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What We’re Watching: EU goes green, Ethiopians at war, Taliban gains, Bolsonaro’s hiccups

Europe's green moonshot: The EU is going big on climate policy. On Wednesday the European Commission, the bloc's political cupola, committed to reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. These plans are the most ambitious of any large country or union on Earth: recent pledges by the US and China, the number one and number two polluters, are both more modest. The EU's proposals include new carbon trading schemes, investments in green tech, boosts for electric vehicles, and financial support to help lower-income communities adopt clean technologies. But as always, the EU's best-laid plans will still need to run through the wringer of 27 member states, each with their own agendas and constituencies. We, and the planet, are watching to see what things look like on the other side of that.

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Is Ethiopia’s Tigray region really on the road to peace?

For eight months, one of the world's most gruesome civil wars has raged in the East African nation of Ethiopia, pitting the national government against militant leaders in the ethnically-distinct region of Tigray. But earlier this week it looked like the conflict had suddenly stopped after an unexpected ceasefire offer from the government. Will the truce hold, and what's at stake for the country and the wider region? Let's take a look.

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Hong Kong a year after the National Security Law; US-UK travel corridor

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

A year after the National Security Law, how has Hong Kong changed?

More integrated into mainland China. Virtually no Western companies have pulled out. A fair number of Hong Kong citizens are leaving, and of course no more democratic opposition, no more free media. The full incorporation of Hong Kong into mainland China. One country, one system is happening very fast.

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What we’re watching: Tigray ceasefire, Peruvians protest endless election, North Koreans cry for Kim, Tour crash suspect vanishes

Ceasefire in Ethiopia: In a stunning about-face, Ethiopian forces on Monday withdrew entirely from the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle, and declared an immediate, unilateral ceasefire. War has raged in Tigray since November, when a dispute over election dates ignited long-simmering tensions between Tigrayan militants and Ethiopian government forces. Since then Ethiopian government troops, aided by soldiers from neighboring Eritrea as well as irregulars from other parts of Ethiopia, have waged a brutal campaign in the region — pushing it to the brink of famine and, human rights watchdogs say, committing war crimes. In recent weeks, Tigrayan forces had mounted a forceful counterattack, regaining control over vast swaths of the region. The current ceasefire is meant to last until the end of the planting season, in September. Can the central government and the local Tigrayan leadership reach a more durable political agreement before then? After eight months of war, there is little trust and lots of bad blood.

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Ethiopia’s PM wanted legitimacy – did he get it?

The ballots are still being counted in Ethiopia's national elections, which were held on June 21. The vote marks the first time that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has faced voters directly since coming to power in 2018, when mass protests ousted his predecessor.

Early in his term, Abiy was lauded for liberalizing the economy, freeing political prisoners, and ending a decades-long war with neighboring Eritrea. But he also has struggled to contain rising ethnic tensions: since November, Ethiopian forces have been warring with local militants in the region of Tigray.

International aid groups have warned of famine there and accused Abiy's forces of war crimes. Tigray did not participate in the election, and many opposition groups boycotted it.

To help us understand what the vote means for Ethiopia, Tigray, and the wider region, we spoke with Connor Vasey, the lead Ethiopia analyst at Eurasia Group.

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After Iranian election, revival of nuclear deal with US is a safe bet

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

With Iran's hardline president-elect, is reviving the nuclear deal still possible?

It's not just possible, it's probably one of the safest geopolitical bets around the world today, because not only the Iranian president-elect, but also the supreme leader, who really runs the country, all in favor of going back to the deal as it was enforced under the Obama-Biden administration. They will make more money off of that. They're not going to expand it. They're going to be limited. They don't even want to expand the timeline, never mind include other issues like support for proxies in the region, terrorist organizations, ballistic missile development, all of that. But I'd be really surprised that by the end of the year, by the end of the third quarter, we don't see the Iranians back in the Iranian nuclear deal.

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Can Ethiopia hold elections in the middle of a civil war?

In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

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What We're Watching: Russia backs Belarus, Biden warns Ethiopian PM, Hong Kong approves Beijing's overhaul

Russia wades into EU-Belarus row: Now that the European Union and Belarus are at loggerheads over the brazen hijacking of an EU flight to arrest a dissident journalist, Vladimir Putin wants a piece of the action. In response to Brussels encouraging EU airplanes to avoid Belarusian skies, Russia says it will block those airlines from Russian airspace. It's unclear whether Putin is doing this to support his frenemy, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, or to sow division within the bloc after it approved unusually swift, albeit limited, sanctions against Belarus. Putin may be guessing that Brussels won't go much further because the EU is dependent on Russian oil and gas that transits through pipelines in Belarus. Either way, Putin's move will likely put more pressure on the EU to decide whether it doubles down on tougher sanctions against Lukashenko, or backs off a bit. And it demonstrates that Russia's leader, channeling his inner Rahm Emanuel, never lets a good crisis go to waste.

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