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President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden greet President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine at the South Portico of the White House. Zelensky is meeting with Biden following his participation in the United Nations high-level meetings earlier this week.

Allison Bailey/NurPhoto via Reuters

Ukraine war sees escalation of weapons and words

After a week of high-stakes diplomacy, including stops in Washington, the UN General Assembly in New York, Ottawa, and Lublin, Poland, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky returned home amid fresh conflict in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki embrace during a joint news briefing on a day of the first anniversary of Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 24, 2023.

REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

Poland’s startling - and deceptive - announcement

Maybe you saw the shock headline – “Poland no longer supplying weapons to Ukraine amid grain row” – and wondered how such close allies had experienced such a significant wartime falling-out.

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Banners ares seen during an anti-government protest in Krakow, Poland

Poland’s PiS caught in cash for visas scandal

A month out from Poland’s parliamentary elections, the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) is facing a PR nightmare of their own making: the party may be anti-immigration, but it seems they aren’t anti-cash.

There is mounting evidence that several thousand visas were given to migrants from Africa and Asia in exchange for cash– a major scandal for an anti-immigration party.

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Ukraine-EU farm export dispute: Are there any consequences?
Ukraine-EU farm export dispute: Are there any consequences? | Europe In: 60 | GZERO Media

Ukraine-EU farm export dispute: Are there any consequences?

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on European politics - this week from the airport in Madrid.

What are the consequence of the dispute now between Ukraine and the European Union on farm exports?

It is not really a dispute with the European Union because the commission has said that farm exports are okay. But then suddenly Poland has an election, and Slovakia which has election and Hungary, which has own policy, said, “No, no, we don't allow these particular grain exports from Ukraine because our farmers don't like it.” That runs totally contrary to the common trade policy that the European Union is running, runs totally contrary to the solidarity with Ukraine and support to Ukraine that we have all agreed on. So yeah, we'll see what happens. It’s a serious question.

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Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki

Poland’s PM puts Middle East migrants on the ballot

In a politically polarized society, election success depends less on targeting centrist voters than on making sure those most sympathetic to your side show up to vote. To meet that goal, politicians sometimes include hot-button referendum questions on the same ballot that voters will use to choose their next set of leaders.
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A pro-democracy march in Warsaw gathered up to 500,000 participants.


Poles’ democracy push

Around half a million Poles took to the streets of Warsaw on Sunday to protest the right-wing government of President Andrzej Duda in the largest pro-democracy display in Poland since the end of the Cold War. Thousands traveled from across the country – including some from the conservative heartland – to join demonstrators in the capital, while big rallies also formed in other cities, including Krakow.

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Satellite image shows smoke and an overview of Khartoum International Airport in Sudan.

Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Sudan on the brink, unwanted Ukrainian grain

Army-militia turf war turns bloody in Sudan

Over the weekend, Sudan's slow and bloody transition to democracy was turned on its head by fierce fighting in Khartoum, the capital, and elsewhere between the army and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group. By Monday, almost 100 civilians had been killed along with unknown numbers from the two warring sides in three days of intense battles.

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Thousands gathered at the Place de la Concorde to denounce the government’s use of a constitutional loophole to pass the pension reform, raising the retirement age without a vote in the National Assembly.

Marie Magnin/Hans Lucas via Reuters Connect

What We’re Watching: France’s fiery response, Poland’s first big step, Israeli president’s “civil war” warning

Macron bypasses the legislature on pension reform

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday made the risky call to bypass the National Assembly, France’s powerful lower house, and push through a very unpopular pension reform scheme.

As expected, protesters responded with anger. More than 300 people were arrested overnight, and on Friday morning demonstrators halted production at a fuel refinery and briefly blocked traffic on a highway outside Paris.

(A brief recap on the proposal that’s sent France into a tailspin: Macron’s government wants to incrementally raise the national retirement age by two years to 64 by 2030. Starting from 2027, workers will need to have worked for 43 years, up from 41, to access a full pension.)

Why’s he doing this? Macron has long said that France's public spending, 14% of which goes toward its pension scheme – the highest of any OECD country after Greece and Italy – is crucial to addressing its growing debt-to-GDP ratio. But this approach is very unpopular in France, where retirement is sacred and government interference is abhorred.

Fearing he wouldn’t have the votes in the lower chamber, Macron triggered a constitutional loophole to get the bill through (it had already passed in the upper chamber). But by taking this route – which his political opponents say renders the bill illegitimate, though it is legal – Macron now opens himself up to serious political blowback.

On Friday, a group of opposition centrist lawmakers — backed by the far-left NUPES coalition — filed a no-confidence vote against the government, while far-right leader Marine Le Pen announced she'll table her own. But any vote would need to pass by an absolute majority to topple the government – meaning PM Élisabeth Borne and the cabinet, not the president. Still, that’s very unlikely to happen, analysts say.

But Macron, who cannot run again after 2027 due to term limits, is not out of the woods. Unions have vowed to make the government pay, and prolonged strikes are expected. Meanwhile, far-left and far-right factions say they’ll intensify efforts to topple the French government.

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