Crunch Time in Europe

Late last week, Germany’s two largest parties reached a preliminary agreement to form a new government, presenting a possible breakthrough in the country’s worst political crisis in decades. While the agreement between Chancellor Merkel’s CDU and the center-left SPD still faces serious hurdles, a successful deal would end an unusual period of uncertainty in German politics and create new momentum behind French-led efforts to further integrate Europe.

Two key questions to consider:

  • Would a new Grand Coalition be good for Germany? The country’s two largest parties — the SPD and CDU — have held the reins of power in a so-called “Grand Coalition” for 8 of the past 12 years. Bringing the center-right and center-left together provides stability and consensus, but can they deliver on an ambitious agenda that will reverse the historic electoral gains of the country’s far-right and renew faith in the value of the European project? A majority of Germans (55%) are skeptical.
  • What would another Grand Coalition mean for Europe? French President Emmanuel Macron has put forth a set of bold proposals to deepen European economic and financial integration by creating an EU finance minister and a joint budget for the eurozone, the bloc of 19 countries that use the euro as their currency. Macron can only succeed if he has a stable and willing partner in Berlin. While momentum has shifteddecidedly in his favor, time is of the essence–elections for the European parliament are slated for early 2019, and voters will want to see progress.

In 2017, the European Union dodged several existential crises that risked undermining the bloc’s future–from the influx of millions of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa to the historic performance of the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in France.

The Merkel-Macron axis represents a unique opportunity to push back against populist, anti-establishment parties and to demonstrate that the European Union can benefit all of its members. Progress depends on what happens next in its least expected source of instability–Germany.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that NATO was experiencing "brain death," citing a lack of coordination and America's fickleness under Donald Trump as reasons to doubt the alliance's commitment to mutual defense. NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – was formed in the wake of World War II as a counterweight against Soviet dominance in Europe and beyond. Its cornerstone is that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all. But disagreement about burden sharing has gained increasing salience in recent years. In 2014, the bloc agreed that each member state would increase their own defense spending to 2% of their respective GDP over the next decade. But so far, only seven of 29 members have forked out the money. Here's a look at who pays what.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 200 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least eight Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

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More Brexit shenanigans: Britons this week saw Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson endorse Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in upcoming elections. As a special bonus, they got to see Corbyn return the favo(u)r with a formal endorsement of Johnson. Most viewers in the UK will have understood immediately that these are the latest example of "deep fakes," digitally manipulated video images. The more important Brexit story this week is a pledge by Nigel Farage that his Brexit Party will not run candidates in areas held by the Conservatives in upcoming national elections. That's a boost for Johnson, because it frees his party from having to compete for support from pro-Brexit voters in those constituencies.

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80: More than 80 percent of the electronic voting systems currently used in the US are made by just three companies, according to a new report which warns that they are regulated less effectively than "colored pencils."

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