What We're Watching: EU-Poland judicial fight, Turkey joins Haiti prez murder probe, Pfizer’s COVID pill deal

What We're Watching: EU-Poland judicial fight, Turkey joins Haiti prez murder probe, Pfizer’s COVID pill deal

EU vs Poland (yes, again). The EU's top court on Tuesday ruled that Poland's recent judicial reforms, which give the government leeway to appoint sympathetic justices, violate EU rule-of-law norms. Warsaw claims that its own constitutional court has already decided that Polish law supersedes EU law, so the stalemate continues. The EU and Poland have been fighting over this issue for years, but Brussels has recently begun showing its frustration with Poland — and Hungary too — over these issues. While the "illiberal" governments of both countries are popular, the EU also knows that most Hungarians and Poles want to stay in the 27-member union, and Brussels' ability to delay badly-needed EU pandemic relief money is a strong point of leverage. Defying Brussels is already starting to get expensive for Warsaw — in a separate judicial dispute, the EU is fining Poland 1 million euros ($1.1 million) per day until it abides by the bloc's rule-of-law norms.


Haiti's presidential assassination investigation goes global. Turkey has arrested a Haitian businessman of Jordanian origin allegedly connected to the plot to kill Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse last July. The suspect — detained in Istanbul en route to Jordan from the US — has been linked to a Florida-based doctor with Haitian roots who reportedly wanted to return to Haiti and assume the presidency after Moïse's death. More than 40 suspects have been arrested so far, including several Haitian security personnel and Colombian mercenaries. Although we still don't know who ordered the hit, the most plausible theory is that wealthy Haitians living abroad hired professionals to do the job. Meanwhile, Haiti itself remains mired in the political chaos that followed Moïse's assassination. With a weak government, gangsters like the notorious Monsieur Barbecue, Haiti's most powerful mobster, are now running the show in the chronically unstable Caribbean nation.

Pfizer's COVID pill plans. US drug manufacturer Pfizer will allow its experimental COVID treatment pill to be produced and sold in 95 developing nations that are home to more than half of the world's population. The deal is part of a UN-backed, for-profit consortium. Pfizer says that as long as COVID remains a WHO-designated public health emergency, it won't charge royalties for the pill, which clinical trials show reduces the risk of COVID hospitalization or death by 89 percent. While the treatment is still good news, inequality in access to COVID vaccines and treatments persists, with numerous issues outstanding — from pharma patent issues, to global production supply deals, to local drug production capacity. Still, having cheaper access to effective treatment is a big deal for the countries on Pfizer's list, most of which have very low vaccination rates and weak healthcare capacity.
Colorful graphic with a woman wearing a red top in the foreground and blue background with two individuals looking on

As the private sector innovates aid and financing, seeking holistic solutions to neighborhood challenges is the cornerstone of the approach.

Businesses, which rely on healthy communities for their own prosperity, must play a big part in driving solutions.

See why.

Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020 China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino

The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?

Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.

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Caravan of Taliban soldiers with guns held upright

Listen: With the US gone and the Taliban back in control, Afghanistan faces a long winter. Mounting food insecurity and a crumbling economy have left many Afghans feeling abandoned. The international community could help solve this humanitarian crisis, but can they trust the Taliban?

Ian Bremmer sat down with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid to learn more about the Taliban today. Few people know more about the Taliban than Rashid, who wrote the book on the group — literally. In the months after 9/11, his critically acclaimed 2000 study Taliban became a go-to reference as the US geared up to invade Afghanistan and knock the militant group from power. Twenty years later, how much has the group changed since the days of soccer-stadium executions, television bans, and blowing up world heritage sites?

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What are the DSA and the DMA?

Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is happening to Roe v. Wade?

Well, this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson, which challenges a Mississippi law that would outlaw abortions after 15 weeks in the state. That law itself is a direct challenge to the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago, which is one of the most politically important Supreme Court decisions in American history. It has driven deep polarization between the right and the left in the US and become a critical litmus test. There are very few, if any, pro-life Democrats at the national level and virtually no pro-choice Republicans at any level of government. Overturning Roe has been an animating force on the political right in the US for a generation. And in turn, Democrats have responded by making protecting Roe one of their key political missions.

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What We're Watching: Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell, Iran nuclear talks resume

Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...

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World leaders at the G20 Summit in Rome, October 2021

This week, the World Health Organization’s governing body agreed to begin multinational negotiations on an agreement that would boost global preparedness to deal with future pandemics. The WHO hopes that its 194 member countries will sign a treaty that helps ensure that the global response to the next pandemic is better coordinated and fairer.

The specifics remain to be negotiated over the coming months – and maybe longer – but the stated goal of those who back this plan is a treaty that will commit member countries to share information, virus samples, and new technologies, and to ensure that poorer countries have much better access than they do now to vaccines and related technologies.

Crucially, backers of the treaty insist it must be “legally binding.”

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