POLITICO’s most-read stories of 2021

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2021 was an odd yr, to say the least.

It started with a unprecedented attack on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., brought us the long-lasting meme of Bernie Sanders and his mittens, noticed the Suez Canal blocked by the Ever Given container ship for six days (one other supply of viral memes), and brought us the diplomatic gaffe dubbed “Sofagate.” It was additionally marked by the Taliban’s return to energy in Afghanistan, a spat between France and Australia over a canceled submarine deal, and the end of Angela Merkel’s 16-year reign as German chancellor.

Via it all, there was the coronavirus.

Now, as all of us put together to enter 2022 amid the pandemic’s fifth wave and the rise of the Omicron variant, there's a robust feeling of collective déjà vu. To mirror on a yr that never felt prefer it actually acquired going, we’ve compiled an inventory of our 20 most-read tales of 2021, taking you again to the occasions that had you clicking over the previous 12 months.

20. Eric Trump hits out at Scottish plan to debate his father’s golf courses

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Pictures

It will have been good to get by way of a yr with no Trump on the record, however alas, Donald’s son Eric snuck in with a story featuring golf, Scotland and his dad’s cash. Forward of a Scottish parliament vote on whether to launch an investigation into the financing of the previous U.S. president’s two golf resorts in Scotland, Eric Trump referred to as the politician who referred to as the talk a “national embarrassment.”

19. No more babies? The hormone-altering chemicals threatening human procreation

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In March, we introduced you a story that includes a surprising forecast: By 2045, sperm counts would reach zero. That’s in line with leading scholar Shanna Swan, who informed POLITICO we don’t have much time before most men might not have the ability to reproduce due to the influence of hormone-altering chemical compounds found in plastics, electronics and cosmetics.

Which leaves us questioning, might “Spermageddon” be the top of humanity as we all know it?

18. OnlyFans reverses decision to ban pornography

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As OnlyFans boasts 120 million users, it’s no surprise our story on the web content material subscription service backtracking on its determination to ban pornography generated interest. Its preliminary move to ban “sexually specific” content sparked protests from adult-content creators, bringing to mild a problem centered around intercourse staff’ rights, inclusion and the facility of massive banks.

17. Why Australia wanted out of its French submarine deal

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This yr, AUKUS entered our vocabulary. It’s a time period the French aren't massive on. The rationale? It signifies what French Overseas Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian referred to as “a stab in the again.” Le Drian was referring to Australia’s announcement that it might tear up a more than €50 billion French submarine deal in favor of nuclear-powered subs from the U.S., as a part of a three-way strategic protection alliance with the U.Okay.

France claimed it came upon concerning the snub just hours before the AUKUS announcement. But as our explainer showed, Paris might have seen it coming.

16. Belgium urgently recalls envoy in Seoul after wife’s second fight

Hatim Kaghat/Belga Magazine/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

Belgium recalled its ambassador to Seoul in July after his wife received in not one, but two fights in South Korea. Within the first bust-up, Ambassador Peter Lescouhier’s wife slapped a shopkeeper (which was caught on CCTV), and in the second, got here to blows with a road cleaner. The incidents triggered a nationwide scandal in South Korea.

15. Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine batch suspended in Austria after death

Barbara Gindl/ APA/AFP

Many of us entered 2021 hopeful that with coronavirus vaccine rollouts underway, we have been headed back to normalcy. However in March, Austria announced it was suspending a batch of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as a “precautionary measure” whereas it investigated a person’s dying and one other’s illness after the jab. Many other nations quickly followed go well with.

Simply over every week later, the European Medicines Company stated the vaccine was “protected and effective,” but would continue to review a attainable hyperlink with very uncommon blood clotting issues. Nations began administering it once more, but the Austrian measure triggered an ongoing discussion concerning the potential unwanted side effects of the vaccine.

14. Disbelief and betrayal: Europe reacts to Biden’s Afghanistan ‘miscalculation’

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It took the Taliban just 10 days to take again control of Afghanistan after the U.S.-led withdrawal from the nation in August. As Taliban fighters entered Kabul, Afghans who had helped overseas powers over the 20 years because the U.S. invasion in 2001 made 11th-hour makes an attempt to flee. In footage broadcast all over the world, plenty of individuals have been seen surging across the tarmac at Kabul Airport, clinging to the edges of planes in a determined try not to be left behind. Many can be.

Across Europe, officers reacted with a mixture of disbelief and a sense of betrayal at what they considered a mistake of historic magnitude.

13. The secrets to Israel’s coronavirus vaccination success

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As rollouts of coronavirus vaccines began all over the world, Israel took an early lead. Inside three weeks, 20 % of the inhabitants had acquired a jab. How did it manage? POLITICO had the analysis.

12. Dutch ready to block AstraZeneca if UK deal fails

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In March, as the race to accumulate coronavirus vaccines heated up and the EU fell behind, Dutch authorities officials advised POLITICO they have been ready to block shipments of AstraZeneca’s jabs to the U.Okay. if London didn’t comply with a deal to share them more pretty with the bloc. Which raised the query: Why was the EU lagging the U.Okay. in the first place …?

11. How the UK gained an edge with AstraZeneca’s vaccine commitments

Pool photograph by Andrew Matthews/WPA-Getty Pictures

Early in the vaccine rollout, it turned clear the U.Okay. had managed to safe extra doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine quicker than the EU. How that had happened was a question that vexed Brussels. POLITICO found clues within the contracts the pharmaceutical big had signed with London and Brussels. And as our story divulged, there was one key distinction: The U.Okay.’s had a lot sharper tooth.

10. German election 2021

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Going into 2021, all of us knew a huge change was coming. After 16 years as the political queen of Europe, Angela Merkel’s reign as German chancellor was to return to an end. Who might probably comply with in her wake? Cue the most important election of the yr. Throughout the marketing campaign, the vote and the coalition discussions that ended with Social Democrat Olaf Scholz named chancellor, our staff introduced you in-depth coverage by way of our German election touchdown web page. A few of your favourite tales from our reporting: Why Germany’s red scare is real, Olaf Scholz: the Teflon candidate and 5 takeaways on pact to make Germany great again.

9. Joe Biden’s fart and other embarrassing royal moments for Americans

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Whereas international leaders have been gathered in Glasgow to debate the world’s most pressing environmental issues at the U.N.’s COP26 local weather change convention, one thing quite sudden stole the present.

U.S. President Joe Biden let it rip at Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. No, not in anger, however in, um … flatulence. It was the fart that stopped the nation — and led to the yr’s most-read Declassified column.

eight. How Europe fell behind on vaccines

Illustration by Anthony Gerace for POLITICO

The EU’s vaccination effort was meant to be a shining example of European solidarity. As an alternative, the vaccine rollout turned a vaccine strollout, with selections to prioritize course of over velocity and to put solidarity forward of room for maneuver holding again the bloc back. POLITICO analyzed what went fallacious.

7. ‘Millions of people’s data is at risk’ — Amazon insiders sound alarm over security

Illustration by James Dawe for POLITICO

“Think about if a company the dimensions of Amazon had a breach?” This was the question posed by a whistleblower who spoke with POLITICO concerning the tech big’s knowledge safety practices. In line with three former high-level info safety staff, privateness and compliance failures had left Amazon weak to potential breaches or hacks, putting tens of millions of individuals’s private knowledge in danger.

6. EU brandishes export ban to claim dibs on vaccines

| Stephanie LeCocq/AFP by way of Getty Photographs

In January, the European Commission made a drastic transfer — one which was out of character for an apostle of free trade and a champion of worldwide fairness. Infuriated that pharmaceutical big AstraZeneca would fall brief on its vaccine deliveries to the EU, the Fee introduced measures to block international shipments. Phrase of the Commission’s determination sent diplomats and pharmaceutical firm execs racing to assess the potential ramifications of the transfer, which had the potential to chop off vaccine provides to many other nations relying on the EU’s manufacturing capabilities, including neighbors such because the U.Okay., shut companions like Australia and Canada, and an array of creating nations.

5. The British monarchy has a succession problem

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Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is enduringly widespread. However a collection of scandals, together with allegations of racism and Prince Andrew’s ties to convicted intercourse offender Jeffrey Epstein, have taken the shine off the rest of “The Firm.” Oh, and don’t overlook Netflix’s hit collection “The Crown,” which one member of the royal family advised POLITICO was “a fucking catastrophe” for his or her PR.

It’s all the time onerous to step out of the shadow of a successful mum or dad. However with a mum like Elizabeth, can Prince Charles ever really measure up?

4. Europe gives Biden a one-finger salute

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After enduring 4 years in Washington’s freezer beneath Donald Trump, European leaders went into 2021 hoping for a reset together with his successor Joe Biden. However given the chance in January to point out the new administration it was critical about geostrategic collaboration, Europe opted as an alternative to point out Washington the finger.

3. US health agency casts doubt on Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine data

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Things went from dangerous to worse for AstraZeneca in March. Simply weeks after numerous European nations suspended using its coronavirus vaccine amid considerations about uncommon blood clots, U.S. health officials raised new worries that it might have included “outdated info” from its vaccine trial that would have offered an “incomplete view” of its efficacy.

2. Coronavirus vaccination coverage in Europe: Live data tracker

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POLITICO’s reside tracker of the COVID vaccine rollout round Europe was our second-most learn story of the yr — hardly a shock, given the influence of the pandemic on peoples’ lives.

1. Britain’s plan for when Queen Elizabeth II dies

Bianca de Marchi/NCA Newswire/Pool/Getty Pictures

As our most-read story of 2021, this is clearly a question we all needed the reply to: What is going to happen when Queen Elizabeth II dies?

Codenamed London Bridge, the plan for the days after her demise has long been shrouded in secrecy. That is, until POLITICO obtained a collection of paperwork laying out the small print of all the things together with the state funeral, to be held 11 days after the monarch dies.

The documents reveal the whole lot from what order individuals shall be informed, the safety operations to handle the crowds, how many days of national mourning there can be, and in depth plans for Charles’ accession to the throne (codenamed Operation Spring Tide). Makes for some morbid, however fascinating, reading.