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The State of the European Union

The State of the European Union

Earlier this morning, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivered the final State of the European Union address of his tenure from the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The speech included a few important new proposals but was mostly filled with flowery rhetoric and calls for further solidarity within the 28-member bloc.


Citizens across Europe, for their part, mostly tuned out. And who can blame them? Bland technocratic pronouncements aren’t exactly a draw these days, particularly when domestic politics are aflame across the continent.

So what do Europeans care about these days; how do they see their future; and what – if anything – do they expect from Brussels?

Here’s some perspective, from three distinct vantage points:

Pocketbook issues at home. Europeans are worried, first and foremost, about their own economic well-being. In 14 countries within the EU, respondents listed unemployment or health and social security as the top challenge facing their national governments, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey. But perceptions of economic well-being vary widely within the Union: while 90 percent of Germans and 86 percent of Swedes describe the state of their country’s economy as “good,” only 11 percent of Hungarians and 2 percent of Greeks feel similarly.

Brussels and borders. When it comes to their expectations of Brussels – that is, those distant technocrats – immigration outstrips all other issues as citizens’ top concern for the bloc as whole. They want Brussels to better secure Europe’s borders. In Hungary and Italy, national governments are actively testing the bounds of what the EU is willing to tolerate in terms of the treatment of immigrants.

It’s no coincidence that Juncker announced in his speech today a plan to strengthen Europe's border forces, by adding 10,000 new guards by 2020, to deal with these concerns. At the same time, the European Parliament is set to vote to put into motion a process to punish Hungary for flouting EU norms on migrant policy. But stripping it of its EU voting rights would a require a unanimous vote, which remains unlikely.

Trust in the European Union is still high. Europeans broadly support the EU’s core pillars—including the euro currency and free movement of people across internal borders. In fact, even if they find Brussels’ sprawling bureaucracy dull and tedious, a growing proportion of Europeans trust EU institutions more than national ones, even if those numbers vary somewhat from country to country. In every country in the Union, a vast majority (over 70 percent) continues to support the free movement of people across national borders. A majority in all 28 member-states say they “feel they are citizens of the EU.”

The bottom line: Europe is coping with many challenges today, from the rise of far-right euroskeptic governments, to an uneven economic recovery, to Brexit negotiations – but trust, support, and optimism about the bloc’s future has improved as a whole among its citizens over the past few years, whether they pay attention to what Brussels has to say or not.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

On Tuesday night, you can finally watch Trump and Biden tangle on the debate stage. But you TOO can go head to head on debate night .. with your fellow US politics junkies.

Print out GZERO's handy debate BINGO cards and get ready to rumble. There are four different cards so that each player may have a unique board. Every time one of the candidates says one of these words or terms, X it on your card. First player to get five across wins. And if you really want to jazz it up, you can mark each of your words by taking a swig of your drink, or doing five burpees, or donating to your favorite charity or political candidate. Whatever gets you tipsy, in shape, or motivated, get the bingo cards here. It's fight night!

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GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

The enormous scale of the coronavirus pandemic was captured earlier this week as the global death toll surpassed 1 million people. As the weight of the grim milestone sunk in, the New York Times noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people this year than the scourges of HIV, malaria, influenza, and cholera — combined. While some countries like Germany and South Korea are models in how to curb the virus' spread through social distancing and mask wearing, other countries around the world have recently seen caseloads surge again, raising fears of a dreaded "second wave" of infections. Here's a look at countries where the per-capita caseload has spiked in recent days.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

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