EU closer together, and that the bloc is learning from each successive crisis: by pooling debt, defense resources and energy investments. “Learning from the pandemic model, why don’t we centralize gas purchases, as we did with the vaccines?” Sánchez asked.
Wary of extremes: A social democrat, Sánchez sees dangers in the rise of Europe’s far right, and said center-right parties need to ask harder questions about their relationship with far-right parties: “What do they expect from the far right?”
Shaking things up: Asked if he thought the next NATO secretary-general should come from an EU country, Sánchez replied: “Indeed.” The Spanish PM also urged a U.N. shakeup — “the situation created by Russia in Ukraine is major proof that we need strong reform of the U.N. system” — and promised greater engagement with Latin America under Spain’s 2023 Council of the EU presidency, including a summit with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
Drama back home: Sánchez urged Catalans to “be patient” about dialogue between Barcelona and Madrid, saying “we need to find alternatives, different solutions to solve this crisis,” other than Catalan independence activists demanding secession while the population is deeply divided.
In a separate interview with U.N. Playbook editor Emma Anderson, Catalonia’s pro-independence President Pere Aragonès said that while his side had “not recovered the trust” lost amid the Pegasus surveillance revelations, he felt continuing the negotiations with Madrid was nevertheless “more important than the situation of the individual rights that we have.”
“The talks will take time. It’s not an issue that will be solved in two or three months, we know that,” Aragonès said.
(Listen to more from the interview here, or read more here.)
Spanish food for thought: Sánchez, a force behind today’s U.N. food security summit, said he will be telling the assembled leaders “we have to respond multilaterally to this food crisis,” including support for the U.N. secretary general’s work to broker the Black Sea grain export deal with Russia and Ukraine, but said “we need to avoid overlap in different initiatives.” There’s no avoiding a price tag: The EU is set to announce plans to spend €600 million on combating the food crisis. And national governments need to be prepared to fund changes to their food systems at home, Sánchez said.
THE FOOD PLAN: That €600 million-plan will essentially deploy money that would otherwise have flowed back to EU countries under the bloc’s European Development Fund. The money is destined for so-called ACP countries — African, Caribbean and Pacific — but is now being primarily redirected to African countries, particularly in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.
Big spenders: EU Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen told POLITICO that the €600 million announcement would help the EU to address food security issues in Africa across three different tracks: grants; helping to strengthen food production capacity in Africa by frontloading financing programs to start working on projects; and working with the U.N. and other international partners to enable trade and exports into Africa, most notably the U.N. deal freeing Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
“The message is that Europe has not turned its back on the rest of the world,” Urpilainen said. “We know that even though the war is taking place in Europe, the crisis is global, and that’s why we need to help our partners in the Global South, in Latin America, in Africa and in Asia, in terms of food security.”
Education gap: Urpilainen is also spearheading EU efforts to spend an extra €6 billion on education funding for parts of the world, including Africa, that did not have the resources necessary to weather the COVID storm through digital learning or online teaching. According to Urpilainen, Africa needs 20 million teachers by 2030. “It’s a huge challenge,” she told POLITICO, heading into the final day of the Transforming Education Summit.
ALL EYES ON DISRUPTIVE BOLSONARO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro opens the speakers’ list this morning in the U.N. General Assembly hall. And one knock-on effect of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral Monday is that Biden will not be there to follow directly after him at the podium as normally expected for a U.S. president. Whatever sense of protocol Biden’s presence might have instilled in Bolsonaro is lost.
Here’s a reminder of what he got up to in London, where he joined the queen’s funeral and commemorations: The Times writes that “not all those invited respected the apolitical nature of the occasion. President Bolsonaro, facing a re-election fight in Brazil next month, held an impromptu rally at his embassy … railing from the balcony against gender ideology, drugs, abortion and his Latin American neighbours.”
Notable: If Bolsonaro could get from London to New York to take up his usual Tuesday morning speaking slot, so could Biden. He chose not to.
Others choosing not to come at all: China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi and Russia’s Vladimir Putin … who all managed to make it to a summit in Uzbekistan last week.
Canceled: The President of the Dominican Republic Luis Abinader has canceled his trip to UNGA after Hurricane Fiona ripped through the country.
Guterres speech preview: Expect U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres to push leaders on climate in his opening speech today, calling for a windfall tax on the profits of fossil fuel companies to be redirected to the communities suffering most from the impacts of global warming and the energy price crunch, our colleague Karl Mathiesen reports. This comes ahead of a leaders’ climate roundtable on Wednesday.
Context: The fight for the creation of a dedicated fund to pay for damages caused by climate change will intensify at UNGA as vulnerable countries seek to lay down a marker ahead of COP27 climate talks in November.
HOW TO WATCH: Here’s the full speakers’ list. And here’s the livestream.
BILATERAL WATCH: Some important one-on-one meetings are happening on the sidelines today: Two-week-old U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss is set to meet France’s Emmanuel Macron at around 11:15 a.m. local time.
Transatlantic doubts: Truss is due to meet Biden on Wednesday for her first big bilateral with the U.S. president since she became British leader. But she admitted on her way over to New York that a U.K. trade deal with the U.S. is unlikely to happen for many years to come, according to our colleague Esther Webber, who is traveling with the new British prime minister. Biden has previously said a U.S.-U.K. trade deal won’t happen if issues related to the Brexit deal’s protocol for trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. are not resolved. Refresher on the latest in that row here.
Rendezvous for two: The French president is today also set to meet Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi (more on him later) as well as Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Macron and Biden are expected to meet Wednesday, according to an Elysée official.
German agenda: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
EU’S BORRELL SEES NO WHITE SMOKE: Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell played down expectations of a breakthrough on the Iran nuclear deal this week, telling our own Suzanne Lynch that he does not believe a meeting with Tehran’s President Ebrahim Raisi would be productive. (Evidently, this is not stopping France’s Emmanuel Macron, who is due to meet Raisi today.) Raisi is in town this week, and as always, Iran is using the annual U.N. shindig to try to highlight its stance on the never-ending negotiations on the nuclear deal.
Final sprint: Borrell said the EU has been pushing all parties “to finally run the last 10 meters” in the process to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement. But he said he did not predict any major progress soon on this issue amid the ongoing EU-led negotiations.
“For the past three months, the interaction, the multistep process was converging … But in the last weeks, this was not the case. Now we are at a stalemate. Now we are stopped,” Borrell said. “The past proposal, the last request from the Iranian side, was not exactly pushing for an agreement and if we had to say today if something happened this week, I would say ‘I don’t think so.’” More from Suzanne here.
Borrell’s comments to POLITICO got short shrift from Russia’s representative in Vienna, who accused him of “finger-pointing,” and putting too much blame on the Iran side.
WARTIME UNGA: There is one global conflict dominating the agenda this week at the UNGA — the war in Ukraine. Kyiv’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has been doing a round of meetings, from U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks, to EU foreign policy chief Borrell, to an appearance at the European Council on Foreign Relations on Monday. The U.N. Security Council is due to hold a session on Ukraine Thursday
Holding Russia accountable: One issue that Ukraine is pushing this week is how to hold Russia accountable, particularly in light of the fresh discoveries of atrocities in the eastern city of Izyum last week. As Suzanne writes in this piece, while world leaders have been quick to condemn Russian actions, and the U.S. stated that it is more evidence of war crimes, what is less clear is how the international community plans to hold Russia accountable.
War tribunal: Ukrainian official Andriy Smyrnov told POLITICO that Kyiv wants an ad-hoc special tribunal, based on the Nuremberg trials model after World War II, to ensure that the Russian leadership is held to account. But the U.S. and other countries are less keen, preferring the International Criminal Court option. In a sign of growing support, Borrell also told us he is open to a special tribunal, though let’s see if he can bring other EU countries on board.
Collecting the evidence: Playbook hears that Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany are hosting an event on Thursday at German House here in Manhattan to look at the whole issue of war crime accountability. Already, the ICC, Ukrainian authorities and various NGOs and agencies have begun documenting war crimes in the country — the aim now is to cooperate more fully.
Relevant photo gallery: The “Russian War Crimes” exhibition, put on by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, also had Davos-goers riveted in the summer. The opening drinks are Wednesday at 5.30 p.m, and the exhibition officially runs from Thursday to October 2 at the Ukrainian Institute of America, 2 East 79th Street.
MORE BAD NEWS FOR PUTIN: Having been recently rapped on the knuckles by India’s Narendra Modi and China’s Xi Jinping, now Putin is facing heat from Turkey. In an interview with U.S. broadcaster PBS, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Putin must return all land that Russia has occupied — including Crimea. More here.
— General Assembly opening debate, 9 a.m.
— French President Emmanual Macron meets Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, 9:15 a.m.
— U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss meets French President Emmanual Macron, 11:15 a.m.
— Global Food Security Summit, co-chaired by European Council President Charles Michel, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
— EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and top diplomat Josep Borrell will meet U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres this evening.
— Christchurch Call Leaders’ Summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
— Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund conference.
— Concordia Summit, livestream here.
— “Shaping an Africa-led Just and Equitable Energy Transition” event organized by the U.K. and Rwanda. European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans participating.
— Clinton Global Initiative. It’s Hillary and Chelsea Clinton’s morning to shine. Hillary is speaking about “Unfinished Business: How We Can Improve Economic Outcomes for Women” — and at a plenary session called “Home,” exploring “how to foster community and belonging in an increasingly unstable world.”
— Climate Week NYC.
— Countdown to COP15, with speakers including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (via video), Frans Timmermans, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, 7 p.m.
— Goals House, at Tavern on the Green.
WOKE WILD WEST: At the Concordia Summit on Monday, panelists including Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton, and Lucid Group Chairman Andrew Liveris said they were onboard with structural economic change and revamped supply chains, but worried about an overproliferation of environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics and standards. Watch the panel moderated by Ryan.
REAL-TIME DIPLOMACY: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov for the first direct talks since fighting erupted in recent days, killing around 200. Refresher on the conflict here. Next steps: Another meeting by end of the month.
BACK TO SCHOOL: Columbia University is hosting its own World Leaders Forum, with the leaders of Chile and North Macedonia, as well as the leader of Belarus’ democratic opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Registration here. Livestream and YouTube here.
GLOBAL FUND TREATS ETHIOPIA LIKE BUSINESS AS USUAL: Several events in recent days have been a lovefest for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which hopes to raise $18 billion at an event Wednesday hosted by Biden.
At one such event on Monday focused on the contribution of businesses to the Global Fund, Ethiopia’s Health Minister Lia Tadesse spoke about the work to strengthen the country’s health system, our colleague Carmen Paun reports. Anyone following would not have been able to tell from her remarks that there’s a civil war in her country, where millions of people are being denied access to food and health care — because that never came up. And hospitals have been damaged as a result of that war. So much for strengthening the national health system …
A Global Fund spokesperson told Carmen the event was focused “on private sector partnerships in the context of the Global Fund Replenishment.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “All countries … have work to do to ensure that LGBTQI+ people have the same rights, the same protections as all other people. Defending these rights is central to the health of our democracies.” — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the U.N. LBGTI Core Group event at the Cervantes Event, Monday.
QUOTE OF THE DAY II: “The greatest service we can do to her memory, and the presidents she met, are to continue this network of democratic values. This sense that we make a choice — we choose freedom, we choose consensus, we choose open debate. Those are the words that she herself used.” — U.K. Ambassador to the U.S. Karen Pierce, on Queen Elizabeth II, at the Atlantic Council’s Global Citizen Awards event at the Cipriani Wall Street, Monday night.
TECH FAIL: Though the EU’s mission to the U.N. was a hotbed of high-level problem-solving as it hosted EU foreign ministers Monday evening, there was one problem they couldn’t manage to solve: the Wi-Fi.
SPOTTED: The Atlantic Council gave out its Global Citizen Awards on Monday night. Honorees included Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, outgoing Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and Academy Award-winner and humanitarian Forest Whitaker. The evening also featured tributes to the late Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan and 2016 Global Citizen Award recipient, as well as Queen Elizabeth II.
In the crowd: Indonesian FM Retno Marsudi; Finnish FM Pekka Haavisto; Swedish FM Ann Linde; Norwegian FM Anniken Huitfeldt; World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab; Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg; Atlantic Council CEO Fred Kempe; businesswoman and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht; British Ambassador Karen Pierce; Finnish Ambassador Mikko Hautala; the Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama; Foreign Policy’s publisher Andrew Sollinger; POLITICO’s Suzanne Lynch; The Washington Post’s John Hudson and Lally Weymouth; former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd; and CEO of Edelman, Richard Edelman.
THANKS TO: Clea Caulcutt, Esther Webber, Cristina Gonzalez, Carmen Paun, Karl Mathiesen our editors Emma Anderson and James Randerson, and producer Fiona Lally.
SUBSCRIBE to the POLITICO newsletter family: Brussels Playbook | London Playbook | Playbook Paris | POLITICO Confidential | Sunday Crunch | EU Influence | London Influence | Digital Bridge | China Direct | Berlin Bulletin | D.C. Playbook | D.C. Influence | Global Insider | All our POLITICO Pro policy morning newsletters
Log in to access content and manage your profile. If you do not have an account you can register here.