The US, UK and Australia have signed a defence alliance pact for the Indo-Pacific: the Aukus deal. Among other measures Australia is to receive nuclear-powered submarines featuring US and British technology. The alliance is seen as a move to join forces against China, but it cancels a contract under which France would have supplied Australia with submarines. Paris has spoken of a "betrayal of trust". Commentators fear spiralling destabilisation.

The Russian people will elect their representatives to the State Duma from September 17 to 19. All the stronger opposition candidates have been excluded from the election, and the OSCE has decided not to send observers because of Moscow's strict requirements. Commentators explain why the election is unlikely to have any impact on Putin's power and that of his United Russia party - even if on paper there are a few alternatives.

Protests against coronavirus restrictions have turned violent in Ljubljana. The police used tear gas and water cannons after demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails at the parliament building. The national press shows varying degrees of understanding for the protests, which were mainly directed against stricter testing requirements for the unvaccinated.

Electricity prices have soared in EU countries since the beginning of the year. The electric baseload - the minimum amount of electricity required by the power grid - currently costs more than twice as much on the electricity exchange platforms as it did in the summer of 2020, while natural gas prices have increased ten-fold in the same period. Increased demand in Asia and less input from wind power are among the reasons for the surge in prices.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has delivered her second annual State of the Union address, preparing the public for a new era of intensified international competition and promoting among other things a European defence union. For some observers the speech shone with optimism. Others lament that ultimately the EU Commission's hands are always tied.

In Germany's parliamentary elections on 26 September voters will also decide who succeeds Angela Merkel as chancellor. According to INSA surveys, the SPD - junior partner in the current grand coalition government - is polling at 26 percent, giving it a clear lead against the CDU/CSU (20.5 percent) and the Greens (15 percent). Europe's press looks at what the potential government alliances could mean for the EU - and especially for Brussels' financial policy.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez met the President of the Government of Catalonia Pere Aragonès in Barcelona on Wednesday to resume the dialogue on Catalan independence dispute after an 18-month break. However, the only result of the meeting was the announcement that the parties would continue the talks despite their opposing positions. The Junts party, the more radical junior coalition partner of the Catalan separatist government, boycotted the meeting.

A row appears to have broken out among the Taliban leadership between the more "moderate" camp and the hardliners: Abdul Ghani Baradar, the acting first deputy prime minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and number two in the Islamist movement, disappeared several days ago. Rumours of his death or escape are circulating. Whether the Taliban's denials are credible remains to be seen.

Jonas Gahr Støre's social democrats have won Norway's parliamentary elections. After eight years of conservative government the centre-left is now taking over power in the country - as has already been the case throughout Scandinavia. But the coalition negotiations could prove difficult because the potential partners are far from united on the dominant issue of the election campaign - the future of state oil production.

Angela Merkel has made her final visit to the Western Balkans in the role of German chancellor. In Tirana she spoke with the heads of government of Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, North Macedonia and Kosovo. Commentators credit Merkel with a sincere interest in the Western Balkans, but criticise her for the fact that neither Germany nor the EU have offered the region any real prospects in recent years.

In France, former health minister Agnès Buzyn, who resigned in mid-February 2020, is on trial for endangering human lives through her policies at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Buzyn and other members of the government. The French press, however, sees no point to the proceedings.

In reaction to soaring electricity prices, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has announced a package of measures that will apply until March 2022 and includes "redirecting" profits (some 2.4 billion euros) of companies such as nuclear power suppliers that are not affected by the higher costs of natural gas but are benefiting from the higher prices. The companies have announced plans to take legal action against the measures.

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