Euroscepticism in the Czech Republic: A Central European Disaster Or Hot Air?

The rise of euroscepticism in Central Europe has been well documented, particularly in the Czech Republic. Among the nations of the Visegrad Four, anti-EU sentiments have long provided easy fuel for political actors willing to appeal to populist instincts to secure political power, but rarely do such sentiments crystallize into concrete anti-European movements. In the Czech Republic, however, political instability and populist rhetoric employed at the highest level is frequently warned against as a harbinger for a potential earthquake in Czech – and potentially Central European – relations with the EU. But how likely is such an event in real terms?

It is no secret that the Czech Republic harbours one of the highest levels of eurosceptic sentiment in the European Union, a fact which has drawn plenty of analytical attention from outsiders and – particularly in light of the tectonic consequences of the Brexit referendum in 2016 – no end of warnings and extrapolations by parties concerned that a similar ‘Czexit’ referendum could very well take place. In the immediate term, it is certainly justifiable for external investors and third parties to be concerned by Czech euroscepticism as an economic and political risk; Eurobarometer has historically recorded significant levels of discontent with the EU both pre- and post-accession, which has never appreciably declined, and in late 2017 36% of Czechs recorded were unhappy with their status as an EU member, the highest percentage of any EU Member State.

The roots of Euroscepticism

Euroscepticism in Czech is an ongoing study; whilst the country benefits enormously from EU funding, the EU is nevertheless often held as the cause of economic woes by a salient portion of the Czech populace. Grassroots resentment over inequalities in salary between the Czech Republic and neighbour countries (for example, in Germany, where an occupation as sales assistant can yield a salary five times greater than its Czech counterpart) is widespread.

Socially, the story is similar: the advent of Brussels-imposed migration quotas in 2015 was almost universally poorly received in the Czech Republic, where anti-migrant and Islamophobic sentiment is extremely widespread, and to this day the migrant quota debacle has dramatically deteriorated Czech perceptions of EU membership, regardless of the fact that the migration quotas were rejected by the Czech government, and that Czech economy and society continues to benefit from and grow with the aid of EU funding programmes.

Potential outcomes

The EU continues to be scapegoated by Czech politicians seeking support from the eurosceptic vote. In real terms, the consequences of this may be dramatic: persistent whispers at the highest levels of Czech politics calling for a Czexit referendum suggests that Czech euroscepticism could, if unchecked, become the groundswell behind an anti-EU movement that eventually leads to a referendum on Union membership with dramatic consequences.

However, whilst the victory of Czech President Miloš Zeman in the January elections of this year, and the reappointment of Andrei Babiš to the post of Prime Minister were received by European analysts as indicators that euroscepticism is gaining ground steadily, the reality may be quite different. Both Mr. Zeman and Mr. Babiš stand to gain very little from a Czech departure from the European Union; Mr. Babiš in particular is unlikely to follow through with any threatened referendum on Czech membership given his economic interests in remaining within the EU. In particular, however, it is noticeable that both Mr. Zeman and Mr. Babiš have distanced themselves publically from the extreme anti-EU voices within the Czech government, refusing to enter into cooperation with hardline or single-policy parties advocating for EU departure. Following the 2018 presidential election results, only one extreme eurosceptic party entered the Lower House of the Czech Parliament, the SPD (Freedom and Direct Democracy) party under Tonio Okamura.

Ahead of the October 2018 Czech parliamentary elections, the outlook on the future of Czech euroscepticism may not be as negative as has been posited by some analyses. As long as political movers rely upon the European Union’s status as scapegoat – whether in the form of President Zeman’s reprimands over perceived bureaucratic incompetence in Brussels, or Prime Minister Babiš’ invocation of the sensitive subject of migration quotas – to build their support base, Czech euroscepticism will be considered a potential risk to EU-Czech relations and the interests of external actors in the Czech Republic. However, those with the greatest power in Czech politics – although perfectly content to utilise euroscepticism and populism as tools in their political arsenal – are very well aware of the damage a Czech departure from the European Union would cause to the Czech Republic.

 

Louis is a political analyst and researcher currently based in Prague, Czech Republic. He has worked previously as political advisor in one of the major political groups in the European Parliament, assigned to the Foreign Affairs, Security and Defense and Human Rights committees.

Pre-Salt Reserves Bring Energy Giants Back To Brazil Despite Lingering Risks

On October 27, 2017, new auction rounds for the eight pre-salt blocks in Brazil were launched. As the Brazilian government approved a new regulatory framework for the bidding process to allow more investors, 14 foreign companies and two Brazilian entities were qualified to participate in the auction.

As a result of the auction, The National Agency for Petroleum, Biofuels and Natural Gas (ANP) awarded six offshore blocks to Shell, Brazilian state-run Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras), and Statoil. This generated BRL 6.15 billion (about USD 1.9 billion) in signature bonus and BRL 760 million (about USD 234.8 million) in investments. The ANP also announced that two more auction rounds for pre-salt layer fields are planned in 2018 and in 2019. ExxonMobil (USA) took eight blocks of pre-salt reserves in the recent auction in April 2018, whereas Petrobras took six blocks.

Moreover, the new regulatory and economic changes in the Brazilian oil and gas sector have brought more transparency on future investments in the pre-salt reserves, incentivizing foreign investors such as ExxonMobil (USA) and Statoil (Norway) to invest again in Brazilian energy projects. The improved regulatory framework ended the mandatory participation of Petrobras as “the sole operator in pre-salt”, creating new opportunities for other investors.

A bright future, but risks abound

The future of the Brazilian oil and gas sector, and subsequently the Brazilian economy, is positive. In 2017, the oil and natural gas sector accounted for 11 percent of Brazil’s GDP, and keeps on growing. With a recovered economy, the Brazilian government claimed that Brazil has become the largest oil producer in Latin America, and that the pre-salt reserves has been regarded as “one of the most promising oil reserves in the world.” The Brazilian government thus expects the auction to yield investments of about USD 36 billion for the next 10 years, and would create about 500,000 direct and indirect jobs. This development in the oil and gas sector provides an optimistic outlook for many Brazilian states’ economy that depend on oil production, as “the exploration of [the pre-salt] areas should generate BRL 400 billion in royalties and taxes over the next 30 years.” This development could invite more economic and social development in Brazilian states that have suffered from the recent dire economy.

As corruption, fraud, and bribing remain pervasive and ongoing problems in Brazil, the investors will look to Brazilian President Michel Temer’s administration to reinforce new regulatory and economic laws to mitigate these risks in the oil and gas industry and in Brazil as a whole. Indeed, Reuters indicated on April 17, 2018 that President Temer launched a series of policy changes to “tempt investors to return to Latin America’s No.1 economy.” The President aimed to cut restrictions on oil and gas production by eliminating the exclusive rights of Petrobras in operating pre-salt oil fields.

However, despite the positive developments in the oil and gas sector, there are persistent political risks that investors must be wary about. These risks include judicial insecurity, high-level corruption, reputational damage, expropriation and nationalization with the involvement of Petrobras, and contract uncertainty. For instance, an October 27, 2017 Financial Times article reported that a federal judge issued an injunction to block the October 2017 auction, a political move sought by the leftist Workers’ Party. While the auction was briefly suspended, the injunction was overturned. However, this recent play provides a cautionary tale for investors, as judicial and political insecurity can undermine the progress of the auctions and pre-salt reserves investments. Along with these issues, the upcoming presidential elections could reverse Temer’s policies and new regulatory framework.

Petrobras and ongoing security crises in Brazil

In addition, according to the Brazilian government, Petrobras “now has the freedom to choose which [pre-salt auction] blocks it will participate in.” The new regulatory framework of the pre-salt reserves has thus allowed Petrobras to gain more autonomy for its strategic management and investment in the oil and gas industry. Increasing the state-owned oil and gas company’s influence and power over one of Brazil’s essential sectors for economic growth may be too early for Petrobras. As the company remains entangled in the biggest corruption probe in Brazil’s history, investors remain cautious of political and judicial development around the company.

This scandal has had a disastrous impact on Brazil’s economy, as investors strayed away from the country for a few months and stock prices dipped quickly in 2014. Overall, this issue was a staggering setback for Brazil’s political, social, and economic growth and worsened the already-existing grievances in country. It took several years for Petrobras to recover from the scandal, as it became the world’s most indebted oil company and reported revenue growth only by 2017. The ongoing investigation and its impact on the public and private sector in Brazil remain a rampant issue that investors, policy makers, and international organizations should continue to monitor.

In addition to the aforementioned political and operational risks, investors must also take into account worsening security risks. In the past five years, Brazil’s security status quo has deteriorated, as over 55,000 people were killed in 2015 due to a surge in police strikes, street crime, violent protests, and armed conflicts between the Brazilian security forces and organized criminal organizations. A vacuum of instability and violence in various cities across the country has persisted since 2015, and along with civilian unrest and excessive responses from Brazilian security forces, drug trade, arms trafficking, robbery, extortion, and kidnapping activities have soared. The rampant corruptions in the government and security forces, and endemic economic and social instability have undermined the Brazilian government’s ability to effectively tackle security crises.

Alicia Chavy graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service with a Bachelor of Science in International Politics. As originally appears https://globalriskinsights.com/2018/05/pre-salt-brazil-investment/

Gavin Serkin Appointed As Managing Editor Of Frontera News

Former Bloomberg News Emerging Markets Editor-at-Large joins innovative investment research and financial media platform

Singapore (17 May 2016) – Frontera News, the financial media platform for business and investment research in emerging markets, has recently named Gavin Serkin as its Managing Editor.

Serkin’s new role will be to curate and oversee Frontera’s content generation and quality control in all consumer-facing outlets including print, digital and video formats. He will also manage the production schedule for Frontera’s growing team of writers and analysts, which cover emerging markets focused business news, investment research, and political risk analysis.

“Increasingly investors and companies are looking for the next generation of emerging markets – which are often places where even the larger news organizations have few reporters,” said Serkin. “We’re now filling that void on a global basis. Our mission is to help anyone interested in doing in business in the more remote regions of our planet go in with eyes wide open.”

Serkin was most recently Editor-at-Large for Bloomberg News Emerging Markets, joining the organisation in 2000. During his time at Bloomberg he played an integral role in creating news teams dedicated to emerging markets, as well as leading coverage of the global credit markets through the international financial crisis.

He is also the author of the book Frontier ~ Exploring the Top Ten Emerging Markets of Tomorrow” (Bloomberg/Wiley, 2015), acclaimed as a ‘must read’ by the Financial Times. Serkin’s work has won numerous awards, including the Society of American Business Editors & Writers’ Best in Business Award and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Deadline Club Award.

Commenting on the appointment, Frontera Chief Executive Officer Kevin Virgil said “We are thrilled that Gavin has joined the Frontera team. Frontera News is becoming the definitive source for high-quality news, research and investment analysis in emerging markets, and our subscribers will greatly benefit from Gavin’s experience, expertise and insights on some of the most dynamic and high-growth economies in the world. This hire is an important step in our journey to build a world-class digital business media platform.”

In April, Frontera News reported that its month-on-month growth rate had exceeded 100% for the previous three months.  Since launching in 2015, Frontera has amassed over 25,000 registered subscribers in the financial and investment industry.

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Contact:

Tyler Cicirello

Chief Operating Officer, Frontera

M: +1 202 830 1084

About Frontera News

Frontera News delivers business news, investment research, and political risk analysis on the world’s frontier and emerging markets. The company’s reporting provides an important service for those who require timely and objective coverage on the world’s fastest-growing countries. Frontera maintains a global network of industry experts, analysts, and contributors who help its clients to manage risk and make better decisions.

Frontera News is a subsidiary of Frontera, an emerging markets focused platform providing execution strategies and market intelligence to investors.

www.fronteranews.com

Leading Platform For Emerging Markets Research And Investing Closes Seed Round

Singapore (1 December 2015) – Frontera, an online research marketplace and private investment platform specializing in emerging markets, has officially closed a successful seed-funding round.

The company, launched in August 2015, provides access to research as well as investment opportunities in markets across Asia, Africa, Middle East, and Latin America.

Frontera currently has more than 15,000 subscribers, and over 400 accredited investors registered. Hundreds of investment professionals servicing clients across the world currently use Frontera for their research and analysis needs.

The founding team brings decades of experience in emerging markets business intelligence, investment management, and venture capital.

The $500,000 seed round will be used to further develop their products and services for retail and institutional investors using its platform — and grow its development team to build out core functionality.

Kevin Virgil, Frontera’s CEO and co-founder explained, “Frontera Syndicates, our private investment platform, will be fully developed to deliver professionally structured equity, property, and credit opportunities to investors around the world.”

“Simultaneously, Research and Intelligence Marketplace (RIM) will soon provide a database of top quality research and reporting from some of the world’s leading political and investment risk companies,” added Tyler Cicirello, Frontera’s co-founder.

Frontera Syndicates takes a very unique approach to capital raising with ‘lead investors’ negotiating and structuring deals that are then opened up to Frontera’s pool of accredited investors.

Whereas, RIM addresses a serious ‘pain point’ for multi-national companies and investment firms which is gaining access to data and research on the world’s less transparent markets.

“Before Frontera, access to databases of research and/or institutional quality deal flow in emerging markets was sparsely available, let alone at a single point of entry. RIM And Syndicates provide these services to our global audience at scale,” explained Virgil.

The company says other plans for the new investment including launching a crowd-sourced content service that publishes actionable insights and analysis from respected political, business and financial leaders — further solidifying Frontera’s reputation as the leading platform for emerging markets research and investing.

To learn more, and to subscribe to Frontera, visit, www.fronteranews.com

 

About Frontera
Frontera is the leading online research marketplace and private investment platform for emerging markets. By providing information on macro business trends, equities, and political risk alongside a full service investment platform, Frontera provides the world’s first accessible, effective, and efficient means of investing in emerging markets.

 

Company Contact:

Tyler Cicirello

Chief Operating Officer, Frontera

M: +1 202 830 1084