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What We're Watching: EU sues Poland, pandemic widens global gender gap, Niger foils coup attempt

EU takes Poland to top court: In a significant escalation in the ongoing row between Brussels and Warsaw, the EU has referred Poland to Europe's top court, citing concerns over its undermining of judicial independence. Brussels has long expressed concern about the dilution of democratic norms under President Andrzej Duda and his ruling Law and Justice party, which came to power in 2015. Since then, Duda has given broad powers to the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which has purged and suspended Polish judges who are critical of government actions and cut the salaries of judges who oppose changes to the judicial system. Brussels has long been at loggerheads with member states Hungary and Poland, both of which are led by "illiberal" populists. This came to a head last year when Brussels included a provision in the bloc's pandemic recovery package that made disbursement of funds contingent on respecting EU rule-of-law norms.

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What We're Watching: Saudis brace for Khashoggi report, Sri Lanka blasts UN, political unrest in Niger

US to release Khashoggi report: The Biden administration's intel chief is expected to release on Thursday a report on the murder of Saudi dissident journalist — and US resident — Jamal Khashoggi. In line with previously reported findings, the assessment will say that Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman was involved in the plot to kill and dismember Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Aside from a sprinkling of new details, we don't expect much from the report itself, but we are keen to see how it shapes US-Saudi relations under Joe Biden, who has promised to take a harder line with Riyadh over human rights and security issues than his predecessor did. Part of that new approach is that the US president will no longer speak directly to the Crown Prince himself as Trump did — from now on, only his dad, King Salman, gets calls from the White House.

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What We’re Watching: EU vaccination campaign, Indian farm bill talks, two elections in Africa

EU rolls out vaccines: As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise throughout the European Union, the bloc on Sunday officially kicked off its campaign to vaccinate roughly 450 million EU residents against the disease. But even as shoulders are bared for the needle across the Union, two fights are already brewing about the process. First, Italy is concerned that Germany may be getting more than its fair share of the precious shots based on its population — as agreed to by EU member states — because a German company, BioNTech, jointly developed the EU-approved vaccine with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Second, problems with maintaining the drugs at the required ultra-cold temperature have already led to vaccination delays in Spain. The challenges now are to ensure all EU member states inoculate their residents at a similar pace, to overcome vaccine skepticism across the bloc, and to avoid shortages while waiting for other vaccine candidates to get approved.

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