This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last two weeks (December 16 to 31, 2020).
After months of difficult negotiations, the European Union and the United Kingdom agreed to a post-Brexit trade deal. In Europe, symbolic of the continent’s continued pandemic woes, French president Emmanuel Macron tested positive for the coronavirus. And in Hungary, parliament passed a law limiting adoption to married couples, effectively banning same-sex couples from adopting children. Single persons will also require special government approval to adopt.
Parliamentary dissolutions in Israel and Nepal: As parliament dissolved itself, Israel is set to vote early for the fourth time in two years, after its unity government – formed just seven months ago – failed to meet the deadline for approving a new budget. In Nepal, parliament was dissolved by the president upon the recommendation of the prime minister, amid a feud within the Communist Party.
A coronavirus relief package in the United States: Congress passed a second coronavirus relief package, also the second-largest stimulus package in the country’s history. President-elect Joe Biden insisted that his new administration will provide more relief. President Donald Trump initially described the package as a “disgrace” and called to increase the one-time payments from US$600 (S$798) to US$2,000 (S$2,660), though he later signed off on the package. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell also blocked a vote on the US$2,000 stimulus cheques.
Political developments in Africa: In Ethiopia, more than 200 people were killed by armed and trained gunmen. In Somalia, its diplomatic staff in Kenya were recalled, and Kenyan diplomats were given seven days to withdraw from Somalia. The tension stems from a longstanding dispute over the self-proclaimed state of Somaliland which declared independence in 1991. In Nigeria, days after schoolboys were abducted by armed men, more than 300 were released. However, it was not yet clear whether any students had been killed. And in Sudan, in response to poor economic conditions and the slow pace of political change, thousands of protestors called for an acceleration of reforms.
And in other international news, Argentina’s senate approved a bill to legalise abortion, and Russia’s four-year ban from global sports was halved to two years.