Crisis mode: Conflict Zone special

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Protests in Hong Kong, an uprising in Venezuela, rising populism and Brexit impasse — all have become symbols of a world in crisis. DW’s Conflict Zone looks back at recent interviews with key players.

In interviews around the world, DW’s flagship political interview program Conflict Zone set out to hold key players to account over the crises on their watch.

The show traveled to places like Hong Kong, Taipei, Chisinau, Tallinn, Stockholm, Madrid, London and Munich to discuss some of the biggest political developments of 2019, such as the humanitarian disaster in Venezuela, the ongoing clashes in Hong Kong or the political fragmentation in Europe.

The season also included a debate with four guests at the European Parliament in Brussels ahead of the European elections and a special show looking back at the twists and turns of Brexit.

Beijing encroaching

Hong Kong has been one of the biggest political crises of 2019, and Conflict Zone was there as leader Carrie Lam announced her extradition bill was “dead.”

Tim Sebastian spoke to a senior adviser to Lam, Ronny Tong, who warned that Beijing could intervene if authorities in the semi-autonomous territory could not control the situation.

But efforts to assuage protesters in the former British colony have failed. Tong said the bill had “nothing to do with any of the freedoms” of Hong Kong people, but protests continue.

China has in recent days voiced support for the beleaguered Lam.

In Taiwan, citizens seem no more keen on closer ties with the mainland. In a survey last year, just 3% wanted unification now.

Chou Hsi-wei, who had hoped to be the presidential nominee of the pro-Beijing nationalist Kuomintang party, said that China could change and pointed to its restraint over the Hong Kong crisis.

“Why China is not using force to press down the demonstration? Why they compromise? Why? Because they seek opportunity to prove they can change,” he said near the capital Taipei.

Uprising in Venezuela

The humanitarian disaster and political stand off in Venezuela was also high on the agenda, and Conflict Zone interviewed both a representative of the Nicolas Maduro government and an envoy of self-declared president, Juan Guaido.

In an interview with the Venezuelan Ambassador to the EU, Claudia Salerno Caldera, Sebastian asked her how long Maduro could hold on as leader.

“Six years I hope, because that is what the people voted for,” said the ambassador.

Vanessa Neumann, Guaido’s UK envoy, had a different view. She stressed that Venezuelans want change.

“They want out from this drug cartel regime that tortures people,” she said.

Tim Sebastian also spoke about Venezuela to Republican Senator Jim Risch, Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As well as many European countries, the United States government recognized Guaido as the country’s interim president, and Risch said the aim was for a transition to take place peacefully.

The blockage over Brexit

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Brexit remains unresolved and arguably has become a more disunited kingdom.

In London, Sebastian met British Conservative MPs Bernard JenkinNigel Mills and Mark Francois. All three are pro-Brexit.

Conflict Zone also spoke with an MEP from the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, Philippe Lamberts.

He made it clear that “membership of the European Union has benefits and of course if you’re not a member you don’t enjoy those benefits.”

Populism and the future of the EU

In addition to Brexit, European leaders have also faced the challenge of rising populist and euroskeptic forces on the continent.

Mischael Modrikamen, who has worked with Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon to unite populist forces in Europe, described the EU as a system which “ultimately ends up as imperialism” and said he wants the bloc to be reformed.

Beatrix von Storch, a leading member of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), added that her party is against an “ever-closer union” and wants to keep the sovereignty of nation states.

On the other side of the debate over Europe’s future, former conservative MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt said “extreme-right populists did not get the earthquake they expected.”

And Andreas Schwab, a German MEP and also a conservative, told Sebastian in the final interview of the season that people voted in higher numbers in the recent European elections because they “better understand the need for the European Union.”

Conflict Zone will return on September 11 with new guests

DW

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