|Top of the Agenda|
EU’s Von der Leyen Proposes Energy Market Reforms to Address High CostsIn her annual state of the union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged sweeping efforts (Politico) to reduce energy prices that have soared amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. The proposed plan, which requires approval from European Union (EU) member states, includes new taxes on energy companies and “comprehensive reform” of the EU’s electricity market.
Von der Leyen said she aims for the taxes on energy firms to raise $140 billion (Reuters) for European governments to disburse to citizens. She also pledged to work to ensure that Ukraine has “seamless access” to the EU’s single market. European leaders are scheduled to discuss the proposals at the end of the month.
“Europe is facing an energy crisis worsened by climate. While Russia cuts off gas, drought & heat cut hydro power, nuclear power & conventional power + coal supply chains on the Rhine River. This crisis will finally push needed adaptation of energy systems,” CFR’s Alice C. Hill tweets.
“[The European proposals] would be impossible to work out and implement in time for winter even if there were political consensus behind them—which there isn’t,” S&P Global Commodity Insights’ Laurent Ruseckas tells the Financial Times. This video looks at Europe’s energy bind.
| Pacific Rim|
Japan’s Finance Minister Warns of Currency Intervention as Yen FallsJapanese Finance Minister Suzuki Shunichi said that Tokyo would not rule out (Kyodo) an intervention to halt the yen’s decline after the currency nearly touched a twenty-four-year low against the dollar yesterday.
Taiwan: The island’s de facto ambassador in Washington hosted about sixty lawmakers from around the world who support sanctioning China for its actions toward Taiwan, Reuters reported. This Backgrounder unpacks why China-Taiwan relations are so tense.
| South and Central Asia|
U.S. to Redirect Some Frozen Afghan Funds for Economic SupportWashington will move $3.5 billion (WaPo) of Afghanistan’s frozen central bank reserves to a new fund administered in part by Swiss officials and Afghan economic experts. The funds can be used to pay for critical imports, such as electricity, and won’t be accessible by Taliban officials.
Kyrgyzstan/Tajikistan: Border guards from the countries exchanged gunfire (Reuters) in three separate incidents today, a day ahead of a Central Asian security summit in Uzbekistan.
| Middle East and North Africa|
UN: Syria’s Cholera Outbreak Is Threat to RegionA cholera outbreak in the region of Aleppo that was declared over the weekend threatens the rest of the Middle East (UN News) if not controlled, a UN humanitarian official said. Health authorities believe the outbreak is linked to people drinking and using water from the Euphrates River.
Philippines/Saudi Arabia: The Philippines agreed to lift a ban (Rappler) on deploying Philippine migrant workers to Saudi Arabia that was imposed over allegations of labor rights violations. Saudi Arabia said it would include requirements for timely payment and insurance for unpaid wages in its standard contract for overseas workers. This Backgrounder explains the kafala system for migrant laborers in Arab Gulf countries.
| Sub-Saharan Africa|
Hospital: Air Strikes on Ethiopia’s Tigray Region Kill Ten PeopleDrone attacks hit a residential neighborhood (Al Jazeera) in Tigray’s capital of Mekelle, a hospital executive said. The strikes came after Tigrayan forces said they were open to cease-fire talks.
South Africa: Biotechnology company Afrigen plans to start human trials (Bloomberg) in May for a COVID-19 vaccine it developed by copying the publicly available sequence of the shot produced by Moderna.
Report: EU Officials to Recommend Blocking Funds to Hungary Over Graft ConcernsThe recommendation, expected Sunday, would give Hungary up to three months (Bloomberg) to address corruption concerns before a final decision is made. Hungary is seeking more than $40 billion in financing from the EU through 2027.
anada Announces $3.5 Billion Cost-of-Living Relief PackageThe funds will include (Globe and Mail) dental-care and tax credits for low- and middle-income families as Canada experiences high inflation.
Argentina: Officials arrested a third person (The Guardian) in relation to an assassination attempt against Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner earlier this month.
| United States|
U.S. Meets WHO Threshold for Polio CirculationThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the United States meets a World Health Organization (WHO) threshold for countries where polio is circulating. A polio case was reported in New York in July, and the disease has since been identified in several communities’ wastewater samples. This Backgrounder discusses why the world hasn’t eradicated polio.