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

 Supporter of Judge Igor Tuleya stands with a banner in front of the National Public Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw, Poland January 20, 2021.

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.


COVID reverses gender equality progress: It's well established that the cultural and economic impacts of the pandemic have hit women particularly hard. Now, a new World Economic Forum report says that 2020 was so devastating for gender equality globally that it will likely take another 151 years — 36 more than estimated just 12 months ago — to close the global gender gap. Interestingly, the area where the gap grew the most — 2.6 percent — in 2020 is politics. While many countries made progress on women's political representation, those gains were overshadowed by the poor performance of a smaller group of economic heavyweights including China, India and Japan, which have poor records when it comes to female participation in politics. As women-led movements aiming to reshape politics around the world gather steam, we're watching to see whether such grassroots pressure will succeed in creating long term change.

More unrest in Niger: After gunfire was heard before dawn close to the presidential palace in Niamey, Niger's capital, the government swiftly declared it had foiled a coup attempt by several members of the army. The fresh wave of unrest comes just two days before the inauguration of newly elected President Mohamed Bouzom. Details of the attempted coup are sketchy, but at least some soldiers are not happy about Bouzom's runoff election victory over former president Mahamane Ousmane, who himself was toppled in a coup in the mid 1990s. Ousmane rejected the December results, citing vague allegations of fraud, and his supporters rioted on the streets of Niamey to show their outrage. The coup attempt raises fears of further political unrest in coup-prone Niger, which was looking forward to its first-ever peaceful transition of power after incumbent President Mahamadou Issoufou stepped down. This comes as Niger is also suffering a wave of attacks by jihadists, who will surely benefit from more political instability in one of the world's poorest countries. Will Bouzom, a former interior minister known for being tough on terror, be able to get the situation under control?

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Learn more about Zoe and her story.

Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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For Kevin Rudd, former Australian PM and now CEO of the Asia Society, the science on climate change is pretty much done, so the only unresolved issues are tech and — more importantly — lack of political leadership. He can't think of a single national political leader who can fill the role, and says the only way to get political action on climate is to mobilize public opinion.

Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

The minutiae of supply chains makes for boring dinner table talk, but it's increasingly becoming a hot topic of conversation now that packages are taking much longer to arrive in the consumer-oriented US, while prices of goods soar.

With the issue unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, right-wing media have dubbed President Biden the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, conjuring images of sad Christmas trees surrounded by distraught children whose holiday gifts are stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

It hasn't been a good run for Uncle Joe in recent months. What issues are tripping him up?

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the NBA's latest rift with China, Brazil's Senate investigation, and COVID booster shots.

China wipes Boston Celtics from NBA broadcast after the "Free Tibet" speech from Enes Kanter. Is NBA boxing itself into a corner?

Nice mixed sports metaphor there. NBA has some challenges because they are of course the most progressive on political and social issues in the United States among sports leagues, but not when it comes to China, their most important international market. And you've seen that with LeBron James telling everyone about we need to learn better from the Communist Party on issues like Hong Kong and how Daryl Morey got hammered for taking his stance in favor of Hong Kong democracy. Well, Enes Kanter's doing the same thing and he's a second-string center. Didn't even play yesterday and still the Chinese said that they were not going to air any Boston Celtics games. Why? Because he criticized the Chinese government and had some "Free Tibet" sneakers. This is a real problem for a lot of corporations out there, but particularly publicly, the NBA. Watch for a bunch of American politicians to make it harder for the NBA going forward, saying how dare you kowtow to the Chinese when you're all about "Black Lives Matter" inside the United States. No fun.

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

A Trump media platform? Is this for real?

This week, President Trump announced his potential return to social media through the creation of his own digital media platform that's going to merge with an existing publicly-traded company in a deal known as a SPAC. These deals are increasingly popular for getting access to capital, and it seems like that's where President Trump is headed.

The publicly-traded company's stock was up on the news, but it's really hard to see this coming together. The Trump media company claims it wants to go up against not only Facebook and Twitter, but companies like Amazon and cloud computing and even Disney providing a safe space for conservatives to share their points of view. The fact of the matter is, conservatives do quite well on existing social media platforms when they aren't being kicked off for violating the terms of service, and other conservative social media platforms that have attempted to launch this year haven't really gone off the ground.

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Protests in Sudan: Protests are again shaking the Sudanese capital, as supporters of rival wings of the transitional government take to the streets. Back in 2019, after popular demonstrations led to the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir, a deal was struck between civilian activists and the army, in which a joint civilian-military government would run the country until fresh elections could be held in 2023. But now supporters of the military wing are calling on it to dissolve the government entirely, while supporters of the civilian wing are counter-protesting. Making matters worse, a pro-military tribal leader in Eastern Sudan has set up a blockade which is interrupting the flow of goods and food to the capital. The US, which backs the civilian wing, has sent an envoy to Khartoum as tensions rise, while Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are all vying for a piece as well.

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