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SnapshotsOct 1, 2020 | 17:06 GMT
French President Emmanuel Macron leaves the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, on July 20, 2020. Leaders from the 27 EU member states met on July 19 to discuss the bloc’s budget and new COVID-19 recovery package.
Disputes Risk Delaying EU Disbursement of COVID-19 Relief Funds
Ongoing disputes in the European Union over how to implement the bloc’s new 750 billion euro ($881 billion) COVID-19 recovery fund could delay the disbursement of loans and grants to struggling EU economies -- a situation that would be particularly problematic for Southern Europe, where the recessions are deep. The disputes also highlight the extent to which Brussels struggles to quickly react to political and economic crises, which will continue to undermine the European Union’s ability to address internal and external challenges. In July, EU governments agreed to link the disbursement of money from the COVID-19 relief fund to keeping a strong rule of law, but did not establish the mechanism to do it. In late September, Germany presented a proposal to sever funding for countries where corruption or mismanagement in the use of the funds is detected. Other Western European governments, however, believe Berlin’s proposal is too soft, and
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SITUATION REPORTSep 30, 2020 | 21:05 GMT
Algeria: Opposition Party Urges Supporters to Vote Against Constitutional Changes in Upcoming Referendum
The Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), an Islamist party that holds 33 out of 462 seats in Algeria’s National Assembly, has urged its constituents to vote against proposed constitutional changes in an upcoming referendum on Nov. 1, Echourouk Online reported Sept. 26.
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SnapshotsSep 25, 2020 | 17:42 GMT
In Kuwait, a Blocked Debt Law Portends a Dissolved Parliament
Kuwait’s pandemic-related financial struggles may force its leader, Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, to bypass the country’s legislative process in order to push through a crucial debt law that remains locked in parliament. The need to enact other overdue reforms may also tempt Al Sabah to extend a potential parliamentary suspension -- a politically risky move that would also require suspending Kuwait's constitution. On Sept. 23, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Kuwait's sovereign credit rating for the first time to “A1,” citing the country's liquidity crisis that has been brought on by low oil prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its announcement, Moody’s also specifically referenced the Kuwaiti government’s failure to pass a debt law that would help mitigate the country’s current financial woes by enabling its finance ministry to issue sovereign bonds.
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On GeopoliticsSep 25, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
A damaged EU flag is seen in Brenzone, Italy, on Aug. 14, 2019. 
The Quest for European Unity: No End of History
Europe faces a challenge of identity and international role over the next decade. For nearly 500 years, Europe sat at the center of the international system, its internal competitions rippling out across the globe. But the relative balance of global power and influence has shifted. And rather than being the driving force of global dynamics, Europe is increasingly caught between major powers: the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and now the United States and China. Internally, Europe still strives for the creation of a continental union, though those dreams have been eroded by financial crises, Brexit and a resurgence of nationalism in recent years. Externally, Europe remains fragmented in its foreign policy and prioritization. The shifting patterns of global competition will compel Europe to rethink its internal structures and to come to grips with defining its interests abroad. Otherwise, it will find itself drifting further
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SnapshotsSep 24, 2020 | 15:41 GMT
Poking Holes in the New EU Migration Plan
A plan to reform the European Union's migration rules will have a limited impact on reducing the migrant burden on its southern members at a time when they are dealing with severe economic recessions. It will also lead to renewed disputes between Southern and Eastern European states, while not significantly reducing the leverage that Turkey and other countries have on the bloc. On Sept. 23, the European Commission proposed a new Pact on Migration and Asylum. According to the current EU rules, the member state where a migrant first enters the bloc is responsible for them, which puts significant pressure on Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus. The new pact does not abolish this principle, and instead calls on the rest of the European Union to provide greater financial and logistical support for Mediterranean countries. 
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AssessmentsSep 22, 2020 | 19:33 GMT
A woman wearing a face mask stands at a terrace on top of a building in Fnideq, Morocco, on Aug. 28, 2020.
COVID-19 Forces Morocco to Mull a Risky Election Delay
The economic impact of COVID-19 could force the Moroccan government to delay upcoming elections, which would raise the risk of social unrest and rare public scrutiny on the country’s elected and unelected officials. Morocco is currently scheduled to hold parliamentary and local elections in the summer and fall of 2021. Some Moroccan political parties have pushed for delaying elections in favor of forming a national salvation government that can more deftly handle the country’s pandemic-induced economic crisis, while other parties support holding the ballot on time, arguing that such stressful circumstances require the stability of regular elections. 
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SITUATION REPORTSep 18, 2020 | 18:47 GMT
Poland: Political Crisis Could Lead to an Early Election
The governing Law and Justice party could govern the country with a minority Cabinet or call for an early general election after a junior coalition partner refused to back PiS in a parliamentary vote Sept. 17, Reuters reported, citing a spokesperson for the Polish government who spoke Sept. 18.
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SnapshotsSep 14, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
New U.S. Sanctions Against Hezbollah Risk Thwarting Lebanon's Progress
New U.S. Sanctions against Hezbollah risk extending Lebanon's economic and political crises by undercutting French efforts to broker Lebanese domestic political and economic reforms, which require the Iran-backed militant group and political party's support. On Sept. 8, the United States issued sanctions against two Lebanese politicians for engaging in corruption and providing "material support" to Hezbollah. The policy change appears to expand U.S. actions in recent years against the group, which has long been a target of Washington's efforts to counter Iranian proxies and allies throughout the Middle East. This is the first time the United States has targeted individuals with second-order connections to the group, broadening its scope of sanctions in ways that will impact a larger cross-section of Lebanese politicians across all major factions. The widening net will also create regulatory barriers that are likely to further spook investors and international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund.
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AssessmentsSep 11, 2020 | 15:40 GMT
An external view of the building of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium.
What the Fading Promise of EU Accession Means for the Balkans
The European Union will not accept any new member states for the foreseeable future, which will erode the promise of EU accession that has made the bloc an influential political and economic force in the Western Balkans. As the fallout from the COVID-19 crisis forces the European Union to remain focused on recovering (and not enlarging) its economy, candidate countries risk veering off from the reforms they had been pursuing to earn their place in the bloc. Non-EU players such as the United States, Russia and China, meanwhile, will likely become more active in the region, seeing European Union's waning presence as an opportunity to assert their own influence in the Balkans.
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SITUATION REPORTSep 9, 2020 | 21:54 GMT
U.S., China: Washington Preparing Bans on Cotton, Tomato Imports From Xinjiang
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed through a representative that it has prepared orders to restrict U.S. imports of cotton and tomato products from the Chinese region of Xinjiang over accusations of forced labor, but has delayed the announcement of these orders by several days, Reuters reported Sept. 9.
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SnapshotsSep 1, 2020 | 16:24 GMT
U.S. Pressure on TikTok Prompts a Chinese Show of Legal Force
The recent expansion of Chinese export controls reflects a long-term strategy wherein Beijing will move to counter and match U.S. efforts to limit China's global tech rise, leading to a further decoupling of the world's two largest economies. On Aug. 28, the Chinese government increased restrictions on the export of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, including text-to-speech technology and data analysis to serve up personalized content. China's ministries in charge of commerce and science and technology jointly released a revised export-control list for the first time since it was compiled in 2008. With these updates, Beijing makes itself a more decisive player in the sale of the popular video-sharing app, TikTok. But more broadly, the new export controls also signal China will deploy its own legal tools to retaliate against the increasingly aggressive use of U.S. export controls to restrict Chinese tech companies abroad.
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