The Illiberal State of Europe

This Sunday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is set to win another term in national elections, giving him a fresh mandate to advance his project of building what he calls an “illiberal” state at the heart of Europe.


Over the past eight years, Orban’s democratically-elected governments have, in fact, behaved less and less democratically — steadily centralizing power, eroding the independence of the courts, the media, and even cultural institutions.

For Orban and his defenders, this is a closing of ranks meant to defend Hungary’s interests against EU bureaucrats whose policies — particularly on the resettlement of refugees from Syria and North Africa — threaten to dilute Hungary’s traditional Christian identity and reduce its sovereignty. Orban himself openly looks to the authoritarian efficiency of Xi Jinping’s China and the conservative nationalism of Vladimir Putin’s Russia as examples.

His critics, meanwhile, say he has mounted an opportunistic political power play that has enriched friendly oligarchs, deepened economic inequality, and undermined the accountability of the government.

All of this presents a growing existential challenge for the EU. Alongside Poland’s move in a similarly illiberal direction, Orban’s continued strength sharpens two critical questions: First, how to impose costs on countries that buck EU institutions and ideals without alienating them further. And second, how to reconcile the desire of core Western European countries like Germany and France, which seek to further integrate the bloc, with Eastern countries’ resurgent nationalism.

Scientists, engineers and technologists are turning to nature in search of solutions to climate change. Biomimicry is now being applied in the energy sector, medicine, architecture, communications, transport and agriculture in a bid to make human life on this planet more sustainable and limit the impacts of global warming. New inventions have been inspired by humpback whales, kingfishers and mosquitoes.

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

The Trump administration's Middle East peace plan – three years in the making—is expected to be revealed tomorrow at a joint White House press conference between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Recall that the economic part of the plan, which calls for $50 billion of international investment to boost the Palestinian economy, was released last summer to weak applause, because it didn't include a framework for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Here are a few things to look for when more details are released tomorrow.

More

The 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucuses, a critical early contest on the path to winning the nomination, will take place on Monday, February 3rd. After that, the pace of the primaries picks up fast, with important contests in New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Here's the latest polling of the frontrunners in each of those states. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tops polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, but former Vice President Joe Biden is number one in Nevada and has a commanding lead in South Carolina.

John Bolton's book: Details of former US National Security Advisor John Bolton's hotly-anticipated White House memoir, "The Room Where it Happened" have started to leak, including an allegation that President Trump was explicit about holding up security aid unless Ukraine investigated his Democratic rivals. This will intensify pressure on moderate Senate Republicans to join Democrats in calling for Bolton and other direct witnesses to the President's conduct to testify under oath in the impeachment trial. This may also provide an opening for Democrats to lobby Chief Justice John Roberts – who is presiding over the Senate trial – to subpoena Bolton himself. We're watching to see how Republicans in the Senate respond to this new pressure.

More

51: Following a recent uptick in Taliban violence, Afghan security forces have struck back, killing at least 51 of the group's fighters in recent days. This comes amid a renewed stalemate in US-Taliban peace talks that recommenced in Doha last week.

More