What We’re Watching: EU agrees recovery fund, Emirati lift off to Mars, Far East tests Putin

Compromise on EU pandemic relief deal: In the wee hours of Tuesday, EU leaders reached consensus on a 750 billion euro fund to help EU member states recover from the crippling coronavirus-related economic crisis. Almost five days into what was supposed to be a three-day summit in Brussels, a group of "frugal" countries, led by the Netherlands, agreed to a combination of 360 billion euros in loans and 390 billion euros in non-repayable grants that will largely benefit Italy and Spain. These two countries were the hardest hit by the pandemic, but are reluctant to embrace labor market and pension reforms in exchange for EU rescue money. Disbursement of the funds will finally not be tied to upholding EU norms on democracy and the rule of law, as Hungary and Poland had pushed for. Although the "frugal" countries won generous rebates on their contributions to the EU budget, they failed to secure clear strings attached for big-spending recipients to get the money. Any deal is subject to parliamentary approval in all EU member states, so it will still be a long time until anyone sees any of the EU relief cash.


UAE goes to Red Planet: The United Arab Emirates successfully launched a Mars probe on Sunday, becoming the first Arab country to carry out a space mission. It's a major feat for the UAE, a rich but tiny Gulf nation which only started its space program six years ago, and has been able to pull off a launch to the Red Planet (almost entirely on its own) in about half the time it normally takes countries to do so. If the Emirati probe arrives safely, it will be joined on Mars by similar missions to be launched by the United States and China. With this move, the UAE — now a member of the elite club of countries with ambitious space programs — plans to achieve twin political goals: stoke nationalist sentiment by landing the Mars probe to coincide with the 50th anniversary of its independence in December 2021, and demonstrate its regional leadership on science and technology in the Arab world, where many Gulf states are exploring how to leverage such innovation to diversify their economies away from oil and gas.

Putin tries to tame the East: After more than 10,000 people again hit the streets in the Russian Far East region of Khabarovsk to protest the ousting of their popular governor, President Putin named a replacement in hopes of calming the protests. Will it work? Supporters of Sergei Furgal say that his recent arrest on murder charges was political payback from the Kremlin, whose own gubernatorial candidate Furgal beat handily in the last elections. Furgal is a member of the spectacularly misnamed Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, a far-right nationalist outfit that usually plays the role of lapdog opposition to the Kremlin. Lately, however, party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has been mouthing off more about the Kremlin. Critics say Furgal's replacement is just a more pliant member of the same party. With Putin's approval ratings touching all-time lows and Russia's economy battered by the pandemic, the Kremlin is keen to quash this bit of regional insubordination, lest it spread to other parts of Russia's vast hinterland that are frustrated with Moscow's political and economic dominance.

How much material do we use to send a package? Too much. Does recycling help? Yes – but not really. Packaging material often accumulates as waste, contributing to its own "polluting weight." To solve our packaging dilemma, Finland came up with RePack: a "circular" solution for the reuse of material.

Learn more about RePack in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

A steady increase of violence in the Sahel region of Africa over the past eight years has imposed fear and hardship on millions of the people who live there. It has also pushed the governments of Sahel countries to work together to fight terrorists.

The region's troubles have also captured the attention of European leaders, who worry that if instability there continues, it could generate a movement of migrants that might well dwarf the EU refugee crisis of 2015-2016.

But is Europe helping to make things better?

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Ian Bremmer's QuickTake:

It's Monday, coronavirus still going on. Plenty to talk about.

I mean, I guess the biggest news in the United States is the fact that we still don't have any stimulus going forward. I mean, now, keep in mind, this is on the back of an exceptionally strong initial US economic response, over 10% of GDP, ensuring relief for small businesses, for big corporations, and most importantly, for everyday American citizens, many of whom, large double digit numbers, lost their jobs, a lot of whom lost them permanently but didn't have to worry, at least in the near term, because they were getting cash from the government. Is that going to continue?

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Lebanon's government resigns: Lebanon's government resigned on Monday over last week's twin explosions at Beirut's port, which killed at least 160 people and shattered much of the city's downtown areas. After promising a thorough investigation into why dangerous explosives were stored at the port so close to civilian areas, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said he would step down in solidarity with the people." The people in question are furious. Thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets in recent days demanding "revolution" and the resignation of a political class whose corruption and mismanagement had plunged the country into economic ruin even before last week's blasts. The international community, meanwhile, held a conference on Sunday and pledged $300 million in humanitarian aid to rebuild battered Beirut, with aid distribution to be coordinated by the UN. But the attendees, which included US President Donald Trump, the European Union, and the Gulf Arab states, said that the funds would not be released until the Lebanese government reforms its bloated, inefficient, and corrupt public sector. So far, Beirut's power brokers have resisted change. As rage on the streets intensifies — with angry protesters swarming the city center and setting public property and government buildings ablaze even after cabinet members resigned — it remains unclear who will run Lebanon going forward and guide the country's rebuilding process.

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"There have been more than 500 deaths of healthcare workers that we know of in this country and more than 80,000 infections of healthcare workers … These are mind-boggling numbers." Former CDC director Dr. Frieden on how the United States is failing the heroes who are fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines. The fact that many still don't have access to basic personal protective equipment this far into the public health crisis is not just unacceptable. It's a symptom of how deeply flawed our healthcare system is as a whole.