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Good morning. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European parliament president Roberta Metsola will visit Israel today on a symbolic trip to “express solidarity with the victims of the Hamas terrorist attacks, and meet with Israeli leadership.”
Today, our Warsaw correspondent previews Poland’s hugely important — and increasingly hard-to-call election this weekend, while our trade supremo reveals another negotiated deliverable from next week’s US-EU summit.
Have a great weekend.
Expect the unexpected
Context: Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) is seeking a third term in office this weekend, running against former premier Donald Tusk, who has been trailing in the polls. But recent bad news have directly affected the headline messages of the PiS campaign.
Among those is Warsaw’s spat with Kyiv, which began with a dispute over grain and turned into a vicious blame game last month, undermining the government’s claims of being Ukraine’s fiercest supporter.
A visa-for-cash scandal has left the government struggling to show it’s tough on irregular migration. And recent fuel shortages at stations of state-controlled Orlen undercut PiS’s pledge to guarantee energy security.
But perhaps most worrying for PiS is the abrupt resignation of two top army commanders on Tuesday, which cast shadows over the party’s pledges to protect citizens from Russia and other security threats. Tusk poured fuel on the fire by claiming that at least 10 other officers had resigned, though the army said they were normal retirements.
In the final days of the campaign, polls have shown Tusk’s Civic Platform narrowing the gap with PiS to about 5 percentage points. But the final outcome will also depend on how their possible coalition partners perform, since neither of the two big parties is likely to get an absolute majority.
In fact, there is a 55 per cent chance of a hung parliament after Sunday, according to think-tank Eurasia Group. This would not only leave Polish politics in limbo but could also encourage the losing side to question the result, especially if the difference is narrow.
Civic Platform has issued multiple warnings about state-orchestrated manipulation of the election, particularly after the government added a referendum to the parliamentary election. Voters will get four questions on some of PiS’s favourite topics, including migration and border security.
Conspiracy theories are already rampant on social media regarding the top military brass leaving to avoid orders to intervene after the vote if PiS loses.
In an already toxic campaign, such a menace has done little to ease tensions and reassure voters.
Chart du jour: Apocalypse now
Severe droughts in Europe have been a harbinger of what’s to come. The World Meteorological Organization has forecast that the world will experience an “increasingly erratic” water cycle as climate change drives new patterns of both extreme flooding and drought.
The US is prepared to drop objections to the EU’s new carbon border tax as part of ongoing talks to set up a green steel club at a meeting of both powers next week, writes Andy Bounds.
Context: Both sides have been embroiled in a trade fight since Donald Trump slapped tariffs on steel in 2018. The tariffs were suspended in 2021, and the US and EU are currently negotiating a permanent end of the trade spat. Part of this is founding the green steel club, aimed at keeping out cheap and carbon-intensive metal imports from China.
Without agreement by January 1, Washington will reintroduce tariffs on EU imports — 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium — and the EU will reactivate its retaliatory measures against bourbon whiskey and other US products.
To avoid another tariff-off, Brussels has committed to a harder line on Chinese products, which the US had been pushing for. But it remains to be seen if an anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese steel will be enough to satisfy US president Joe Biden.
But the signs are positive and it seems that in return, the US is ready to accept the bloc’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which will force producers abroad to pay for their carbon emissions.
According to a draft deal seen by the FT, the US should accept the scheme as talks continue until 2026, when the EU will start levying carbon charges on imported steel and aluminium along with other products.
Washington had wanted a free pass from CBAM, but seems to have made peace with the scheme. Though it is an open question whether US steel exporters could still get an exemption from paying the levies in the final days of talks.
And, as people on both sides note, a lot can change before 2026.
What to watch today
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi co-chair EU-China strategic dialogue.
UN Security Council meets to discuss conflict between Israel and Hamas.