As in all recent issues, this edition deals with the impact that the COVID-19 is having all over the world, not forgetting, however, the wider international context, which has definitely taken a back seat in the media. In fact, we will talk about the conditions of Indian internal migrants and the humanitarian crisis in Libya, but also about the difficulties of African countries in responding to this new enemy. We will be in the Americas, for the US presidential campaign that is continuing and for the denunciation of crimes against humanity presented in The Hague against Bolsonaro. We will be in Europe for the details of the European plans to support the economies of the member countries and for the condemnation of some Eastern countries for not respecting the mechanism for relocation of migrants. In the Middle East, then, still threatened by ISIS, the Saudi-led coalition announced a truce in Yemen and OPEC agreed to cut oil production. Finally, we conclude our world tour with the Far East, analyzing the doubts about the Chinese numbers related to the Covid-19 and the japanese lockdown.
But this is just a taste, much more awaits you in the 23th edition of Framing the World!
Egypt, further extension of Patrick Zaki’s pre-trial detention. Arrested in Cairo on 7 February and tortured during the interrogation, the Egyptian researcher, student at the University of Bologna and activist for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, is accused of “incitement to protests and to commit terrorist crimes through his Facebook account”. These crimes are not reasonable causes for detention according to the Egyptian Criminal Procedure Code, but the release is systematically delayed: the hearings on 22 February and 7 March have extended the detention of 15 days each. The third postponement was on 30 March and the fourth on 6 April, when a new date for the hearing was not established because of the coronavirus emergence, whereby the Egyptian judicial activity is suspended.
Internet and COVID-19, restrictions and abuses. Several countries have put in place restrictions to internet access: these measures have been condemned by the United Nations, as they hinder the spread of essential information to the containment of the virus and the capacity to provide medical help. In Bangladesh the effects are amplified in the Rohingya refugee camps. In India, restrictions affect the Kashmir region, in Myanmar 5 cities and in Ethiopia three entire zones. In the meanwhile, new technologies as facial recognition or localisation and monitoring systems control the medical status of citizens and are implemented in a growing number of states, triggering the debate between security and privacy protection upon which Europe in working in order to find one or more solutions in conformity to the GDPR rules.
India, the lockdown triggers domestic migrations. After the lockdown and the arrest of all productive activities on 25 March, hundreds of thousands of workers have left the major cities to go towards their native villages causing large crowds waiting in stations and blocked at the borders Union’s States and Territories. The stay home obligation translates in the impossibility to find food and money for migrant and daily workers, and social distancing is an impossible practice for homeless, displaced persons, refugees, and prisoners. The Indian government has implemented insufficient measures for helping the most vulnerable, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned police abuses and invited both the government and the civil society to do more to manage the emergency.
Balkans, "anti-COVID-19" measures for migrants. The migration route between the Balkans has never been easy to travel, and even less so because of the current pandemic. For days, migrants have been stranded along the roads and forcibly transported to detention centres for confinement. Similar measures are taking place in Sarajevo, as well as in other parts of the Balkans and also near Croatia. The refugees will now also have to face the assumption of 'full powers' by Viktor Orban in Hungary. The fear of the virus is great, especially in countries where the health system is not properly developed. The repressive measures put in place have prompted a large number of migrants to flee the abuses of the authorities, abuses harshly criticised and condemned by NGOs in the area.
Libya, the humanitarian crisis worsens. The escalation of the conflict in Libya and the threat of COVID-19 are severely exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the country. One year after the beginning of the conflict, and despite an interim agreement for a humanitarian ceasefire, fighting has intensified considerably in the last week. The situation has also deteriorated for displaced persons, who now have no way of returning safely to their country of origin. The presence of the Crown has only made the situation worse, raising fears about the response that the health facilities in the country are able to give to the possible emergency. For this very reason, the UNHCR is providing support by sending generators, ambulances, containers and field clinics, as well as awareness-raising activities for the population.
Portugal, permits to migrants to fight the Corona. In order to cope with the emergency caused by COVID-19 and to guarantee health care to all those present on Portuguese territory, the Ministry of Interior has decided to grant residence permits to all immigrants who have already applied for them. The measure will take effect until 1 July 2020. The spokeswoman of the Ministry of Interior Claudia Veloso said that people should not be deprived of their right to health care and public services and that in this emergency situation the rights of migrants must be guaranteed. The State also cannot afford to have people on its territory who escape health checks and monitoring.
Martina Pignatelli and Sara Squadrani
ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE
Stock markets, a possible normalisation. After hitting the bottom on March 23rd, the American stock exchanges are surging on positive signals about Covid-19 coming from Europe and on repeated support programmes implemented by governments. Last week, despite an early closure due to the Good Friday, was the best week since 1974 with a 13% increase, which adds up to a +25% from the March lows. The latest support came from FED, which announced $2.3 trillion in loans to small and medium-sized businesses, cities and states, while additional aid to small businesses valued $250 billion was blocked by Democrats in the Senate, triggering protests from Republicans and entrepreneurs. Today begins the publication of the quarterly accounts, which will give an initial (partial) estimate of the economic damage of the epidemic.
Italy, support for the economy. The government has announced aid of €400 billion, but this is not enough to reassure italian entrepreneurs. The doubts are on the one hand on the allocated amount, given that €200 billion are in export credits and €200 billion are actually loan guarantees (and not real loans), but also on the bureaucratic procedure. In fact, when it will be signed, the bill will have to be approved by the European Commission, a procedure that will not encounter any obstacles but will take a few days. Then it’s the banks’ turn, which have between 5 and 21 days to assess the solvency of companies. In addition, loans worth more than €25,000 will be limited to 15% of 2019 revenue, and this amount barely covers the taxes due on June 30, let alone any hope to stimulate the restart.
Oil, we have a deal. Crude oil has reached its 18-year lows following the collapse in demand caused partly by the pandemic, but above all by the oil war between the Saudis and Russians. However, it seems that the point where prices are no longer sustainable by producer countries, certainly by the USA and Russia and possibly also by S. Arabia, has been reached, so that the American threat to impose duties on oil exports has had the desired effect of forcing the Russians and Saudis to agree a 10 million barrels per day (mbpd) cut, a deal also supported by the G20 last Friday, which granted another 5 mbpd cut. However, prices did not increase, and on the contrary, fell by about $2 because it was deemed an insufficient response to a decrease in demand of 30 mbpd.
USA, a labour crisis Americans who applied for unemployment status reached the record figure of 17 million people, reaching values unseen since 1929. If you compare these numbers with European figures, you might be frightened, but the explanation lies in the absence of a paid-furlough scheme in the USA, so that temporary layoffs are necessary to save companies. It may sound harsh, but one should be aware that on top of the state unemployment checks, whose duration has been doubled, the federal government is granting an unprecedented $600 per week for the next 4 months. Analysts, then, agree that the vast majority of those who were fired will be re-employed as soon as businesses reopen, and that the unemployment rate will return to pre-crisis levels in a very short time.
World, population and resources. The wager between Ehrlich and Simon overpopulation gains a new chapter. In 1968, Ehrlich, a biologist, predicted that the increase in population would cause scarcity of natural resources. Simon, an economist, replied that the increased demand for these goods would lead to higher prices, but also that these would be powerful incentives to look for new deposits or substitutes. The two bet on the direction of the price of 5 metals, which would rise according to Ehrlich and fall for Simon: in 1990 Ehrlich sent a check to Simon. In this sense, the price of oil in 2020 would fit into the declining trend (when adjusted for inflation) that started in 1863 and was interrupted only by the Opec embargo in the 70s and by the conflict in Iraq in 2003.
Coronavirus, the numbers of the African continent as of April 11. To date, the official numbers for Covid-19 patients have yet to be officially verified and confirmed. With all the difficulties that can arise when talking about Africa. However, as of 11 April there are more than 12,300 people infected, 632 dead and 1,632 healed, counting all 52 African countries and not only the Sub-Saharan ones. Two states, Lesotho and Comoros, still do not record cases related to Covid-19. South Africa leads this ranking with almost 2000 cases, followed by Egypt, Algeria and Morocco with 1,699, 1,666 and 1,374 respectively.
Economy, a complicated situation for the Continent. It does not come as sudden news, since the fragility of the African economy is well known. However, no more than ten days ago the UN took a stronger position (with the presentation of its action plan on 31 March). It indicated the need for a moratorium on the debt of African countries which, according to them, must mobilize resources amounting to 10% of GDP (3 trillion dollars) to face the crisis, together with an increased capacity for coordination by the International Monetary Fund. The Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, while acknowledging the existence of a multiplicity of models, called for not giving in to protectionist temptations and for "test, test, test" as the best approach.
Mali, the only hostage remains Soumaïla Cissé. As written in the last issue of FtW, the Leader of the Malian Opposition was probably kidnapped by a jihadist cell linked to Amadou Koufa together with his entourage during a campaign trip in the North of Mali. In the following days some of the people following him were released, initially five and then four others. However, a bodyguard probably lost his life in the clashes. Negotiations for the liberation of Cissé are continuing, in the hope of securing his release.
Health, Africa lacks the necessary tools. Again, this is not an unexpected situation, the African health systems are not ready to deal with a crisis situation like the present one. To date, the number of infected people is still small, but it could increase steadily, leading to a greater demand for tools to treat the most serious cases. In addition, obtaining information on the instruments available is complex and many authorities have not confirmed to large agencies the official quantities with regard to intensive care beds and respirators. For a more detailed analysis of these numbers, please read the following article by Jeune Afrique.
South Africa, members of the government cabinet donate ⅓ of their wages. It is news on April 11, announcing that the President of South Africa and all members of his cabinet will donate 33% of their salary to help the country in the fight against the Coronavirus. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
United States, between Covid-19 and Sander’s dropping out. The month of March saw the gradually but at the same time intense increase of contagion cases, registered in the United States, in all the states. The management of the emergency will constitute a key element for the possible re-election of President Trump on November 2020. On the other hand, on the democratic front, Tulsi Gabbard, remained in the dem race dropped out on the 19th of March. She had, indeed, low (if not null) possibility of success, considering the delegates obtained, that are 2, against the 914 of Sanders and the 1.217 of Biden. Moreover, it dated back to some days ago (8th April) the news of the end of the race for the dem nomination of Bernie Sanders. So, Joe Biden will likely be the one who will be elected at the dem Convention of August, to fight against Donald Trump.
Canada, discussion on Covid-19 from the Foreign Affairs Minister Champagne. François-Philippe Champagne, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs organised a call with the homologues of Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Indonesia, Morocco, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The central focus of the meeting was the discussion on the responses and updates on the pandemic of Coronavirus. The minister of the country involved reaffirmed the importance of the consular assistance of their citizens and the need to secure cross-border fluxes of essential goods. We remember that, till the 8th of April, the registered cases in Canada are beyond 19.000, of which the most numerous are in Québec.
Mexico, a change of direction about Covid-19? At the beginning President AMLO underestimated the Covid-19 emergency, to the point of encouraging, in a certain degree, Mexican citizens to go out. Instead, now, from the end of March, the plan “quédate en casa”, our “stay home”, has started, and a series of information about the pandemic and the behaviour rules have been put online to be available, adapting to the majority of the countries in the world. Indeed, there are some info-graphics in which the protagonist is an avatar called “Susana Distancia” which, through a pun, means “her/his healthy distance”, for the importance of maintaining the interpersonal distance.
Marta Annalisa Savino
Argentina, preparing Phase 2 to tackle the Coronavirus. After deciding to extend the mandatory quarantine period until 27 April to avoid further contagion during the "Semana Santa", the government has already begun to outline the second phase of the national containment plan, which will be implemented gradually with the primary objective of encouraging a resumption of economic activity. Schools will remain closed, the public administration will continue to use smart working and public events will remain suspended. These measures are likely to be implemented after the first half of May, when, according to experts, the peak of contagion will be overcome.
Brazil, Bolsonaro reported to the ICC for crimes against humanity. The Brazilian Association of Lawyers for Democracy (ABJD) has decided to denounce President Bolsonaro before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The complaint was prompted by his reticence to follow the directives of the WHO and the Ministry of Health, asking citizens to return to work, thus putting them at risk of contagion. For the ABJD, the President would also be guilty of "crime of epidemic", a case present in the Brazilian penal code which provides for severe penalties to anyone who, sick or quarantined, causes damage to others through irresponsible behaviour.
Bolivia, appeal to citizens to improve prevention. The Bolivian Government launched last Sunday an open call for citizens to submit proposals to strengthen the already existing prevention strategies of Covid-19. At the time of the call, the Minister of the Presidency, Yerko Nuñez, wanted to emphasize on Twitter the reason for this choice, "The health emergency requires unity, solidarity and the practice of the highest human values. I call for proposals to help strengthen and improve the measures already taken to preserve the health and life of Bolivians”.
Colombia, the Ambassador to Uruguay summoned for cocaine trafficking. The Attorney General of Colombia, Fernando Barbosa, announced that the Colombian ambassador to Uruguay, Fernando Sanclemente, has been called to trial, after the discovery of three cocaine laboratories on a farm owned by him in Guasca. During the operation on 28 February, several chemicals and nine kilos of cocaine were found on the Sanclemente farm, demonstrating that the laboratories were in use at the time of the operation. The Ambassador categorically denied any involvement in these events.
Cuba, guaranteed the Church the highest media visibility in the last 60 years. In an unprecedented decision, Miguel Díaz-Canel's government supported the Cuban bishops' request for special religious coverage during Holy Week. Since the faithful can no longer attend Mass because of Covid-19, the bishops will be able to celebrate religious rituals live on the radio and through the official media, with a possible extension after Easter, provided that the restrictions imposed by the government remain in place. Since 1959, the year of the triumph of the Cuban revolution and the coming to power of Fidel Castro, the Church has not enjoyed such media visibility.
Venezuela, began the return of exiles for free health services offered by the government. Last Saturday, the Venezuelan government favored the return of a first group of Venezuelan exiles, coming back to the country to take advantage of the free National Health Service, provided by the government. In this sense, a video showing more than 1,200 exiles escorted by the Colombian police to the border between the two countries caused a great sensation. "Once back, all the exiles are clinically evaluated with screening tests for Covid-19”, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Arreaza commented on Twitter, stressing that this is only the first phase of a long process.
ASIA AND FAR EAST
China, uncertainty in contacts. In recent weeks, there have been a number of concerns about the veracity and accuracy of the infections reported by China. Foreign Minister Hua Chunying's spokesman reacted strongly to the accusations made against his country, saying that China would always give reliable and transparent data. Diplomat Zhao Lijian has returned from Pakistan and received a great welcome. Although unusual, this has a strong symbolic value: it seems that a new category of Chinese diplomats is emerging, much more assertive and "combative".
Japan, Lockdown? The state of emergency announced on Tuesday 7 only affects Tokyo, neighboring Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama, Osaka and Hyogo in the west and Fukuoka in the south. There are only seven of Japan's 47 prefectures. Residents are asked to avoid non-essential travel within and outside the designated areas, but there are no travel restrictions. Some residents of Tokyo have been criticized for rushing out of Tokyo into the countryside. Public transport operates normally. The reason for the reticence of the Japanese to use punitive measures against citizens lies in the historical memory of the violations of rights by the authorities during World War II.
South Korea, election time! In South Korea, parliamentary elections are proceeding relatively smoothly so far. The government is trying to assure its 44 million eligible voters that it is safe to leave their homes to go to the polls, even though it is urging the public to avoid large meetings and practice social distancing. South Korea has mobilised armies of civil servants, including young people doing civic duty instead of compulsory military service, to prepare for elections. They disinfected 14,000 voting stations across the country and marked the queues at three-meter intervals so that voters would avoid standing too close together.
North Korea, Coronavirus here too? North Korea called for tougher and more thorough measures against the coronavirus in a meeting chaired by its leader Kim Jong Un, the state media reported, without acknowledging whether the country had reported infections. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said last Sunday that the virus has created obstacles to the country's efforts in its economic construction, describing the pandemic as "a major disaster threatening all humanity, regardless of borders and continents.
India, a new lockdown. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to extend the lockdown throughout the country to contain the coronavirus epidemic. This was announced the day before yesterday by the head of the government of the state of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, without saying how long the extension of the isolation measures would be extended. The 21-day blockade in India (where there are 7,600 coronavirus cases and 249 deaths) ends on Tuesday, but several states have urged Modi to extend it further, although concerns about the millions of people who have lost their jobs have increased.
WESTERN EUROPE AND EUROPEAN UNION
Italy, stop immigration. Following the emergency situation that the country is facing to counter the Covid-19, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport has declared that Italian ports can no longer be considered safe for ships that do not fly the Italian flag. There would be no sanitary conditions in line with the Hamburg Convention. The issue arose following a distress call by the German NGO ship Alan Kurdi, which continues to operate off Libya. The UNHCR called on the Italian Government to continue to accept the asylum requests of people fleeing the war, fearing an increase in departures due to the summer season.
United Kingdom, Boris Johnson in hospital. The British Prime Minister was aggravated by Covid-19 infection. After a period of isolation at home, he was transported to hospital and admitted to intensive care for a few days. There were numerous messages of support from the entire international community. At the moment, the country is led by Dominic Raab, First Secretary of State and Foreign Minister of Boris Johnson's government. Last week the leader of the Labour Party also changed: Keir Starmer took Jeremy Corbyn's place. Certainly in more moderate positions, he made it known that he wanted to keep the key points of nationalisation of his predecessor.
Italy, the opposition to the attack. As was to be expected, the decisions reached by the Eurogroup produced a clear split in the country. The centre-right coalition attacks the executive, guilty of having accepted the European Stability Mechanism and having yielded on Eurobonds. Premier Conte responded harshly in a press conference inviting Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini not to distort reality and not to weaken the government, causing damage to the whole country. In the meantime, the Democratic Party has proposed a "solidarity contribution" supported by the wealthiest, which, in practice, would translate into a tax on incomes above €80,000 for the years 2020-21.
EU, the first European measures against the crisis. Valdis Dombrovskis, EU’s Commission executive Vice-President, during an interview to the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” has talked about the way in which the Union is trying to react to this COVId-19 crisis. Following the words of Ursula von der Leyen, EU’s Commission chief, the vice-president has stressed that the EU has already made available 100 billion of euro that the governments can use in order to face unemployment, enterprises sustain and public administration issues. The former Latvian President has wanted underline that the EU has already blocked the Stability Pact. Moreover, Brussels will allow to use the EU’s funds without restrictions. In this interview, Dombrovskis has also clarified how these moneys will be sourced. For every detail you can found details to this link.
COVId-19, a call for actions. Paolo Gentiloni, economy commissioner of the EU’s Commission has called the EU member states to not delay strong measures in order to tackle the crisis. Making a parallelism with the EU’s post WWII situation and the following Marshall Plan, Gentiloni affirms that it is necessary an action with the same features, but with bigger amounts. Talking to Die Welt, the commissioner stressed out that there is no time for any delay; The EU, in concert with member states, must act with prominent economic measures to fight unemployment, bankruptcies of firms and other several issues. Concluding the interview, the former Italian Prime Minister dealt also with the possible oppositions of the northern EU countries to the EU’s economic aid to members with increasingly public debt problem; Gentiloni has seemed confident about the acceptance of those countries.
Eurogroup, found a deal. After several days of negotiation it seems inside the Eurogroup has been found an agreement for a plan of EU aids in order to contrast the economic crisis created by the pandemic situation of COVid-19. The EU’s members will use the MES (Mechanism European of stability) with flexible modalities. The understanding proposed by France and Germany will put into disposition 500 billion of € that the mechanism will provide covering healthy expenses. In the previous weeks the EU’s leaders have fought in order to find a solution. Germany and Holland want to use the MES and forbid the use of a bigger public debt, while Italy would not allow that choice if the MES would not change features. The Italian PM Giuseppe Conte has called many times to the necessity of Euro or Corona Bond in order to finance the recovery, but with this deal the EU has not followed this path, although in the letter of the Eurogroup President Centeno there will be a referral to common instruments of debt.
Leonardo Cherici and Dario Pone
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
Russia and climate change, between risks and opportunities. Forecasts of the impact of climate change and the resulting global temperature rise on the vast Russian territory are certainly not reassuring. Dr. Vladimir Kattsov, one of the most relevant voices regarding the study of the phenomenon in the Russian scientific panorama, states that an increase in the Earth's temperature could cause serious damage to the Moscow Country System; to give an example, a variable increase in temperatures, from a minimum of 4.7 to a maximum of 11 degrees Celsius near the Russian territory, could give rise to heavy floods in the eastern region (towards Siberia) and fires and drought waves in the milder regions. A strong alarm derives from the concrete possibility of a gradual melting of permafrost, an event that would cause serious damage to the Russian infrastructure and transport system. However, Kattsov's analysis also highlights a crucial advantage that the increase in the Earth's temperature would provide for Moscow: the possibility of navigating the Arctic waters for increasingly long periods of the year represents a historic opportunity for Russia to expand its influence towards northern Europe and Asia.
President Lukashenko on the post Covid-19: an uncertain future. In recent days, several analyses have been proposed on how to imagine the world once the global pandemic is over. After being strongly criticised for denying the presence of the virus in Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko said that he was concerned not so much about the health emergency as about the state in which we will find the world we left behind. The economic crisis that the Coronavirus is generating will jeopardise the value of national currencies and, consequently, the purchasing power of individual states. For Lukashenko, it is vital that states appeal to their economic capacities and reserves of resources to prevent collapse, hence the President's decision not to stop Belarusian industry. On the international initiatives in support of the affected countries, Lukashenko expresses his suspicion: will they be the strongest to benefit from this crisis and reshape the post-Covid-19 world?
Ukraine, the debate continues on Crimea and Donbass. Although Ukraine has also been overwhelmed by the global pandemic, internal discussions on how to proceed with negotiations with Russia have not ceased. A new and strong statement comes from the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, who says that Putin has no choice but to leave the Crimea and Donbass; the statement took place during an Atlantic Council meeting. The greatest challenge for the success of the negotiations is to build mutual trust between the parties involved, continued Kuleba; a mission not easy as Russia continues to deny any direct involvement in the conflicts within Ukrainian territory. There are still many points to be dealt with and a peace agreement still seems a long way off; a united line on the part of the OSCE will be essential to resolve a crisis that began six years ago.
EU, Poland Hungary and Czech Republic condemned. The European Court of Justice has sentenced that Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland are guilty to not have comply with the relocation mechanism for asylum-seeking migrants created in 2015. Public order was at the beginning the official motivation that these countries had use in order to not fulfill their obligations. Today, on the 2nd of April 20’, the Court, after the recourse made by the European Commission, intimates to these countries to accomplish their duties for what concern the migrants’ placing. The decision to divide migrants within the EU’s countries was taken by the EU Council in order to help Italy and Greece that at that time, in the middle months of 2015 were in serious difficulties to deal with the migrants’ arrival from North Africa. If even this time Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic will not fulfill the EU’s requests, the Court will impose pecuniary sanctions for their violations.
EU: a new special envoy in the Balkans. Miroslav Lajcak former Slovak Foreign Minister will be the EU’s special envoy in order to set ad manage the negotiations and dialogues between Brussels and Pristina for what concern the enlargement issue and other questions. Moreover, the special envoy will have the complicated task to stabilize the dealings between Serbia and Kosovo that in the last few years are become very hard to manage. Finally, the Lajcak duty will be to settle the tension that in the last few years are arisen between the Balkans nations and the EU. For what concern this last item, it is necessary to stress that the enlargement question will play a fundamental role in that relations. In fact, Serbia, Albania and North Macedonia are inside the process in order to become a new European Union’s member. It appears a very complicated task to fulfill but the previous results of Lajcak bode well.
Balkans, a request to the EU’s institutions. In this complicated healthy situation due to COVid-19 pandemic the cooperation between nations became more and more crucial in order to fight the outspread of the virus. Nikola Dimitrov North Macedonia Foreign Minister is trying to solve a particular issue that affect the Balkan states nonmember of the European Union. Indeed, not being part of the common market could be a very troublesome in this situation. Between the EU and her neighbors in the Balkan there is a regulation that restrict the commerce of some medical materials for personal protection. The minister speaking for her country, and also for Albania, Serbia, Montenegro Kosovo and Bosnia Herzegovina, is trying to prevent the block of the exportation of these products in order to give safety to medical staff. Dimitrov has send an invitation to the EU’s Commission in order to consider the regulation’s slackening.
Andrea Maria Vassallo, Mario and Dario Pone
MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
Syria, the Idlib front and the OPCW charges. Despite the declared ceasefire on 5 March, the Idlib front continues to be the hottest in the Syrian theatre. Hostilities between Damascus troops and the anti-regime factions, albeit to a lesser extent than before, persist. In addition, the joint patrols of Ankara and Moscow troops, provided for in the ceasefire agreement, are struggling to materialize due to opposition from Syrian rebels. Beyond the events in Idlib province, the report of the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) published on Wednesday 8 April deserves special attention. For the first time, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons certified Damascus as responsible for a series of chemical attacks in the Hama Region (West Syria) in March 2017.
Afghanistan, the issue of prisoner exchange and the COVID-19 situation. After weeks of deadlock and subsequent delays, the Afghan Government released the first 1000 Taliban prisoners on 8 April. The previous day, Koranic students had threatened to withdraw from negotiations because of delays attributed to the Kabul authorities. Once the first tranche of released militants has been released, more Taliban are expected to be released in the coming days, as foreseen in the agreement between the Taliban and the US (5000 Taliban released in exchange for 1000 Afghan politicians). In the meantime, concerns about the COVID-19 contagion are increasing, with more than 400 cases across the country. The highest number of positives is concentrated above all in the eastern province of Herat, bordering the Middle Eastern Coronavirus outbreak: Iran.
Yemen, the pro-Saudi coalition announces a ceasefire. Saudi Arabia has announced a ceasefire in Yemen, which began on Thursday and will be extended for two weeks. The Saudi decision, taken following various appeals by the international community, is motivated by the desire to prevent the spread of COVID-19 contagion in the Yemeni state. However, according to various analysts, this choice is actually the result of the difficulties that the Saudi house is experiencing at national and regional level. According to reports from al Jazeera, the Houthian rebels have already rejected the unilateral declared ceasefire in Riyadh. Meanwhile, on 10 April, the first positive case of coronavirus infection in the country, in the southern province of Hadramout (controlled by the government), was announced. This is worrying in view of the current conditions in Yemen, which has been plagued by a conflict that has lasted for years and is therefore unable to respond adequately to the health emergency.
Iraq, the government crisis continues. Since Mahdi's resignation, the Iraqi political scene has been dotted with withdrawals and failures. In fact, even Adnan al-Zurfi, appointed in March by Iraqi President Barham Salih to form a new government, has withdrawn under increasing pressure from the opposition. Despite the renunciation, the Governor of Najaf has been keen to point out that all his actions have been carried out with the intention of giving a clear response to the squares calling for comprehensive reforms. Naturally, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic made the success of Zurfi's mission even more difficult. Now Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the current head of Iraqi intelligence, is taking over the reins of the situation by trying to give Iraq a new executive; this is the third attempt in two months.
Tunisia, a symbol of North Africa struggling with the pandemic. With only a small number of coronavirus infections (around 600 and around 30 deaths), the country has taken stringent measures in view of the peak. Symbol of the exceptional emergency is the vote by the Tunisian parliament in favour of the entry into force of a constitutional provision allowing the executive to exercise its legislative function - by means of decree-laws - for a maximum period of 2 months. In order to ensure the democratic conduct of these procedures, the parliament has declared that it will closely monitor the government's action. Many people in the country violate the lockdown on their way to work, preferring detention to starvation. Precisely because of the risk of serious recession in Tunisia, the IMF has approved the allocation of aid to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus.
Egypt, the second North African country most affected by Covid-19. After Algeria, Egypt is currently one of the countries where the coronavirus has spread the most (about 1500 cases). This has led the country to take drastic decisions, such as imposing a night curfew (in force until the end of April). The forced closure applies to schools, universities and airports, while shopping centres, bars and shops remain open (with hourly and daily weekend restrictions). On the economic side, there are various support measures, such as a 3% interest rate cut and various initiatives by the Egyptian Central Bank to ensure the stability of the national banking system.
Israel, crisis and surprises: At the dawn of the celebration of the Jewish Easter, the country breaks through ten thousand infections, with almost 100 deaths. The director of Mossad Cohen, who tested negative, remains in quarantine after the health minister, a member of the ultra-orthodox community, who is known for his homophobic accusations about an alleged connection between the outbreak of the pandemic and divine punishment of the lgbt community. The crisis also brings with it unprecedented changes of approach and sees the emergence of momentary cooperation between Turkey and Israel. The two countries have agreed on a supply of medical supplies from Turkey in exchange for a promise of Israeli non-interference in Turkish aid to the Palestinians with whom Israel has taken steps to exchange prisoners.
Libya, continuous chaos: Haftar continues the bombing of Tripoli and cuts water supplies to the capital, worsening the already dramatic social and health situation in the city. Turkey sends medical aid to its ally Serraj while the Emirates conclude an agreement with Israel to supply war material to the general's army. In this scenario where the parties, and their foreign sponsors, try to maximize the strategic profit, the new European operation Irini has started, which, in place of the old mission Sophia, will have to deal with the arms trafficking by sea. This task along with other difficulties such as the lack of control of land traffic already puts a strain on the pursuit of the objectives of de-escalation.
Vincenzo Battaglia, Michele Magistretti and Federica Sulpizio
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
In the United States, those who disseminate COVID can be charged with terrorism. The title may seem like a fake news and, instead, the American Deputy Minister of Justice, Jeffrey Rosen, has established, in a draft, the possibility of accusing those who spread the virus voluntarily of terrorism. If in Italy, in case of voluntary spread of COVID-19 you risk up to five years in prison, on the other side of the world you risk the death penalty. The decision has been passed on to prosecutors and investigators, as it falls within the definition of a biological agent and, therefore, may fall under American anti-terrorism laws. The global virus can therefore be a weapon against the American population.
(Laura Vaccaro Senna)
Attack in France on 4 April 2020. In Romans-sur-Isère, a 33-year-old man of Sudanese origin stabbed seven people, killing two and wounding five. The man, Abdallah Hamed-Osman, is known neither to the police nor to the French secret services. He was born in Sudan but has lived in France since 2017. Abdallah stole the knife in a butcher's shop around 11 a.m. where he hit some customers and only later hit passers-by and some customers of a tobacco shop and bakery in just ten minutes. When he was arrested, the bomber started praying and asked to die. At the moment it is not known whether it was an act of a madman, who was under quarantine, or an act of terrorism. After ten days, no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
(Laura Vaccaro Senna)
Afghanistan, arrested IS leader of Khorasan Province. A key member of the local branch of the Islamic State was arrested, along with other members of the group, by the Afghan security forces. The subject in question is Aslam Farooqi, Pakistani and leader of the Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K). This arrest comes after two fatal attacks perpetrated by Isis in Kabul, described in previous editions. Moreover, a few days after the capture of its leader, the jihadist group claimed responsibility for a series of raids conducted against the US base in Bagram (without causing casualties). If, on the one hand, the Taliban have significantly reduced the level of violence in compliance with the agreement with the USA, on the other hand, the IS-K is increasingly taking root in Afghan territory, representing a concrete threat to national security (and not only).
Syria, the danger of ISIS prisons. By now, Syria has also begun to come to terms with the emergency of the COVID-19 and the consequent problem of prisons. The latter issue has affected many states affected by the pandemic, including Syria. Here, however, unlike in other countries, many prisons are full of representatives of the Islamic State. Therefore, when uprisings break out in these very circles, with the risk of escape, the situation is clearly worrying because of the effects of this. Such a case has occurred in the Ghwairan prison in Hasakeh, in the Rojava region of north-eastern Syria. In this prison, which is home to between 3,000 and 5,000 IS militants, an uprising broke out which would have facilitated the escape of some members. However, this news has been denied by the Syrian Democratic Forces who control the territory of Rojava. Beyond the truth of this information, that of the Syrian prisons is a matter of primary importance not only for Syrian security but also for European security.
Syria, the resilience of ISIS. Despite the territorial defeat of the Islamic State, this continues to pose a serious threat to Syria. In particular, through its sleeper cells, the jihadist group has not ceased its terrorist activities. The areas most affected by the attacks, which have a more guerrilla and ambush character, are the Deir Ezzor Valley, Raqqa, Homs and As Suwayda. The principal targets are, instead, the Syrian Democratic Forces or the Syrian security forces. According to reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the latter were hit on 9 April by a surprise attack by the IS in the Homs region.
The offensive by Chadian troops against Boko Haram. The Chad army has launched a major operation against Boko Haram militia in the Lake Chad area. The offensive is a consequence of the attack suffered on 23 March by the Chadian army, which suffered almost 100 casualties. The counter-offensive, which began on March 31 and ended on March 8, claimed more than 1,000 victims among the jihadists of Boko Haram - while the number of dead soldiers would be about fifty. The President of Chad successfully greeted the operation, declaring that in the territory of Lake Chad "not even one jihadist remained".
Somalia, leader of al-Shabaab killed by US raid. The Pentagon recently reported that three al-Shabaab members were killed on 2 April following an American air raid near Dinsor in southern Somalia. One of them is Yusuf Jiis, one of the most influential leaders of the jihadist group and responsible for numerous attacks against Somali and international security forces. The operation was conducted by the States in collaboration with the Mogadishu authorities and is part of the Pentagon's anti-terrorism campaign against al-Shabaab.
Laura Vaccaro Senna and Vincenzo Battaglia
UN, Guterres calls for an immediate "ceasefire". UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres has launched a global appeal for all countries in a situation of open conflict to cease fire and lay down their arms to concentrate their efforts in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Our world is facing a common enemy: COVID-19. The virus is not concerned with nationality or entity, faction or faith. It attacks everyone relentlessly, those were the opening words of Guterres' speech. A ceasefire is essential and urgent to enable humanitarian aid to reach all those in need. Health systems in these countries have collapsed and health workers [...] have often been targeted. For the moment, 11 countries have responded to the call.
FAO, efforts to keep supply chains active. Maximo Torero Cullen, FAO's Chief Economist, has outlined a path to reduce the shocks that agricultural and food systems will face. The goal of this pathway is to carefully protect food supply chains through a joint effort with governments. The risk of running out of food exists and a slowdown in shipments has already been noted, but with appropriate measures it is possible to avert this eventuality and ensure the regular provision of food services. Coordinated policy responses, accompanied by improved emergency food assistance capacity and strengthened safety nets for vulnerable populations, are essential.
OECD, record drops in GDP of many nations. The OECD has sounded the alarm: its forecasting superindex has fallen further across the Eurozone and the US. Among the most affected is Italy. The suspension of economic activity will have a significant impact on the ability of families to cope with the crisis that is expected in all countries affected by the virus, although with some territorial and regional variations. Italy's GDP will lose 11.6% of its current level. These are record declines, according to OECD reports. It will be necessary to implement coordinated plans for the containment of the crisis and for the subsequent recovery. The response will have to be global and cooperation between countries will be crucial.
The Council of Europe adopted some guidelines to help governments during the COVID-19 crisis. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, published some guidelines for the European governments on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis. The toolkit is designed to help ensure that the measures taken by Member States during the current crisis remain proportionate to the threat posed by the spread of the virus and are limited in time. In particular, it covers: (i) derogations from the ECHR; (ii) respect for the rule of law and democratic principles; (iii) basic human rights standards, including freedom of expression, privacy and data protection; (iv) the fight against crime and the protection of the victims of crimes, in particular gender-based violence.
NATO is strengthening its support for the UN peacekeepers. On April 2, the Foreign Ministers of the NATO Member States adopted capacity building measures to strengthen their support for the UN peacekeeping forces. In particular, NATO will provide technical support in the development of military performance assessment processes and medical assistance, improvised explosive ordnance assistance and communications support. The aim is to improve the operational performance and security of UN peacekeeping forces in the context of the "Action for Peacekeeping" initiative, promoted by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and supported by NATO.
The OSCE supports the call for a global ceasefire promoted by the UN. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has joined the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in calling for a global ceasefire. Indeed, many conflicts continue to rage in the OSCE area, despite the fact that countries are all fighting to contain the Coronavirus pandemic. The appeal of Guterres has also been supported by 70 other UN Member States, as well as by the civil society. Some factions involved in armed conflicts have also accepted the call to lay down their arms, such as the armed forces of Saudi Arabia in Yemen and the rebel ELN group in Colombia.
Marta Stroppa and Martina Pignatelli
Framing The World is a project conceived and created by the collaboration between members of the team of Mondo Internazionale associates.
Andrea Maria Vassallo: East - Europe and Russia Federation
Dario Pone: West Europe and European Union
Domenico Barbato: South America
Federica Sulpizio: Middle East and North Africa
Laura Vaccaro Senna: Terrorism and International Security
Leonardo Aldeghi: Economy and International Finance
Leonardo Cherici: West Europe and European Union
Marcello Alberizzi: Sub-Saharan Africa
Marta Annalisa Savino: North America
Marta Stroppa: International Organisations
Martina Pignatelli: Human Rights and International Organisations
Michele Magistretti: Middle East and North Africa
Stefano Sartorio: Asia and Far East
Sara Squadrani: Human Rights
Vincenzo Battaglia: Middle East and North Africa; Terrorism and International Security
Translated by: Andrea Maria Vassallo, Dario Pone, Federica Sulpizio, Laura Vaccaro Senna, Leonardo Aldeghi, Leonardo Chierici, Marcello Alberizzi, Marta Annalisa Savino, Marta Stroppa, Michele Magistretti, Martina Pignatelli, Stefano Sartorio, Sara Squadrani, Vincenzo Battaglia, Simona Maria Vallefuoco.