In the new issue of Framing the World we report the events of the last two weeks, characterized by optimism, given the slowdown of the pandemic, which has hit international markets and which continues to inspire international cooperation for a stable and even recovery. In the Far East, however, the pandemic still makes the future of the Olympics in Japan uncertain, while in Vietnam another variant of the virus is discovered. We also report updates on the elections in Syria and the new government in Israel, on the new agreements of the United Kingdom, the Danish news on immigration and those on anti-terrorism laws in France and Switzerland. All this and much more in the 61st issue of FtW.
Enjoy the reading!
Hong Kong, law enforcement officers intervene to block the Tiananmen Square commemoration. June 4 marks the anniversary of the memory of the victims of Tiananmen Square events of 1989. Hong Kong has always celebrated the day with a public vigil, but for the last two years the police have banned the holding of the demonstration. With the excuse of gatherings, the police effectively prevented the commemoration, deploying heavy military vehicles and using water cannons (methods also used in the repression of pro-democracy demonstrations that were born in 2019). Two protesters were arrested: Chow Hang-tung, vice president of the association that has organized the vigil since 1990, and a 20-year-old boy. Meanwhile, 7,000 agents are lined up against possible further demonstrations, while part of Victoria Park is closed to the public.
Brussels, summit between the European Union and Tunisia to renew cooperation on pandemic and migration. The main European institutions met with the President of Tunisia Kaïs Saied. The topic of the rendezvous was the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, discussing how to act to decrease economic depression and encourage a return to growth. Europe has promised to be at the forefront to support the revitalization of those sectors particularly affected by Covid-19, such as tourism, services and transports. Not only that, but the Union has promoted aid in Africa to support equal and guaranteed access to vaccines for all. Furthermore, the two parties agreed to “work together on all aspects of migration, including legal migration, in line with the competences of the European Union and its member States”, as reported by ANSA. In fact, Tunisia has long been a fulcrum country for the departure of migrants from North Africa to the Mediterranean.
Managua, UN denounces the continuing violation of human rights in Nicaragua. Mary Lawlor, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the defense of human rights, denounces the criminalization by the Nicaraguan government of legitimate practices such as the sole participation in peaceful protests. Since 2018, Nicaragua has seen an intensification of popular protests against the social security reform and the lack of commitment by the state to fight the fires in the Indio Maíz Nature Reserve. Violent crackdowns on protesters by security forces led to further unrest. Two cases have become exemplary: that of Celia Cruz, a trans woman and human rights defender, detained in an all-male prison, which exposed her to sexual assaults and verbal violence; and that of John Christopher Cerna Zúñiga, leader of human rights groups who suffered mistreatment in prison.
ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE
Stock markets, optimism drives upward. Both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 have returned to within 1% of their all-time highs, and the Nasdaq has also regained some momentum, especially thanks to the pharmaceutical and semiconductor sectors. Indeed, optimism continues to reign in the markets, thanks to a sustained post-covid growth that is supported by ever more data. The most recent ones include airline ticket bookings, which over the Memorial Day weekend were 29.5% higher than in 2019, and weekly unemployment claims, which continue their steady decline (now down to 385,000). Finally, investors gave little prominence to the announcement that Russia will remove dollar-listed assets from its National Wellbeing Fund and the expansion of the blacklist of Chinese companies in which Americans will not be able to invest as of August 2, already outlined by Trump but now strengthened by Biden.
Geopolitics, an ignored risk. BlackRock, the world’s leading asset manager, in a recent report describes global investors as concerned about a rise in inflation and the trajectory of the post-covid recovery and very uninterested in geopolitical risks. Admittedly, a rise in inflation would lead central banks to raise interest rates, thus hurting the stock market and the return of those invested in it, but according to BlackRock, the most relevant risks are others: the competition - technological and commercial, for now - between the United States and China, the threat of cyber-attacks and possible political crises (post-pandemic) in emerging countries. As geopolitical risks increase, volatility generally increases, but the factors highlighted suggest a potential weakening of the Yuan if relations with the US sour, a strengthening of the dollar (and other safe-haven assets) in the event of large-scale cyber-attacks, and a rise in commodities in the event of unrest in emerging markets.
United States, budget talks are here. The Biden administration has unveiled a budget proposal to finance all the initiatives presented since the inauguration, which foresees $6 trillion of spending in 2022 alone, will generate a high deficit ($1,3 trillion/year) and is expected to bring the US public debt to 117% of GDP, a level even higher than the peak reached during World War II. Meanwhile, the negotiations with the Republicans for the infrastructure investment plan continue: Biden has lowered to $1,7 the requested funding, while from the GOP came a counter-offer of $948 billion. “It’s a step forward”, said the president’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki, “but the distance remains on how to fund the spending, with Republicans - and several Democrats - reluctant to raise taxes”.
Amazon, a new crown jewel. Despite being a trillion-dollar company, until now Amazon has not been very active in the acquisition market, but it has now scored its second-most expensive operation after the purchase of Whole Foods in 2017: Amazon will buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for $8,5 billion, outbidding Apple and Comcast, in a very important operation to secure a stronger position in the streaming market, where competition to Netflix is increasingly fierce. In the meantime, however, Amazon will have to defend itself in a new lawsuit filed by the attorney general of Washington D.C., who is charging the Seattle-based giant with implementing policies that prevent third-party sellers on Amazon from offering their goods at lower prices on different sites.
Ford, an electric future? These are potentially decisive days for the future of Ford, which in the same week presented its first electric pickup, the F-150 Lightning, arousing such great enthusiasm in the public that it received over 44,000 reservations in the hours following the launch, and has simultaneously changed its future strategies, predicting that 40% of its fleet will be composed of EVs by 2030 and to spend $30 billion by 2025 to achieve this goal ($8 billion more than announced only 3 months ago). CEO Jim Farley, who is enthusiastic about the new model's reception, believes that the transition to electric is the biggest growth opportunity since the Model-T began mass production. The markets seem to be very appreciative of this new strategy, so much so that the stock rose 25% in May alone.
Democratic Republic of the Congo, volcanic eruption in Goma. On May 22, the eruption of the Nyiaragongo volcano began and, together with intense seismic activity, destroyed about 17 villages and more than 1,500 homes and public places. The population immediately mobilized and on May 27 the authorities ordered the evacuation of some districts of Goma, given the risk of other eruptions - which at the moment seems to be low. Almost 400,000 displaced people have left the city of Goma according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, while UNICEF reports hundreds of missing children. Rwanda is the main destination reached.
Mali, military coup and suspension from ECOWAS and AU. On May 24, the Malian army arrested the President and the Prime Minister, staging the second coup in 9 months. The President and Prime Minister then resigned on May 26, stopping the transition process that would lead the country to elections in February and March 2022. First the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on May 30, and then the African Union (AU), on June 2, suspended Mali from its institutions, excluding the country from the activities and reiterating the need to respect the democratic process ascending to power. The AU, unlike ECOWAS, has also threatened to impose sanctions.
Ethiopia, between violence and postponed elections. Legislative and regional elections should have been held in Ethiopia on 5 June. These, originally scheduled for 2020, were postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic. Tensions arose precisely from that postponement that led, in the following months, to the outbreak of a bloody civil war concentrated in the northern regions of the country. Precisely these clashes, which still shock the country today, were highlighted as a possible cause for the further postponement of the elections. These have in fact been postponed by another two or three weeks from the date originally set the 5 June. The official cause, however, would be an organizational difficulty, there would in fact be problems with the registration of voters, the training of electoral staff and with the ballot papers. However, many in the country believe that the real cause is an inability of the government to manage, during a period still marked by numerous internal crises and ethnic clashes, the organization of such a large election. Some observers have even speculated a further postponement of the elections, which could be moved to September, thus avoiding the rainy season that hits the country between July and August.
Clashes at the border between Chad and the Central African Republic. The events that happened at the border between Chad and the Central African Republic last weekend are still unclear. However, the death of several soldiers among the Chadian border troops is certain. This caused the furious reaction of the Chadian citizens, who accused their neighbors of the Central African Republic of aggression and war crimes. In the days following the incident, the Chadian government sent reinforcements to the border area. However, diplomatic tension between the parties seems to have eased after Bangui, through an official delegation, apologized for what happened. The version of the Central African Republic indeed underlines how the clashes were the result of a misunderstanding, and therefore not a planned action. The Bangui troops would have in fact chased a group of rebels near the border with Chad, trespassing and then finding themselves in front of the Chadian troops, thus starting the firefight.
Sara Squadrani e Andrea Ghilardi
Pasadena, Donald Trump suspended from Facebook for two years. This was announced by the social media, underlining that at the end of the 24 months the experts will evaluate the case again. Trump can only be readmitted if the circumstances will allow it. The motivation behind this suspension seems to be the danger in terms of public safety arising from various statements made by the former president. At the end of the terms of the suspension, “there will be a series of sanctions that will be triggered should Trump commit further violations in the future, including a permanent removal of his pages and accounts”, says the social network’s Supervisory Board. Facebook also announced the end of all favourable treatment on its platform for politicians. From now on, the same rules will apply for all users.
Washington, President Biden signs a new law with the purpose to fix gaps in FBI Hate Crime Data. A bill Biden just signed on May 20 will start to address the absence of reliable hate crime data. Due to this statistic void, authorities don’t have the power to completely understand such facts, nor do they have tools to face them properly. The law includes paths to combat the recent increase in bias-motivated violence against Asian Americans, as well as money to help states and local law enforcement agencies collect better, more comprehensive data on hate crimes. At the moment, law enforcement agencies claim that they witness no hate crimes, which is hard to believe considering that they watch over populations of hundreds of thousands. There have also been cases where hate crimes were mislabeled, such as anti-LGBTQ crimes being reported as “anti-heterosexual.” Furthermore, it is clear how police training is highly inefficient regarding how to investigate and collect data on hate crimes.
British Columbia, mass grave found containing the remains of over 200 children at a residential school for indigenous students. An independent UN human rights experts on Friday demanded full investigations by Canadian authorities and the Catholic Church to be provided about the discovery of hundreds of children’s remains, supposedly forcibly taken from their homes, by the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The building was run by the Catholic Church from the late 19th century to the 1960s, and later closed in the 1970s. It was part of the residential school system that hosted over one hundred thousand indigenous children, who most likely experienced “large scale human rights violations committed against children belonging to indigenous communities, it is inconceivable that Canada and the Holy See would leave such heinous crimes unaccounted for and without full redress”, as the UN experts said.
Amazonia. Biodiversity at risk. The Amazon rainforest spans 9 countries. It is home to 410 indigenous groups and 47 million people. It contains 10% of biodiversity. In fact, in addition to being vital for the planet's ecosystem, it is also rich in precious minerals that are extracted with unsustainable practices. The demand for gold is getting higher and the Amazon is full of it. Its extraction takes place through the use of mercury to separate gold. This compromises the well-being of groundwater and waterways. The rivers have changed their way. 30 rivers are polluted. This is why its use is illegal in many countries. Illegal miners have invaded 370 indigenous territories where any practice is prohibited. The WHO declares that the inhabitants of those areas have a q. in their blood of mercury higher than 150 times the acceptable limit. The situation is so serious that Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, French Guiana and Peru have created an Alliance to collaborate by acting in a sustainable way, recovering the areas compromised by the reckless use of dangerous practices such as deforestation, pollution and the use of mercury.
Argentina. Fight against drugs in the poorest countries. Since 2008, a splendid reality has been active that tries to concretely combat drug addiction and to provide support to the most fragile people. With its 190 active centres spread across 19 provinces, the Federación Familia Grande Hogar de Cristo is a virtuous example linked to Caritas which has helped 20,000 people. This network was created by Catholic priests who lived in villas in Buenos Aires. At Villa 21-24, one of the poorest, Pope Francis also served when he was a priest. The Federation tries to provide concrete help to people who are addicted to drugs for diverse reasons: social and economic precariousness, difficulty in accessing primary care, crumbling houses, violence, unemployment and much more. Centers open after neighborhoods or communities have requested them. A team of psychologists, social workers and volunteers make their skills available to support users and go to look for them in the neighborhoods, thus trying to involve them as much as possible to provide them with a better life.
Brazil. Bolsonaro exploits the America’s Cup. Bolsonaro, after the fall of Lula’s accusations, is going up less and less in the polls. The elections are drawing closer and the fear of losing them increases. To take away the attention from the questionable work of his government, he focuses on football. The president celebrates the arrival of the America’s Cup in Brazil, following requests from the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) and the impossibility of holding the tournament in Argentina and Colombia close to its start. He hopes that football will distract public opinion from impeachment allegations and investigations against the Minister of the Environment for illegal timber smuggling. During his mandate, he had himself photographed on several occasions with the team shirts. As in 2019 in the midst of the “Lava Jato” crisis. Bolsonaro uses football as a political weapon to distract the country from lawsuits and scandals against him, hoping that his popularity will rise again.
Chile. Pollution and childhood. 30 km from Valparaíso, in the municipalities of Quintero and Puchuncaví, children have been locked up inside their homes long before the pandemic blew up, forced to wear masks and replace school with DAD. The common bay has been the site of an ever-expanding industrial complex since the 1960s. Due to a cloud of toxic gases emanating from that site, the 50,000 inhabitants are experiencing health problems. Many of them are forced to live with oil, CO2, SO2, leaks, coal stranding and mass poisoning. The government has issued a health alert for days. However, the factories continued to operate albeit at a reduced rate. People are sick. They have bouts of vomiting, breathing problems, skin damage, limb numbness, nosebleeds, cancer. In Puchuncaví, children between one and five years old have a very high probability of getting cancer due to continuous exposure to metals. Children who have entered life so recently and already have their future severely compromised. In Puchuncaví the children are poisoned.
Guatemala. Where are the Human Rights? #Tengomiedo. In Guatemala, women, regardless of their age, do not feel safe. They do not feel protected in their homes and safeguarded by those who should do it, police and government. The valuation of the Observatorio de las Mujeres del Ministerio Público are clear: in 2020 murders were 457. Many after sexual abuse. 159 women have lost their lives since the beginning of the year. 20,000 those who reported being victims of violence (both domestic and sexual). Most were killed with firearms. An average of four disappear every day. The age is extremely varied. Even the girls disappear, are abused, killed and their bodies hidden who knows where. 60 or 70% of victims retract because they receive threats from their partners (as well as perpetrators of violence). There is no law that classifies harassment as a crime. Guatemalans are afraid every time they leave the house. Women in Guatemala feel trapped.
Haiti. More and more victims due to malnutrition. The island is experiencing a very serious economic crisis, exacerbated by the catastrophic events of 2010, when a violent earthquake destroyed nearly all the buildings. In 2020, UNICEF reported that 41,000 children under the age of 5 were malnourished. Currently there are 86,000 and the number is constantly growing. Acute severe malnutrition can impair a child's development and if not treated in time, it can be the cause of their death. Children are not the only ones who do not have a balanced and sufficient diet. UNICEF estimates that, out of a population of 11 million, 4,4 million are victims of malnutrition. Of these, 1,9 million are children. Furthermore, the pandemic has compromised an already fragile situation and children have not yet been vaccinated on a large scale. The risk for unvaccinated children dying from malnutrition is higher in percentage than for vaccinated. UNICEF needs 49 million dollars to meet the humanitarian needs of Haitians.
Venezuela. The borders with Colombia reopen. The two countries closed communications in 2019 and the borders have been closed for 14 months. On 1 June, Colombian President Duque announced the gradual reopening. Venezuela is experiencing a very serious health crisis, with a death rate from COVID-19 among the highest. Colombia saw the continent's largest migratory exodus. Here Venezuelan migrants are 1,7 million. On one hand, Colombia is preparing to reopen the border, on the other hand, it will increase its control staff by 25% and install cameras for detecting body temperature. They will also guard all those secondary access routes that extend for 2,200 km and have always been a major security problem because they are used as smuggling and drug trafficking routes by both States.
ASIA AND THE FAR EAST
Japan, the question of the Olympics. The Tokyo Olympics, already postponed last year due to the pandemic, have been the subject of much debate within Prime Minister Suga's cabinet. According to the expectations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and several Japanese government officials, the games could safely take place starting from July 23. However, both the government's top medical advisor, as well as several members of the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC), including former judo champion Kaori Yamaguchi, have expressed serious concerns about public health risks, should the event begin as scheduled. These concerns are flanked by those of the Japanese people, who, according to a survey, would be largely in favor of postponing or even canceling the Olympics. To this day, the official line of Suga’s government seems to be to proceed anyway with the opening of the games on July 23, in the hope of reducing health risks related to the event thanks to the vaccination plan currently underway.
Hong Kong, several arrests during demonstration for Tiananmen Square anniversary. During the evening of June 4 - 36th anniversary of the student protests in China in 1989, with its epicenter in Tiananmen Square in Beijing - Hong Kong police made at least 6 arrests: 4 men and 2 women were accused of causing public damage and of having hindered the activities of the police. According to the police bulletin, at around 8:00 pm, several people gathered on Patterson Street and Kingston Street in Causeway Bay, and on Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok. Also according to the bulletin, many of these protesters ‘shouted slogans of incitement and encouragement to commit secession, which can be considered a crime under the National Security Act’. Several, in fact, were the messages waved on the streets of Hong Kong with the inscriptions ‘Free Hong Kong: revolution of our times’, and ‘Hong Kong independence, only way out’. Finally, many protesters lit candles in memory of the victims of Tiananmen Square.
Vietnam, new COVID variant discovered. Last weekend, the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology of Vietnam identified, in the populous city of Ho Chi Minh, a new variant of Coronavirus in at least 4 patients who had previously suffered from COVID-19. From the first tests conducted by the Institute, the new variant would make the virus more easily transmissible. As a result of the discovery, as early as Monday 31 May the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Pham Minh Chinh, launched a massive screening campaign for the entire population of Ho Chi Minh. The Prime Minister has also introduced new restrictions on restaurants, ceremonies and other public events for at least 15 days to prevent the spread of this new variant.
WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
Denmark, law in favor of refugee centers in third countries. The Danish government has recently approved by a large majority a law that will allow the opening of refugee centers for asylum seekers outside its national territory, de facto 'delocalising' them to third countries. This decision was taken because of the strict immigration policy of the Social Democratic executive led by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. This law, designed as a deterrent, aims to discourage the arrival of migrants in the Nordic country. The approval of this law immediately caused concern in Brussels. The EU fears that it could in fact undermine the foundations of the international refugee protection system. The Commission will now analyze this new Danish law in detail before deciding on any next step.
United Kingdom, agreement with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The UK announced on Friday 4 June that it had concluded a post-Brexit trade agreement with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This agreement will replace the interim arrangements in place since the UK left the EU. London has agreed with the three countries to have a reduction on tariffs on British food and agricultural products and on the digital sector. Liz Truss, the UK's secretary of international trade called this step "a major boost to our trade". Comments full of satisfaction also come from the three countries involved.
Switzerland, negotiations with the EU abandoned. After seven years of negotiations, the Swiss government decided to interrupt the negotiations with the European Union which had the aim of putting order among the numerous bilateral agreements that bind the two European actors. The decision comes because Bern fears that an agreement could call into question the full sovereignty of Switzerland. Furthermore, Switzerland was not satisfied with the proposals on State aid, free movement of persons and wage protection. The Union has accepted the news with regret. In fact, a warning arrives from Brussels, which underlines the need to conclude a framework agreement with the Swiss country, so as to make the agreements in place more modern and orderly. Nowadays, relations between Switzerland and the EU are in fact governed by about a hundred bilateral agreements, which have entered into force for over 50 years, but which risk eroding over time and losing their validity.
Denmark, controversy over the secret services. Journalistic investigations, carried out by the Danish public broadcaster in cooperation with other European journalists, have been published about Danish intelligence services' support for US spying on prominent European political figures, including Angela Merkel and former foreign minister Steinmeier. The events are said to have taken place between 2012 and 2014 and are in addition to the revelations made by Edward Snowden in 2013. For the time being, neither the NSA nor the Danish services have made any statements. From a geopolitical point of view, the issue puts the Biden administration in a difficult position and risks getting its first trip to Europe off on the wrong foot. At the time, in fact, Joe Biden was Obama's number two who had promised an end to American spying on allies.
Italy, right-wing leaders in Europe. These have been important weeks of alliance-building for Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni, political personalities who are similar, but at the same time divided by their support for the Draghi government and the European political group they belong to. The League Secretary went to Portugal to visit Ventura, leader of the right-wing formation Chega, while Giorgia Meloni met the Prime Minister Morawiecki and the President of Vox Abascal in Warsaw. Both seem to want to accredit themselves as the leaders of the Italian right in Europe, trying to build a political project involving several European exponents to increase their weight in Strasbourg.
European Union, the Commission publishes "recommendations". As it does every year, the European Commission has sent to member countries a series of macroeconomic recommendations with suggestions for economic policies to be implemented. There were high expectations for Italy, which has seen its public debt explode due to the pandemic. The Commission's recommendations call for a reduction in current spending, but this must be combined with support for groups in difficulty and an increase in resources for investment. Brussels also rejected the generalised freeze on redundancies introduced by the Italian government, arguing that this penalises those with fixed-term employment contracts. Italy, Greece and Cyprus remain the countries with "excessive" macroeconomic imbalances.
Leonardo Cherici and Andrea Ghilardi
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
Bulgaria, government crisis? Interim President Radev is accused by MEPs from former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's party of being pro-Putin. In a letter sent to the presidents of other EU-states, the members of the GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, a pro-European, conservative and liberal right-wing party) criticised his political actions and made explicit accusations for his well-known affinity to the Kremlin. They fear the President is taking action to secure victory in next autumn's elections. Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov made worrying statements, such as defining journalists and opponents as ‘former people’, a term used during the communist dictatorship of Todor Živkov. Rashkov is one of the promoters of the measures taken by the government who appears to be investigating 80 people illegally intercepted on the phone when Borissov was in power.
Hungary, immigrants have to leave. Orban, during a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, caused much discussion for his statements. He allegedly declared that the ‘invaders’ (Muslim migrants) are marching in the country and are the architects of the border’s destruction. Johnson replied by expressing concern about the state of freedom in which the media and the population are and inviting his colleague to promote democracy and stability, two values on which every Western democracy should be founded. Orban responded: “I said it's a Western democracy, so it's the same system as here”. The opposition disclosed its discontent even before the meeting between the two Prime Ministers took place. Orban is not new to these racist and Islamophobic positions and praised Brexit. He is also accused of anti-Semitism for a campaign of posters against the Hungarian liberal philanthropist George Soros. He rejected the accusations of anti-Semitism declaring: "George Soros is a talented Hungarian businessman... he is very much in favour of migration, financing and helping the NGOs who are doing that. We don't like it but it has nothing to do with ethnic identity."
Poland, squares full of demonstrators in support of Belarus. The squares of Warsaw are filling up again after the large turn-out to protest against abortion law’s repeal. On Saturday 29th of May, protests against the arrest of the Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich (26) and his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega (23) began after the hijacking - by a military plane from Minskof - of the flight that was taking the twosome from Greece to Lithuania. The EU has subsequently banned aircrafts from traveling over Belarus. Putin, on the other hand, ordered all Russian lines to fly over Belarus, to strengthen the relationship of brotherhood that exists between the two nations. From Warsaw, Protasevich's parents have launched numerous appeals for the couple’s release. Protesters carpeted the city with red and white flags, a symbol of the Belarusian opposition, and signs with invocations such as ‘Help Belarus’ or even ‘Freedom for Belarus’.
Romania, the economy is growing. Bucharest expects a GDP increase of 7%. According to the government and the EU, the country has the highest growth rate since 2020. Unexpectedly, despite the Romanian economic crisis, the estimates are more than positive. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) has been monitoring the country’s economic development for some time and a few days ago it released forecasts that would confirm a rebound in real GDP of 7%. The situation was surprising, since Romania is the country that is witnessing the fastest recovery of all Member States, which began in the last quarter of 2020 with a growth value of +5.3% (Italy did not even reach 2% on that date). Over the next five years, the funds obtained by the EU will play a fundamental role in the nation’s fate.
Ukraine, why is Zelensky fighting the oligarchy only now? The President, elected in 2019, after a valid career as a comedian, had chosen to battle on the oligarchs, making them a distinctive feature of his election campaign. Until now, however, he has not respected this point of his program. The oligarchy in the country began in the 90s, when few men were able to buy state assets that were privatised at low prices, creating a sprawling network that (from that moment) would make them rich and owners of TVs, political parties or friends of judges and state officials who would be able to help them if necessary. The National Security and Defense Council will have to draw up a list of still unknown oligarchs (there should be 13). At a later time, a law against the oligarchy will be discussed. That Zelensky wants to follow in Putin's footsteps when he, just elected, asked the oligarchs to give up a portion of their wealth to make the nation great? We will wait but, for his collaborators, this gesture aims to destroy the country and the economy, not to build.
MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
Israel, an historic turning point? A few hours before the end of his mandate, the head of the centrist Yesh Atid party and of the opposition, Yair Lapid, informed the former president about the success of the negotiations to form a new government. The new government is the result of an extremely heterogeneous coalition combining two left-wing parties, two centre parties, three right-wing parties and an Arab Islamist party. Moreover, for the first time in Israel's history, the country will have a yarmulke-wearing prime minister and an Arab party in the executive. In the meantime, King Bibi's Likud and its ultra-Orthodox and supremacist allies have already started a media campaign against the right-wing parties as traitors to the country and to Zionism. However, the balance of a coalition whose main glue is hatred for its eternal adversary, Benjamin Netanyahu, seems indeed fragile.
Libya, the diplomatic race continues. The Libyan Prime Minister went to Italy to relaunch and deepen economic relations with his European neighbour. At the economic forum he attended, Dbeibah stressed that Italy is his country's "best partner". Recently, the President of the Presidential Council, Mohammed Menfi, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Najla Al-Mangoush, met the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed. In the meantime, the Greek foreign minister lamented the umpteenth exclusion of his country from the Berlin Conference dealing with Libyan affairs. In continuation of the political and diplomatic race underway between the various regional players, the Spanish Prime Minister went to Tripoli to meet his Libyan counterpart, reaffirming the Iberian country's support for the transition process that should be completed with the elections scheduled for December.
Egypt, Cairo's two fronts. In the face of economic difficulties and the new international climate, also influenced by the change of presidency in the US, Egypt continues to promote mediation instances regarding the tense scenarios in the region. While sending its intelligence chief and numerous humanitarian aids to Gaza, President Al Sisi pressures the President of the European Council to work towards reactivating talks and negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. But Cairo keeps a close eye on its own interests on the southern front. Recently, the Egyptian president went to Djibouti for some investment projects, while the Chief of the Armed Forces went to Rwanda to meet his counterpart with the aim of intensifying relations and military cooperation between the two countries.
Bashar al-Assad is still at the helm of Syria. The presidential elections, held in the Syrian Arab Republic last May 26 and in the previous days in some Middle Eastern countries that allowed Syrian refugees to vote, confirmed Bashar in his fourth term. An unrivalled victory, as it obtained 95.1% of the total votes, unlike the other two candidates Abdullah Salloum Abdullah and Mahmoud Ahmed Mari, who received 1.5% and 3.3% of the votes. The European Union, the United States and Turkey have not recognized the outcome of the elections, because they consider them a farce due to the severe restrictions imposed by the Syrian Constitution currently in force. In addition, the UN envoy for Syria also criticized the electoral process, calling it “non-democratic” as it did not follow any of the reforms discussed in the Syrian Constitutional Committee, a body created ad hoc by the UN.
Iraq, the arrest of Qasim Muslih shakes the country. Iraqi security and intelligence forces arrested the commander of the People’s Mobilization Forces of Anbar Province, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia. The reasons for the arrest are not clear, officially, it is known only that he is subjected to restrictive measures and is being interrogated for violating the anti-terrorism law. Some sources inside the security forces have stated that Muslih's crimes would include the recent assaults on the international airbase (with a strong US presence) of Ain al-Assad. Still others claim that the commander was involved in the murders of activists Fahim al-Taie in December 2019 and Ihab al-Wazni on 9 May this year in Karbala. Al-Wazni in particular was known to be against the role of Shiite militias in Iraq: his death sparked demonstrations and protests across the country, which were severely repressed.
Michele Magistretti and Sara Oldani
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
France, controversial anti-terrorism bill passed in the National Assembly. Presented in Parliament at the end of April, the proposal will now have to be discussed in the Senate. If approved, the law would make definitive some measures adopted after the 2015 attacks during the state of emergency in the country. These include an enhanced system for authorities to track suspicious online activities, the administrative closure of places of worship, the extension of surveillance measures for former convicts and suspects involved in terrorist investigations, and searches at the entrance to major events. According to the government, the update provided by the law is necessary to respond to new threats that appear less bound to traditional terrorist organizations and therefore less easily detected. But some deputies, as well as several civil society representatives, believe that restrictions on freedoms towards particular categories of individuals, such as former terrorism detainees who have already served their sentences, would pose problems of constitutional legitimacy and compatibility with human rights obligations.
Switzerland, upcoming referendum on anti-terrorism law: what scenarios? A referendum scheduled for June 13 will deliberate on a law passed by parliament last year that increases the government's surveillance of radicalized suspects. The law had alarmed many human rights experts, who had managed to call the referendum in hopes of having the law revoked following a popular vote. However, projections give an advantage to the law’s supporters, who could reach two-thirds of the voters. The most controversial aspect concerns the application of surveillance measures and restrictions on freedom of movement to minors: travel bans for suspects aged 12 and over, house arrest from 15. The broadening of the definition of terrorism proposed by the law has caused concern as well, as it is considered too vague. Potentially, it could include among those accused of supporting terrorist organizations certain categories such as humanitarian workers not expressly authorized by the government to deal with terrorist groups to provide assistance in territories controlled by them.
Afghanistan, the Taliban offensive continues. On 4 June, the Taliban perpetrated an attack in the Julga district (in the northern province of Baghlan), resulting in the death of 8 police officers. On the same day, a military outpost in Jawand District (in the northwestern province of Badghis) was captured by the Taliban following an offensive that had started the previous day. Clashes between the national security forces and the militants are the order of the day in the Asian country, making the road to reconciliation between the parties increasingly difficult. Meanwhile, on 1 June, a UN monitoring team reported that in the first three months of 2021, attacks in Afghanistan increased by 60 per cent compared to the same period in 2020. Moreover, according to the same source, the Taliban have not broken their relationship with al-Qaeda (as envisaged in the agreement with the US) and continue to be aligned with the terrorist group.
Mali, France suspends military cooperation. On 3 June, the French Ministry of Defence announced the suspension of military cooperation with Mali following the 24 May coup - the second in nine months - organised by Colonel Goita. The transalpine government's decision is, however, temporary and will be reassessed in the coming days based on responses from the Malian authorities. Therefore, the move by Paris serves first and foremost to push the African state to commit to a democratic and peaceful transition, as desired by the international community. France is engaged in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane, aimed at combating terrorism in the Sahel. In these days, therefore, the French contingent will operate autonomously within the framework of the mission.
Nigeria, attack on seven villages. Local police reported that a commando of assailants on motorcycles attacked seven villages (Koro, Kimpi, Gaya, Dimi, Zutu, Rafin Gora and Iguenge) in Kebbi State, northwest Nigeria. The provisional toll is over 60 victims and residents of the affected areas have fled their homes. The action of terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram, has been ruled out, while it is more plausible that the attackers are linked to local bandit groups.
Burkina Faso, massacre in the village of Solhan. During the night of Friday 4 to Saturday 5 June, armed men carried out an offensive in the village of Solhan, in the north-east of Burkina Faso. The attackers first targeted the post of the 'Volunteers for the Defence of the Homeland' (Vdp), civilian auxiliaries of the army, and then indiscriminately hit local houses. The attack is the bloodiest since the start of jihadist violence in the country in 2015, with the toll sadly exceeding 160 victims. No terrorist group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, as is often the case in Burkina Faso.
Laura Morreale and Vincenzo Battaglia
UN Ocean Conference, a halfway start. It was supposed to take place in 2021 but, due to the pandemic, it has been postponed to 2022. It will still be held in Lisbon, jointly organized by the governments of Portugal and Kenya. However, on June 1, a series of high-level debates began to prepare for the actual Conference, as suggested by the President of the UN General Assembly. The first debate concerned the oceans and Sustainable Development Goal number 14: Life underwater. The President mentioned a "blue recovery" and pushed for immediate action within the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, so as to achieve progress before the start of the 2022 Conference.
IMF, WB, WHO and WTO, the proposal for a new 50 billion dollar plan for recovery. The Presidents of the main international financial institutions and the World Health Organization have urged the Member States’ heads of government to invest a total of 50 billion dollars to generate 9 trillion dollar in global economic returns and stimulate the manufacturing capacity, the supply of goods, trade flows and the equitable distribution of diagnostics, oxygen, treatments, medical supplies and vaccines. The initiative combines the medical necessity to put an end to the pandemic with that of economic recovery, aspects that are expected to be tackled together in order to achieve a truly advantageous recovery.
OECD, an analysis of current economic development. More than a year after the start of the pandemic, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development presents its analysis on the prospects for the global economy in the new OECD Economic Outlook report, published on May 31. Vaccinations are a positive element for the recovery, but the OECD points out that the existence of other challenges and risks are slowing it down. Among these, the lack of homogeneity in progress between countries. The report presents a general and particular macroeconomic picture with reference to the Member States. For each of them development projections are identified. The post-pandemic recovery is defined as "non-ordinary" and - according to OECD chief economist Laurenze Boone - this will depend on the adoption of flexible and sustainable policies as well as on the quality of international cooperation.
NATO, meeting of Foreign Ministers in preparation for the NATO 2030 Summit. The Foreign Ministers of the NATO countries met on June 1. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss priority issues to be placed on the agenda, in preparation for the NATO 2030 Summit to be held on June 14. "Ministers addressed a range of issues including Afghanistan, Belarus, Russia and China; and overall, the need for NATO to adapt to a new era of growing global competition," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Another key point of the Summit will be the Atlantic Alliance's emphasis on increasing technological innovation, and information sharing among the various allies, in order to "prevent technological gaps among Allies," as Stoltenberg stressed. Finally, ample space will be devoted to the role of the Alliance in maintaining the international order increasingly “challenged by authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China," said the Secretary General.
UN Decade for Ecosystem Recovery (2021-2030) has been proclaimed. The initiative was launched on June 4, during a virtual climate meeting between heads of government, representatives of UN agencies and civil society representatives. According to Secretary-General Guterres, the world is facing a triple environmental emergency: increased pollution, loss of biodiversity and climate change. This decade is crucial if we are not to reach the point of no return, he said. The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) argues that recovery from the pandemic can be a key opportunity to rethink our approach to the environment: governments, industry and consumers must do their part. But according to estimates, current investments in environmental policies should be tripled to see concrete results.
Council of Europe invites to strengthen the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. This is the opinion of the experts of MONEYVAL, a Council of Europe body that deals with these issues. The average level of compliance with anti-money laundering measures of member countries has been categorized as "insufficient". According to MONEYVAL President Frankow-Jaśkiewicz, organized crime and terrorist groups are exploiting new channels to evade controls on their financial activities, which include the use of online technology and infiltration of public procurement in the health sector. And while international cooperation and information exchange are proving to be functioning, financial sector monitoring is the biggest weakness in the control mechanisms currently operated by States.
Laura Morreale, Sara Squadrani and Francesco Ancona
Framing The World is a project conceived and created by the collaboration between members of the team of Mondo Internazionale associates.
Andrea Ghilardi: Western Europe and the European Union
Arianna Giannino: Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Davide Shahhosseini: Terrorism and International Security, Latin America
Edoardo Cappelli: Human Rights, North America
Elisa Maggiore: Latin America
Federica Sulpizio: Middle-East and North Africa
Federico Brignacca: Human Rights
Francesco Ancona: Asia and the Far East, International Organizations
Ginevra Ricca: Latin America
Giulia Patrizi: Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Laura Morreale: Terrorism and International Security, International Organizations
Leonardo Aldeghi: Economics and International Finance
Leonardo Cherici: Western Europe and the European Union
Lorenzo Bonaguro: North America, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Michele Magistretti: Middle-East and North Africa
Samuele Abrami: Middle-East and North Africa
Sara Oldani: Middle-East and North-Africa
Sara Squadrani: Sub-Saharan Africa, International Organizations
Vincenzo Battaglia: Terrorism and International Security