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Poland's choice: A test of populism

On Sunday, voters in Poland will cast ballots in a highly charged, high-stakes election for president. The two frontrunners are current President Andrzej Duda, an ultra-conservative ally of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, and Rafal Trzaskowski, the liberal mayor of Warsaw.

If none of the five candidates wins 50 percent of votes, Sunday's top two vote-getters will face off in a second round on July 12.

There are two reasons why the results will be studied across Europe and beyond. First, it's a referendum on a populist government, in power since 2015, which has pushed Poland into conflict with the European Union.

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What We're Watching: How the pandemic affects Europe, emerging markets, and populist leaders

How does Europe fit in? Even before the pandemic struck, Europe was struggling to redefine its role in a world where the US is a more fickle ally and China is a more assertive challenger. In particular, Brussels has been trying to style itself as a global leader in the responsible regulation of tech companies. In some ways, the pandemic has boosted those ambitions: as governments use contact tracing apps and facial recognition to help stop the spread, Brussels regulators are paying close attention. They're also cracking down on misinformation about the coronavirus. But first the EU has a bigger challenge to address. Faced with the worst economic crisis in its history, it has to prove to a rising chorus of (euro)skeptics that it is capable of cushioning the blow, and equitably rebooting economic growth across the Union. The European Commission, fearing an economic and even political fragmentation of the bloc, has unveiled an unprecedented 750 billion euro coronavirus rescue plan -- but not all member states are in favor.

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What We’re Watching: Taiwan braces for Hong Kongers, COVID helps scrap subsidies, EU calls out China

Taiwan braces for influx of Hong Kong defectors: As Beijing continues to tighten its control over Hong Kong, threatening the safety of that city's pro-democracy activists, officials in Taiwan now say they are preparing to absorb an influx of defecting Hong Kongers in the coming months. After China announced a new national security law last month, allowing mainland China's security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, also wary of Beijing's increasing assertiveness in the region, pledged all "necessary assistance" to Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. Ms. Tsai has now reportedly instructed her government to provide a monthly allowance for Hong Kong defectors, as well as housing for new arrivals who can't afford to pay rent. But there's a catch: Taiwan has little experience in welcoming refugees, having absorbed few asylum seekers since Vietnamese refugees fleeing communist rule began arriving on its shores in the mid-1970s. Meanwhile, Taiwanese officials are also concerned that Chinese spies might disguise themselves as Hong Kong nationals and smuggle themselves into Taiwan to gain critical information on its neighboring nemeses.

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The EU's big plan to save itself

Facing the biggest economic crisis in the EU's history, the European Commission's president, Ursula von der Leyen, pulled out all the stops this week, unveiling an unprecedented plan to boost the union's post-coronavirus recovery.

The plan: The EU would go to international capital markets to raise 750 billion euros ($830 billion). 500 billion of that would be given to member states as grants to fund economic recovery over the next seven years; the remainder would be issued as loans to be paid back to Brussels. The EU would pay back its bondholders for the full 750 billion plus interest by 2058, in part by raising new EU-wide taxes on tech companies and emissions.

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Coronavirus Politics Daily: African Americans and COVID-19, EU agrees to rescue package, coronavirus vs crime

Why are African Americans disproportionately suffering from COVID-19? In principle, we are all equal before pandemics, but in practice, COVID-19 is hitting some people much harder than others. An abundance of research out of the US in recent weeks shows that COVID-19 is ravaging African American – and to a lesser extent Latino – communities at disproportionately high rates. Not only are African-Americans more likely to contract the disease, they're also more likely to die from it. In Louisiana, a coronavirus hotspot, some 70 percent of virus-related deaths were among African Americans, although they make up just 32 percent of the population. In Michigan, blacks are 133 percent more likely to be infected by the disease. Similar stories are emerging in New York, where the COVID-19 death rate for Black and Latino New Yorkers is around twice that of whites. Why? Many health experts attribute this to long-existing structural inequalities in health and healthcare that put African American communities at higher risk of falling seriously ill from the disease. Black Americans are also more likely to live in densely populated urban areas, while immigrants from Latin America sometimes live in inter-generational homes, complicating efforts to socially distance. But another huge – and often overlooked – factor contributing to this gap is that Black and Latino Americans make-up a much bigger part of the COVID-19 essential workforce, working as food service workers, cleaners, and public transport operators. Home quarantine and work from home arrangements are a luxury that many of them don't have, resulting in their over-exposure to the deadly virus.

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