Framing The World, LXXIII Edition
In the new issue of FtW we devote our attention to the latest events in Austria, Bolivia, Gambia and Morocco. From a financial point of view, we see ups and downs among the world markets due to the spread of the Omicron variant and the consequences of inflation, especially in Europe. Remaining in Europe, the flare-up of tensions in the Donbass, which prompted the US and Russia to timely talks, are worrying. However, the US is not looking only at the Ukrainian front, in fact in the Indo-Pacific they are planning a new war-plan, based on South Korea. Another hot topic deals with the recent elections in Honduras, whose winner Xiomara Castro will give a new face to the Central American country.
All this and much more in the 73th issue of Framing the World!
Geneva, data shows the risks for women and girls to be victims of a modern form of slavery. According to data released in June by UNICEF and the ILO, nearly 80 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are subjected to jobs that can be considered a contemporary form of slavery. Especially following the pandemic, which has resulted in the closure of various schools and a widespread economic recession, in which many families are forced to use their children to earn more, even in the worst forms of child labor. This also includes the forced recruitment of young people into armed and criminal groups. According to unofficial estimates cited by experts, one in 130 women and girls is subject to contemporary forms of slavery such as child and forced marriage, domestic servitude, forced labor and debt servitude.
Brussels, human rights groups urge the EU to ban NSO. Dozens of human rights organizations have demanded the European Union to impose global sanctions on the NSO group and take the road to ban the sale, transfer, export and import of the Israeli surveillance technology firm, technically used to target terrorism and dangerous criminals. The letter, signed by 86 organizations, speaks of violations or abuses that are serious with respect to the objectives of the common foreign and security policy, including violations of the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, or of the freedom of opinion and expression. The protest also follows last summer's publication about Project Pegasus, an investigation by the Guardian and 15 other media outlets that exposed the ways in which Pegasus was used to target journalists, human rights activists and other members of civil society.
Zagreb, European Anti-Torture Committee testifies to torture against migrants. Over the past four years, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has collected and disseminated thousands of testimonies of migrants and refugees attacked by the Croatian police and deprived of the right to seek asylum. The Committee’s report contains numerous complaints of people being kicked, beaten repeatedly with batons, attacked by police dogs, robbed of their possessions, including clothes, shoes and even underwear, forced to walk for miles towards the Bosnian border. Herzegovina. The lack of significant investigations by the Croatian authorities into complaints against the border police is also under accusation. For a long time, the European Commission declared that complaints from human rights organizations and the media had not been officially confirmed. This report marks an important watershed.
ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE
Markets, extreme volatility. The end of November and the beginning of December were an extremely volatile period for stock markets, first boosted by the confirmation of Powell as Fed Chairman - which made financial stocks celebrate - and by unemployment benefits which fell to the lowest levels in the USA (in absolute terms) since 1969 , and then instead scared by the emergence of the Omicron variant which, thanks to low trading volumes on the occasion of Thanksgiving, caused world stock markets to lose between 2. 5% and 4%, with sectors such as air transport and tourism dropping as much as 20% and oil slumping 12%. The rebound took place on the following Monday given the apparent mildness of the symptoms caused by the variant, but inflation and the possibility that central banks will raise rates to contain the problem took the markets back into the red.
Semiconductors, Biden's plan. The microchip shortage is plaguing several industries, especially the automotive one, which is why Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo chose Michigan, home to several automotive factories, to announce the CHIPS Act, a $52 billion initiative to incentivize the construction of at least six chip factories in the United States to increase and diversify production of these key components, now concentrated in the Far East, and another $190 billion to fund technology research. In an earlier decision, but part of the same trend of increasing production and security of supply and reacting to calls from the Biden administration, Samsung will build a semiconductor manufacturing plant in Austin, a $17 billion investment that will create more than 2,000 new jobs.
Europe, higher inflation. Inflation in the eurozone in November rose to 4.9%, above the forecast of +4.5% and at the highest level since the introduction of the single currency, and will remain high in the coming months. The figure is influenced by +27.4% in energy prices, but goods, services, and food are also all above the ECB's target of 2%, as is core inflation (which excludes volatile elements such as energy, food, alcohol, and tobacco), which came in at +2.6%. While Christine Lagarde has stated that prices will not spiral out of control, several investors believe that the ECB is too confident and relaxed, a view partially shared by Weidmann, the outgoing president of the Bundesbank. On December 16, the ECB will publish its new inflation forecasts, which are expected to be revised upward as already done by the OECD, which changed its estimates for 2022 from +3.9 to +4.4%.
Powell, four more years. Reconfirmed, as expected, at the helm of the FED, Jerome Powell was busy with a two-day hearing in Congress, where he finally admitted that it is time to abandon the term 'transitory', which has been used to describe the inflation of recent months, and where he had the opportunity to express his opinion on the omicron variant, which in his opinion risks slowing the progress of the labor market and further damaging supply chains. To counter inflation that is now expected to be elevated even in 2022, Powell suggested that the Fed could speed up the tapering process it initiated recently and could raise interest rates as early as 2022, ahead of forecasts for hikes in 2023 or 2024, although uncertainty about a true exit from the pandemic remains high.
US-China, is it a breakup? Didi Global, Uber's Chinese rival, announced that it has begun the process of delisting from the New York Stock Exchange and listing instead on the Hong Kong exchange, sending the stock down -22%. Only last June, Didi's IPO had been the largest listing of a Chinese company in New York since Alibaba (2014), but already a few days later, Chinese authorities had revealed the existence of an investigation against the company, officially regarding the security of company and user data, and the shares had plummeted. According to analysts, this decision reflects the absolute power that Xi Jinping can wield even over the private sector and is part of the process of 'decoupling' the American and Chinese economies that began under Trump and continued with Biden, and this is precisely why Didi's announcement caused the Hang Seng Tech index to fall by 2.7% and stocks such as Alibaba and Tencent to fall by 5.4% and 3.3% respectively.
Democratic Republic of Congo, heavy attack against Adf rebels. Tuesday, November 30, the spokesman of the Congolese Ministry of Communications, Patrick Muyaya, announced the start of a targeted and concerted action with the Ugandan army against the terrorist positions of the Allied Democratic Forces (AF), a rebel armed group present in the eastern part of the DRC. The attack was conducted by Uganda with artillery fire and even air raids, which would have heavily weakened the forces of the rebel group.
South Africa, boom of Covid infections. A week ago the Covid infections recorded in one day in the South African country were about 1200. On Wednesday, December 2, just seven days later, a record 8561 new infections were recorded in the country. According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the alarming growth rate of over 400% is mainly due to the new Omicron variant. The NICDv has shown that 74% of samples sequenced in the last month are characterized by this variant, discovered in early November in the province of Gauteng, the most populous in the country.
Nigeria, Omicron variant already present in October? Nigeria's Center for Disease Control announced that the Omicron variant was found in swabs taken as early as October. Retrospective sequencing of previously confirmed cases among travelers in Nigeria would in fact have identified the variant in several individuals already a month before its official discovery in South Africa. A few hours after this announcement it would seem, however, that the same center has denied the news, confirming that the variant identified would be the Delta, and not the more recent Omicron. The denial seems to have been ignored by most of the international newspapers, which focus only on the initial announcement. It is therefore unclear whether or not this variant was already in the country in October. Few doubts, however, exist about the current presence of Omicron in the country, with the first three cases already confirmed.
Gambia, historic elections post-Jammeh are underway. These landmark elections began on Saturday, 4 December, with numerous lines of voters in the capital. They are, in fact, the first where the former Yahya Jammeh is not among the candidates, defeated in the last elections in 2016. Since then, many have been dissatisfied with the transition to power five years ago. After all, the grip of Jammeh upon the nation is still firm, in particular, for not having been tried for the numerous violations of human rights and the embezzlement of state funds. Estimates are of about a million voters in the polls to choose between the outgoing president, Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh in 2016, and a plethora of other opposition candidates such as Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party and Mama Kandeh of the Gambia Democratic Congress.
Giulio Ciofini and Andrea Ghilardi
USA, parents of the student responsible for the shooting in Oxford arrested. On Tuesday 30 November the town of Oxford was devastated by yet another massacre caused by firearms. In the city high school, 4 students were killed. The manager, the fifteen-year-old Ethan Crumbley, had already shown alarming signs about his behavior for some time, so much so that the teachers had summoned the parents to school on Tuesday to talk about possible measures to be taken against the boy. Police investigations revealed that the gun, illegally detained, was given as a gift a few days before his son was killed. The arrest warrant for the parents was launched on Friday: the charge is manslaughter for having inadvertently facilitated the massacre. On the morning of Saturday, December 4, the spouses were arrested in Detroit.
Canada, clashes in the Conservative party for new leadership. The recent defeats of the Canadian Conservative party in the votes that involved the whole country - primarily the early elections wanted by Prime Minister Trudeau - have prompted some members of the party to call for a new leadership, or at least the adoption of a new strategy . What caused a sensation was the expulsion of Senator from the Saskatchewan province, Denise Batters, who after the recent failures had asked Erin O'Toole, one of the leaders of the party, to tackle the problem of change. The episode showed how the home front of the main opposition party is anything but cohesive.
Vienna, negotiations between US and Iran about nuclear deal. The Biden administration is still seeking a return to an agreement about the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran but opinion among the American institutions is not optimistic. These beliefs come from the latest round of talks in Vienna, which raised strong concerns by US and European officials that the new Iranian negotiating team had not come to the table with real intentions to return to adherence to the deal. A seventh round of negotiations in the Austrian capital aimed at salvaging the nuclear deal – which the US abandoned under President Donald Trump – concluded on Friday. However, a direct negotiation between the two countries was missing at these talks.
British Columbia, devastating floods in the region increase fear for the winter. After a string of intense storms from the last weeks seems to be slowed down, a long and potentially arduous rebuilding process will begin for communities throughout southern British Columbia affected by floods and mudslides. These climatic events have also affected the life of rural hospitals, which have started being overcrowded. The third storm in little under a week passed on Thursday, capping a series that made this November the wettest on record in many communities. An evacuation order was issued at noon for 56 addresses in the Hatzic Prairie area of the Fraser Valley. The order was issued because heavy rainfall and debris jams caused flooding from Lagace Creek, Dale Creek, Hatzic Slough and other waterways. Road access is currently limited.
Edoardo Cappelli and Emanuele Volpini
Argentina, former President Macri on trial. The charge? Illegal espionage. Mauricio Macri, President from 2015 to 2019, has an ongoing criminal case brought by Federal Judge Martín Bava accusing him of spying on relatives of the crew of the ARA San Juan submarine, which sank in 2017. Macri firmly disavows all the accusations and claims that Bava is moved by clear political intentions that would aim to defame him, so as to favour the Kirchner government. The Federal Chamber rejected the defense's proposal and upheld the ruling of the magistrate who tried him on Wednesday without preventive detention as Macri is held “criminally responsible for the crime of carrying out prohibited intelligence actions as an author, by virtue of having made possible the carrying out of illicit intelligence tasks”. Macri is banned from leaving the country and the expropriation of one million US dollars is ordered. The former directors of the Federal Intelligence Agency (FIA) appointed by Macri during his mandate, Gustavo Arribas and Silvia Majdalani, and other former officials will also have to appear before the judge. This is the sentence: the defendants are responsible for carrying out “espionage tasks prohibited by law” in order to “obtain personal data and information from relatives and close friends of the crew members of the ARA San Juan submarine”.
Bolivia, former President Añez indicted for coup d'état. Formal charges against former Bolivian President Jeanine Añez for crimes of 'breach of duty and decisions contrary to the Constitution and laws' have been filed by the Public Prosecutor's Office in La Paz. Añez was arrested on 13 March and has been in prison ever since under a preventive detention regime. There are four open cases against her: in addition to the coup against Morales, she is also accused of complicity in two massacres carried out by the police, and economic and administrative crimes. The magistrate, with the presentation of the formal accusation stated the following: "we have already passed the preliminary stage, thanks to the presentation of more than 70 pieces of evidence duly verified, and almost twenty witness statements indicating conduct of criminal significance on the part of Ms Añez".
Brazil, 6,400 deaths due to police violence: body-cam for officers arrives.
According to media reports, in 2020 alone, there will be 6,000 victims at the hands of officers. Therefore, in an attempt to prevent, or at least reduce, police and security force violence in Brazil, police and military officers on public order duty will equip officers with mandatory body-cams: subjective cameras to be attached to their uniforms when on duty. This measure mainly affects officers serving in the most populous states. In the state of São Paulo, for example, the experimentation of body-cams has already been active for a year and the first statistics report a decrease in the number of victims. The state of Rio has ordered 22,000 body-cams and is waiting for them to be put into service.
Cuba, diplomatic tensions with the United States. Visa requests from Cuban officials rejected. The violent protests of recent weeks have also produced effects outside the island. The U.S. State Department, following the violent repression of protests against the communist regime of November 15, also strongly criticized by the international community, in a note received in recent days, declares the impossibility of granting entry visas to nine Cuban officials, because they had an active role in the implementation of repressive measures. The Department issued a statement in which these measures would be implemented against high-ranking officials “involved in attempts to silence the voices of the Cuban people through repression and unjust detentions” and linked to the Cuban Ministry of Interior. The reply of the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez was not long in coming: “The United States persists in the error of assuming that our government would provoke social destabilization in Cuba. It is a rightigli and a duty to safeguard sovereign prerogatives and reject foreign interference. The hostile measures announced today do not alter that determination.”
Covid-19, first cases of Omicron variant recorded on the continent. The first three confirmed cases come from Brazil and date back to November 30 and December 1. A couple was returning to Sao Paulo from South Africa last November 23 and, tested upon arrival at the airport, were negative. A second test a few days later reversed the result. Fortunately, the patients have mild symptoms and, together with their families, are in isolation, constantly monitored. The third affected person is a 29-year-old man who was returning from a trip to Ethiopia on November 27. The individual had completed his vaccine cycle with Pfizer and his condition is good. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warns the continent of the very high probability of variant spread, complicit in the extremely low rate of vaccinated people. South America, including the Southern Cone, is experiencing a sharp rise in infections. Similarly, the situation in the Caribbean is returning to critical levels. Nineteen countries will not meet the target of vaccinating 40% of the population by the end of the year.
Honduras, Xiomara Castro elected to lead the country. How will relations with the United States change? After twelve uninterrupted years of a right-wing executive, marked by corruption and scandals, Honduras is ready to turn over a new leaf and does so in a drastic way. She elects a woman, representative of the left-wing Libre party, to replace her controversial predecessor Juan Orlando Hernández, prosecuted for drug trafficking, whose brother is serving a life sentence in a New York federal prison on the same charge. He inherits a country torn apart by violence, corruption, drug trafficking and economic problems. Although the victory is not yet official, his lead is more than twenty points. Nasry Asfura, his main rival, admits defeat. Although the National Party tried hard to reconfirm its victory, the country needed a change and the vote was a clear sign of malaise and exhaustion due to rampant poverty. Antony Blinken warned Honduras of the strong bond their countries share as he congratulated Castro on his historic victory. The strong U.S. hope, due to the relationship with Honduras of controlling and combating drug trafficking and illegal immigration, is for a thriving partnership and increased military on the border.
Mexico, car bomb strikes prison. El Michoacano, criminal leader of the Pueblos Unidos, is freed. Tula, state of Hidalgo, two cars were blown up to free some prisoners. Amidst gunfire and bombs, nine people were freed in a decidedly scenic manner, worthy of a movie. The attack took place during dawn. A tank crashed into the main gate, breaking it down. The two car bombs created the perfect distraction for the agents to convoy to another part of the detention facility. The operation was organized to bring about the release of the head of the Mexican criminal group Pueblos Unidos, José Artemio Maldonado Mejía, known as El Michoacano. Among the various crimes for which he is responsible, the one that has made him known in the news is the theft of hydrocarbons. The other escapees are responsible for murder and kidnapping, like Mejía himself.
Venezuela, Maduro's accusation of espionage against EU observers. President Maduro has accused members of the European Union Observation Mission, which intervened in the 21 November election process to choose governors and mayors in Venezuela. The president told state TV Vtv that "they moved freely throughout the country spying on Venezuelan social, economic and political life", accusing them of "being more spies than international observers". About 100 communicated observers visited all Venezuelan states. Two days later they published a preliminary report stating that the elections had been conducted in better conditions than in the past, but that the independence of the National Electoral Council should be strengthened. In addition, the observers noted that the political campaign was marked by extensive use of state resources but that nothing was done by the National Electoral Council.
Elisa Maggiore and Giulia Patrizi
ASIA AND THE FAR EAST
China, Twitter shuts down and removes thousands of propaganda accounts. Last week, Twitter shut down some 2,160 accounts linked to the Chinese government, which allegedly sought to deflect allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, part of what experts called an “embarrassingly” manufactured propaganda operation. The operations used photos and images, shell and potentially automated accounts, and fake Uyghur profiles to spread state propaganda and false accounts of their happy lives in the region, seeking to dispel evidence of a years-long campaign of oppression, including mass internments, re-education programs, and allegations of forced labor and sterilization. According to analysts at the think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), the content of the 2,160 accounts that Twitter shut down was often produced in an “embarrassing” way, but provided a level of “implausible deniability” that muddied the waters around the issue.
South Korea, new “War Plan” against the North under development. Last Tuesday several U.S. defense sources reported that the Pentagon, in conjunction with the South Korean Ministry of Defense, would be studying a new strategic War Plan that would have as its main focus the Indo-Pacific area, specifically China and North Korea, thus replacing the previous one, now 10 years old. “The strategic environment has changed over the last several years and it is appropriate and necessary that we have an (operational War Plan) that is updated and in tune with the strategic environment”, a U.S. spokesman reported. The operational War Plan will contain details on how the U.S., South Korea and their allies would respond in the event of a conflict with North Korea. Because the South Korean capital of Seoul is only about 30 miles from the demilitarized zone that serves as a buffer between the two countries, the U.S. led alliance has prepared contingency plans in case war breaks out between the two Koreas.
India, Omicron variant arrives. Last week, the first two cases of COVID-19 resulting from the new variant dubbed Omicron were reported. Two men in the southern Indian State of Karnataka tested positive for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. “One of them, a 66-year-old South African national, had traveled from there and had already left India”, officials said; the second, a 46-year-old doctor, in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Omicron poses a high risk of infection. At a press conference on Thursday, health officials said the two patients with the new strain showed mild symptoms. All of their primary and secondary contacts have been tracked and tested.
Myanmar, airstrikes force thousands to flee. Thousands of civilians have fled their homes due to attacks by army helicopter gunships in Myanmar’s Sagaing region, considered by the regime as a hotbed of resistance to the country's military rule. The attacks reported during the last weekend of November targeted 15 villages in Depayin township. At least seven civilians were killed in the latest air raids on Saturday, according to Myanmar Now. Displaced residents of Depayin reportedly took refuge in forests and other villages. A report by local news agency Irrawaddy cited “resistance groups” as saying that the number of people forced to flee their homes has reached 30,000. However, the figures could not be independently verified.
WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
Austria, former Chancellor Kurz will leave politics. Sebastian Kurz has announced that he will shortly leave his political activity. This decision came after a period of reflection, culminating with the decisive moment – as Kurz defined it – of the birth of his son. The former chancellor had been overwhelmed by the investigation of the piloted polls, which would have been paid in part by the government, following which he had left the chair of head of government to Alexander Schallenberg. However, he remained leader of the Oevp popular party, also becoming group leader in parliament. Both positions would soon be vacated, however, with Interior Minister Karl Nehammer as the leading candidate to replace him.
Madrid, Fifth Congress of Media from EU countries, Latin America and the Caribbean. The appeal contained in a statement signed during the congress of journalists held in the Spanish capital has focused attention on the exponential proliferation of fake news. It was highlighted how the spread of fake news on the web can become an opportunity for the media and professional journalists capable of providing truthful information with their daily work, also developing the skills of fact checking. But this requires the support and collaboration of the respective governments. Spanish government spokesperson Isabel Rodríguez, at the conclusion of the congress, emphasized the dangers to democracy from the spread of disinformation: “We don’t want this to become the new normal”, she said.
European Parliament ready to start negotiations on minimum wage. During the plenary session of November 25, MEPs welcomed the proposal for a directive on adequate minimum wages in EU countries, and also adopted the negotiating mandate. Following the plenary approval, negotiations with the Council on the final version of the new law will begin. Many European countries already have a minimum wage – ranging from € 332 in Bulgaria to € 2,202 in Luxembourg – but in most cases this is still not enough to cover all daily expenses. Indeed, in 2018, out of every 10 minimum wage workers, almost 7 found it difficult to make ends meet. The economic crisis related to the pandemic then further exacerbated these difficulties, highlighting the need for wages more aligned with living costs.
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
Albania - Kosovo, bilateral agreements have been signed. Prime Ministers Edi Rama and Albin Kurti have initiated the seventh summit between their respective countries, in Elbasani, central Albania. In addition to confronting the critical issues between the two nations, they have expressed a joint desire to weave agreements and hope for a common future in Europe. One necessity is the abolition of tariff barriers for the entry of workers, which will be discussed by a joint commission. Residents on the border, an area of about 30 km, will be able to move freely in the other state for work purposes without permits, by applying for a special residence permit with a duration of five years. Kurti underlines the delays recorded to realise what was previously established. Rama reiterates that a strong collaboration can give the EU a better impression. A strong reason for friction between the two is linked to the signing by Rama of the Open Balkans, an agreement between Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia that provides for the total abolition of border controls by 2023 in order to promote relations and commercial, tourist and diplomatic exchanges between the contracting countries. Kurti is not enthusiastic about the project because he believes it is contrary to the democratic values of the EU, conceived by war criminals guilty of corruption. The presence of Vucic, who does not recognize the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, does not even make the hypothetical accession of Kosovo assessable. The two nations have agreed on thirteen measures, which will be regulated by a Coordinating Secretary.
Croatia, Slovenia and Italy, new Agreement on sustainability. A trilateral agreement among Slovenia, Croatia and Italy was signed on December the 3rd in Venice. It involves the North Adriatic ports of Venice, Chioggia, Trieste, Monfalcone, Ravenna, Koper (Slovenia) and Rijeka (Croatia), which are members of Napa (North Adriatic Ports Association). The intentions of the parties are to create a permanent table in which cooperation touches the much felt themes of environmental sustainability, especially with the introduction of advanced technology. Among the measures to be implemented, some will concern the streamlining of port procedures in conjunction with the last mile, the creation of facilities for the monitoring of noise pollution and the reduction of energy consumption, so as to a low-impact use of water sources and the monitoring of entry and exit times of ships.
Poland, the Prime Minister calls for protest against Russian military manoeuvres. The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki comments in an extremely critical way what is happening in Ukraine: “the Kremlin and its allies wanted to change the geopolitical system and disunite the EU”; the recent Russian military actions, the dizzying increase of gas prices, the tensions on the border with Belarus, the situation of migrants between Belarus and Poland, are all clear confirmation of this. In an interview held before the NATO meeting he stated: “bad things could happen in Ukraine, for example, there could be another huge migratory problem for the whole of Europe”; moreover, he firmly believes that the shocking humanitarian crisis on the Polish border is orchestrated by Lukašėnka, under the protective wing of Putin. Although relations between Poland and the EU are not particularly relaxed, Morawiecki puts to rest rumors of a potential Polish exit from the EU, or Polexit, and denies that the government is responsible for violating European laws regarding the treatment of migrants, increasingly limiting abortion laws, and hotly debated judicial reforms. Morawiecki added that Russian propaganda is “trying to exert enormous pressure on the European Union to disintegrate us” and “disunite us all”.
Poland, new laws contrary to the values of the Union with violent restrictions on abortion, LGBTQ+ marriages and divorce. Tougher times for the Polish people. The government is preparing to pass new and controversial laws: it will have free access to the sensitive and personal data of every citizen, women face 25-year sentences for having abortions, 5 years in prison for spontaneous abortions, as well as supervising those who would like to abort or take the morning-after pill. Under no circumstances will women be able to have an abortion, not even in the limited ones permitted by law: rape, incest, fetus with malformations, when the woman's life is in danger. Rainbow families could be persecuted and have their children taken away and all couples with the intention of divorcing would be hindered; all of this will be managed by a special “Institute for the family and demography” and by the controversial figure of a “super-prosecutor” with free access to all personal data and will be able to persecute them in the name of the law. For days now there have been protests by movements for the protection of minorities, rights, the LGBTQ + community, and women. They gathered in front of the headquarters of PiS, the “Law and Justice” party of the government. The law will be discussed and ratified in mid-December and will go into effect in January.
Russia, Lavrov warns that Europe could return to “the nightmare of military confrontation”. Sergej Lavrov, during the conference on European security in Sweden, has dreaded the idea of creating a political axis for the ”management of European security” that would regulate NATO expansion, in order to avoid its enlargement to the East. Antony Blinken stated that, in case of a Russian military attack in Ukraine, the consequences will not be long in coming. This eventuality is anything but far away as, for weeks now, reinforcements of Russian military arsenals have been recorded on the border with Ukraine, especially in the area of the Donec basin (also known as the Donbass conflict). Ukraine claims that the Russian contingent has reached 90,000 units. Moscow disavows the allegations and has moved to arrest three suspected Ukrainian intelligence agents. One of the three is accused of planning a terrorist attack against the Kremlin. Blinken said the United States has unequivocal “evidence of a large-scale Russian attack” but that it is not certain that there will be. Russia denies and argues that Ukraine is massively increasing its arsenal. Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary said that Mr Biden will “underscore US concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm the United States' support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”. U.S. officials have budgeted a table with their Russian counterparts to discuss the Ukraine issue. The conversation between the two Presidents will take place via video call on Tuesday 7 December.
MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
Turkey, a matter of interests. Touching a low of -15% against the US dollar, in recent weeks the Turkish lira has fallen to historic lows, opening up a spiral of uncertainty regarding the country's balance. In fact, despite facing 20% inflation, the government continues to pursue an expansive economic outlook that has prompted the Central Bank to cut its reference rate to 15%, with consequent depreciation of the currency. While critics - including figures who have been removed from public office - speak of "irrational experiments", those in power have the fixed idea that such a policy can encourage exports and foreign investment. The recent flow of money from the Gulf has reinforced the President's idea of "winning this war of economic independence", but without draining the negative impact on the real economy and consumption. In the short term, such tactics may play to the image (inside and out) of a muscular and autonomous Turkey, but a nebulous strategy may not pay off in the long run – first and foremost in view of the 2023 elections.
Syria, "new great game"? For some time now, the Syrian theater has been oscillating between various levels of conflict, often dependent on the signs of thawing coming from or directed towards the central power of President Assad. In fact, the openings from several fronts towards the government in Damascus are an established fact. In an antithetical change of clothes, the United Arab Emirates are now showing pragmatism, to the tune of investments and bilateral meetings, in acting as a frontrunner for the idea of Syria's readmission among the "brothers" of the Arab League. Albeit veiled, the US has also given its consent to Egyptian exports to Lebanon, passing through Syria and thus undermining the rival counterpart composed of Iran and its network of alliances. It is precisely this last point that represents the central node of the field moves. Israeli rumors also speak of a partial retreat of the Iranian brigades determined by Damascus' concerns about Teheran's interference. Although probably overblown, they are the ultimate sign of a broader shift in interests on many sides.
Morocco, military agreement with Israel reopens tensions with Algeria. On 24 November, Moroccan Defense Minister Loudiyi and his Israeli counterpart Gantz signed a Memorandum of Understanding on military cooperation and intelligence. Briefly, the agreement, to be ascribed in the broader context of the Abraham Accords, is defined by the parties as a "strategic alliance of knowledge", in which the collaboration and exchange of information between national intelligence, joint military exercises and the sale of Israeli drones to the Kingdom of Morocco will be fundamental. The formal objective appears to be the fight against jihadist terrorism and, on the diplomatic level, the search for a stabilization of the region. This agreement, however, appears to be a source of threat to neighboring countries, primarily Algeria which, we recall, has recently broken diplomatic relations with the Moroccan state after decades of tensions over the Western Sahara issue. President Tebboune therefore criticized the Memorandum, stating that greater Arab cohesion in the MENA area is needed to promote prosperity and peace.
Lebanon, mediation attempts with Saudi Arabia. The country of cedars is trying to reconnect with Riyadh and the other Gulf countries following the diplomatic crisis that occurred last month. The crisis, caused by the critical statements by Lebanese Information Minister Kordahi on the role of the Saudi coalition in Yemen, could be overcome by the recent resignation of the Minister himself, who has decided to withdraw in the name of national interest. The pressure of Prime Minister Mikati and President of the Republic Aoun was also decisive; in fact, Kordahi's resignation is considered the prerequisite for restarting a dialogue with the Gulf countries, which could be favoured by French President Macron's tour of the region. At the same time, President Aoun travelled to Qatar to meet Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who made himself available for mediation and resolution of the crisis.
Iraq, the Sadrist Movement officially won the elections. After almost two months, the Iraqi Electoral Commission, an independent body aimed at monitoring and monitoring elections in the country, has finally released the ultimate results of the last elections of 10 October. The winner of the electoral competition is confirmed to be the Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose block won 73 of the 329 seats in Parliament; the opposing group, on the other hand, is that of the militias affiliated to Iran, the People's Mobilization Forces, which had protested and asked for a further count of the votes. The progressive party, represented by the speaker of the Parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi, obtained an unchanged number of seats (37), while the party of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stood at 33. Then Kurdish parties and the new formations of Iraqi civilian society, formed following the street protests of 2019, follow. Now the problem is to identify a new prime minister and consequently a government: Muqtada al-Sadr and the al-Fatah formation of pro-Iranian militias seem to have found an agreement for the next steps to follow, but the risk of remaining in the status quo and disappointing the expectations of the (few) Iraqis voting is very high.
Samuele Abrami and Sara Oldani
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
Italy, arrested in Gorizia a Tunisian citizen affiliated to an Isis cell. A 25-year-old Tunisian citizen was arrested by the Digos of Venice and Gorizia on charges of being part of a Daesh cell, within which he actively took part in terrorist attacks. The young man had been in Italy since last August, when, after landing in Lampedusa, he managed to evade the first controls by using forged documents. The first doubts of the authorities emerged after he was transferred to the asylum seekers' centre in Gradisca d'Isonzo, in the Gorizia region, where the identification of his fingerprints confirmed his false identity, leading the Central Directorate of Prevention Police to start investigating.
Ukraine, tension rises in Donbass. After statements by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about a coup planned by Moscow, the crisis has been exacerbated by the words of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, who has dubbed eastern Ukraine a "red line" beyond which a NATO advance would not be tolerated. Putin's statement comes on the sidelines of the Atlantic Alliance summit in Riga, where the focus of the talks is the escalation on the Russian-Ukrainian border, where in recent months there has been an increase in Russian troops. The Alliance's response to Moscow's veiled threats was not long in coming. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has launched a warning to the Kremlin, stressing that an invasion of further portions of Ukrainian territory would entail a decisive and immediate "Atlantic" response. Jens Stoltenber, NATO Secretary General, is of the same opinion, warning Moscow of the heavy repercussions - political and economic - that it would go through in the face of an aggression against Kiev.
Mali, attack against a bus. On 4 December, more than 30 people died in an armed attack on a bus. The bus, coming from Songo, was heading to Bandiagara, a town in central Mali not far from the border with Burkina Faso. According to local sources, most of the victims were women on their way to Bandiagara, where there is a well-known market. According to reconstructions of the incident, the assailants first killed the driver and then set fire to the bus. The perpetrators have not yet been identified, but the region of the attack is now the site of constant actions by groups affiliated with al-Qaeda or the Islamic State.
Somalia, yet another attack in Mogadishu. On 25 November, an explosion rocked the Somali capital, killing at least eight people. According to local reconstructions, the objective was to hit a convoy of private security personnel deployed at the United Nations offices. The attack was claimed by the Somali Qaedist group al-Shabaab, which on its channels highlighted the responsibility for the event. The terrorist cell continues to destabilize the Somali theatre and, only five days before the above mentioned attack, it had been the protagonist of the killing of Abdiaziz Mohamud Guled - a well-known journalist critical of al-Shabaab, killed at the exit of a restaurant in Mogadishu.
Uganda intervenes in Congo against ADF militants. Last week, Ugandan troops, with the support of Congolese troops, conducted air raids against ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) positions in north-east Congo. After the air strikes, the Ugandan army entered the area in question in order to neutralise and search for ADF militants. The ADF is an Islamist group, founded in the 1990s with the declared aim of fighting Museveni's Ugandan government and operating in the eastern areas of the DRC. In recent years, the ADF has reportedly affiliated with the Islamic State, although the actual link remains opaque. In October and November, the ADF escalated attacks in Kampala, prompting the Ugandan authorities to intervene militarily in Congo.
Vincenzo Battaglia and Davide Shahhosseini
Council of Europe, possible opening of an infringement procedure against Turkey. Last Friday, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to notify Turkey of the opening of an infringement procedure for failure to comply with the order of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to release human rights defender Osman Kavala. Other organizations, such as Human Rights Watch had already repeatedly recommended this response to the Council over the past year. In its decision, the Committee stated that it "formally notifies Turkey about its intention to refer to the ECtHR the question of whether Turkey has failed in its obligations, and invites Turkey to present in a concise form its views on this issue by January 19, 2022." This means that at its next meeting on February 2, 2021, the Committee may proceed with the infringement procedure, In case the Court is of the same opinion as the Committee, or Turkey does not provide convincing opinions on the issue.
ICC, human rights groups call for Court intervention on treatment of refugees. Last Tuesday, a number of human rights groups filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC) a dossier of evidence with an attached request to open an investigation into crimes against migrants and refugees in Libya that they claim amount to "crimes against humanity." In collaboration with survivors, the groups (the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights ECCHR, the International Federation for Human Rights FIDH, and Lawyers for Justice in Libya, LFJL) requested that the ICC examine the responsibility of armed groups, militias, and Libyan state actors involved in abuses against migrants, including torture, sexual violence, and slavery.
NATO, Foreign Ministers meet to discuss the situation in Ukraine. Last Wednesday, NATO Foreign Ministers met in Riga to discuss, among other issues - including lessons learned in Afghanistan and security in the Balkans - increasing Russian military pressure on the border with Ukraine. During the press conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO, given the growing tension from Russia, will remain "vigilant and tending to avoid escalation," but also made clear that "any future Russian aggression would come at a high price and have serious political and economic consequences for Russia." According to what the Secretary General explained in a previous NATO Foreign Ministers' meeting (November 30), "the situation in and around Ukraine remains fluid and unpredictable. There is no certainty about Russia's intentions; we are witnessing a significant and unusual concentration of forces that is unwarranted and unexplained."
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, Sub-Saharan Africa
Davide Shahhosseini: Terrorism and International Security, Latin America
Edoardo Cappelli: Human Rights, North America
Elisa Maggiore: Latin America
Federico Brignacca: Human Rights
Francesco Ancona: Asia and the Far East, International Organizations
Giulia Patrizi: Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia
Giulio Cofini: Sub-Saharan Africa
Leonardo Aldeghi: Economics and International Finance
Michele Magistretti: Middle-East and North Africa
Samuele Abrami: Middle-East and North Africa
Sara Oldani: Middle-East and North-Africa
Valeria Lavano: International Organizations
Vincenzo Battaglia: Terrorism and International Security