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Framing The World, Numero LXXV

The main news from the world

Framing The World, LXXV Edition

In the new issue of FtW we cover the latest events in Canada, Greece, Turkey, China and Haiti. The economic forecasts for 2022 show a generalized growth that, however, will be overshadowed by the increase in inflation. In the military and security fields, the New Year begins with already widespread tensions such as the Ukrainian dossier and recently formed as in Kazakhstan, following the protests over the rise in gas prices and the Russian intervention in the country. The hot front also remains the institutional crisis in Sudan, where the prime minister has resigned and in Tunisia where the arrest of opponents of President Saied's manoeuvres continues. The wave of Covid-19 given by the spread of the new variants and its consequences are the main critical issues identified by the latest UNICEF report, which declares how the conditions of children have worsened last year.

All this and much more in the 75th issue of Framing the World!



HUMAN RIGHTS

Abu Dhabi, authorities retaliation against human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor. In July 2021, a prison letter written by Mansoor was published. In the letter, details about abuses during detention and the procedures of an unfair trial were displayed. One month earlier, despite its terrible reputation regarding human rights, UAE was elected by UN member states to serve the Security Council for the first time since 1986. Since 2011, UAE has begun a sustained suppression of freedom of expression and association. Following the letter’s publication through an Arabic-British channel, UAE authorities moved Mansoor to a smaller and more isolated cell, denied him access to critical medical care and deprived him of basic necessities and contact with other prisoners or the outside world.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Kabul, Talibans banning solo long journeys for Afghan women. If an Afghan woman seeks to travel long distances by road, she should be offered transport only if accompanied by a male relative. The latest directive, issued by the Taliban’s Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said women travelling for more than 72km should be accompanied by a close male family member. The document is the latest step of a series of laws restraining women rights since the group seized power in August. Most secondary schools and jobs remain shut for girls and women. According to the directive, car rides should not be guaranteed to women without Islamic head or face coverings. Furthermore, playing music in vehicles is prohibited.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Democratic Republic of Congo, protesters killed. On December 20, 2021, the police shot on some protesters in Goma causing the death of three people, as reported by Human Rights Watch, including a 6 months old child and some wounded. The country is not new to the protests, already on December 18 in fact some citizen movements had denounced the lack of security in the eastern part of Congo. On the incident "an impartial investigation is needed to determine whether the police has illegally used deadly force against the protesters. People - says Lewis Mudge, director for Central Africa of Human Rights Watch - should be able to protest against government policy without being shot”.

(Federico Brignacca)

Ethiopia, some Tigrinya migrants mistreated and detained. Tigrinya migrants from Saudi Arabia have been transferred to the Ethiopian capital where they are illegally detained. "Those who have suffered horrible abuses in Saudi custody are locked up in detention facilities upon their return to Ethiopia. Saudi Arabia," said Nadia Hardman of Human Rights Watch, "should offer protection to at-risk Tigrinya migrants, while Ethiopia should release all arbitrarily detained Tigrinya deportees”. It is the migrants themselves who denounce the increasingly restrictive and abusive conditions to which they are subjected, while Ethiopian authorities simultaneously conduct mass searches and arrests of Tigrians in Addis Ababa.

(Federico Brignacca)

Tunisia, arbitrary detention of former justice minister. On December 31, 2021, Noureddine Bhiri was stopped outside his home in Tunis by plainclothes police officers and without having shown any arrest warrant. It is not yet clear what charge has been brought against Bhiri, however, who is currently in hospital under escort. "The Tunisian authorities - said Eric Goldstein, interim director for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch - have circumvented the judiciary to retain a leading figure in the party most critical of the president's seizure of power," stressing that Saied, the country's president, often uses intimidation against those who oppose his seizure of power."

(Federico Brignacca)

Edoardo Cappelli and Federico Brignacca


ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE

Kazakhstan, a global impact. The anti-government protests and the ensuing Russian military intervention, in addition to the death toll and the geopolitical relevance of the events, have had significant repercussions on the commodities market. Kazakhstan is the world's leading producer of uranium, of which it extracts 40% of world output, and is a member of OPEC+, with a production of 1.7 million barrels per day (just under 2% of world production), and prices of both have risen, by 8% for uranium, by around $3 for oil, even though production operations have not been affected. The country is also the second-largest "miner" of cryptocurrencies thanks to its abundant and cheap energy, but the Internet shutdown in response to protests has also disrupted this sector, resulting in a 10% drop for bitcoin.

2021, time for a review. For the third year in a row, U.S. markets posted double-digit gains, in spite of several variants of coronavirus, supply chain bottlenecks, and rising inflation, now close to 7% (data to be released on Wednesday). The Dow Jones is up 18.7%, the Nasdaq 21.4%, and the S&P 500 by 26.9%, with the latter hitting 70 new record highs over the year. However, the gains are less equally distributed than one would expect, as the five largest companies listed in the S&P 500 (Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Tesla, and Alphabet) alone accounted for more than half of the index's gains from April through the end of the year, while more than 40% of Nasdaq companies lost at least 50%. Given the substantial gains of 2021, Wall Street analysts on average expect just under a 5% gain in 2022.

Technology, a two-sided 2021. Up by 33.4%, technology has been the third-best sector behind only energy (+47.7%) and real estate (+42.5%). However, within the sector the differences in performance were marked. Whereas Alphabet gained a whopping 70% thanks in part to 43% growth in advertising revenues, Apple landed a "mere" +33% (just enough to make it the first $3 trillion company) and Amazon managed a meager 5%. The real winner, however, was Nvidia; the chip manufacturer rose 127% thanks to a tumultuous growth in sales, always over +50% in the last 5 quarters, fuelled by demand for digital devices, game consoles, and processors for mining cryptocurrencies. Finishing 2021 less well, however, were all those companies, such as Facebook (now Meta) and Snap, affected by changes to privacy policies that make it more difficult to sell targeted advertising.

2022, the forecasts. The global economy experienced strong growth in 2021, and it couldn't be otherwise given the terrible results of 2020. Although final data won't arrive for a few weeks, economists expect the world's real (i.e., net of inflation) growth rate to be around 5.8%, with China at +8%, the U.S. at +5.5%, and Europe at +5.1%. It has not all been sunshine and roses, however, given that growth has been supported by the expansive policies of the central banks that have fuelled the recovery, but which have also unleashed an inflation that will not be transitory, as admitted by the Fed in November. For 2022, forecasts predict a real world growth rate of 4.4%, a figure that consists of the +5.3% of China, which is vulnerable to the real estate downturn, and the +4.2% of Europe and the 3.9% of the USA, results that however appear to be dependent on the upcoming decisions of the respective central banks.

Federal Reserve, the markets are nervous. The latest news from the December Fed meeting, which came out in the form of the minutes of the last meeting, hinted that the U.S. central bank could raise interest rates as early as next March, much earlier than expected, and do so 2-3 times during the year. The Fed is also considering starting to sell part of the bonds purchased since the pandemic broke out, thus going beyond the tapering of bond purchases decided in the past two months. This would increase the cost of financing for companies (and individuals) and decrease the expected value of future earnings, which is why the stock markets lost 2% after the news, while the technology sector, even more dependent on the perception of future earnings, was dumped by hedge funds and lost around 4%.

Leonardo Aldeghi


SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Gambia, the Supreme Court confirms the elections. Following the presidential elections of last December 4, in which Adama Barrow was the winner with 53% of the votes, the main opposition party, the United Democratic Party, asked for the result to be annulled. Opposition leader Ousainou Darboe, who came second with 28% of the vote, claimed that the election campaign was tainted by bribery and corruption. He also accused the counting of votes of irregularities. However, the Supreme Court rejected these accusations, stating that the opposition party did not respect the procedural rules required by the procedure for the presentation of a motion. In a final and non-appealable decision, the Court confirmed the election outcome.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Kenya, an attack at the Somalia border. Six people were killed and several houses were set on fire in an attack carried out on Monday, January 3, by suspected al-Shabaab militants in Kenya's Lamu coastal region on the border with Somalia. Five of these victims were reportedly burned in the fires that the group of assailants set on homes. The terrorist organization suspected of having carried out the attack had already been the author of similar incursions in Kenyan territory. Al-Shabaab has in fact sworn revenge against Kenya after the latter provided military support to the Somali government in fighting the jihadist rebellion. Kenyan soldiers have been stationed in Somalia for more than a decade.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Burkina Faso, 2021 was an annus horribilis for security. The year just ended was particularly complicated for Burkina Faso in terms of national defense against terrorism. In the past 12 months, in fact, 1,184 episodes of violence have been recorded, resulting in the death of 2,141 people. The West African country threatened by jihadism suffered three serious terrorist attacks in 2021: in June, a jihadist attack in the province of Yagha caused 132 deaths and 40 injuries; in November, another 53 victims, mostly military, after an attack on a gendarmerie detachment; and finally, on December 23, an ambush on a convoy of Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland and civilians cost the lives of 41 people. These and other attacks prompted more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Sudan, Prime Minister Hamdok announces his resignation, demonstrators in the square. The political instability in Sudan continues unabated following the announcement of the resignation of the Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, the man who until a few days ago was called to lead the civil front of democratic transition. The words of the now ex-prime minister warn about the country's future that is experiencing a sentence of strong political fragmentation and conflicts between the civilian and the military. The clashes have started again following the announcement of resignation. Apparently, the police have again used tear gas against the crowd in Khartoum and Omdurman, where citizens have returned to demonstrate against the coup and call for a real democratic transition.

(Giulio Ciofini)

Ethiopia, released some opposition leaders, the government announces political dialogue. After announcing the release from prison of some opposition leaders, it seems that the Ethiopian government is advancing its intention to start a dialogue. As reported, according to the Government Communications Office, "The key to lasting peace is dialogue, and one of the moral obligations of a winner is mercy." Therefore, it is a significant step forward in the clash between the forces of the TPLF and the government of Addis Ababa, given that in recent weeks, the United Nations launched an independent investigation into the abuses and violations of rights committed in Ethiopia.

(Giulio Ciofini)

South Africa, fire destroys the seat of Parliament. The fire that started last Sunday and was only contained in the following two days completely devastated the Parliament of Cape Town. The fire has spread throughout all three complex areas, affecting even those used for the assembly of deputies. Although the dynamic is unknown, the South African police have arrested a 51-year-old man suspected of the crime. President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke of a "terrible and devastating event," reassuring that the work of the assembly would continue without interruption. Apparently, there was a malfunction of the fire system in the building, which contributed to the scale of the fire. However, the area around Parliament has been cordoned off, and it has taken some 70 firefighters to stop the flames from spreading.

(Giulio Ciofini)

Giulio Ciofini and Andrea Ghilardi


NORTH AMERICA

USA, Biden talks with Putin and Zelensky to resolve the Ukrainian crisis. US President Joe Biden urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to take steps to alleviate the relentless crisis on the Russian-Ukrainian border, warning of the economic consequences should Putin proceed with the invasion. Putin made it clear that the introduction of new sanctions against Moscow would cause a complete break in relations between the two countries. The White House also expressed its closeness to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, promising him that the United States and allies “will respond decisively if Russia invades Ukraine”.Us-Russia diplomatic talks are now awaited, led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (January 10) and Russia-Nato talks (January 12), in Geneva.

(Federico Pani)

USA, the Omicron variant forces Biden to change strategy in the fight against the pandemic. The new strain of the Covid-19 virus is forcing rapid government changes. The Omicron variant seems to cause less serious diseases than the previous ones but is so contagious as to cause massive disruptions in the fundamental mechanisms of daily life with the risk, as Biden said, that the infection could spread among essential service workers; in this regard the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention has decided to reduce the isolation period for those who test positive for the Covid-19 test to 5 days (previously this period was 10 days), provided they are asymptomatic.

(Federico Pani)

Emanuele Volpini and Federico Pani


LATIN AMERICA

Brazil, the advance of Lula's presidential bid. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's clear lead over Jair Bolsonaro in the October 2022 presidential election polls could allow the former Brazilian president to launch his candidacy for the presidency of the Republic before the end of February. Specifically, Lula could choose to bring forward the formalisation of his candidacy between 10 and 12 February, coinciding with the commemorative events of his Workers' Party's 42 years. He recently announced that he would cancel the labour reform and review some privatisations. According to Lauro Jardim, a columnist for the Globo group, Lula will also not announce the name of his possible deputy in February, despite ongoing talks with Geraldo Alckmin, former governor of São Paulo state for the Brazilian Social Democratic Party.

(Elisa Maggiore)

Chile, the new president of the Constitutional Assembly is Maria Elisa Quinteros. According to the regulations the change of president was already planned. The strong activities in favour of human rights, the environment and greater recognition of indigenous communities are the reasons for the election as president of the epidemiologist Quinteros, who will have the task of drafting a new constitution: nine months, with a possible extension of three months is the time allowed to the Constitutional Assembly to complete this task. Chile's new president accepted Quinteros's victory, despite the fact that members of his coalition had supported another candidate. After a wave of social unrest that began in 2019, The Assembly is now considering rule changes affecting businesses, water and mining. Voters apparently expect a new constitution that will help establish a new relationship between the state, environmental activists, indigenous leaders and their communities.

(Elisa Maggiore)

Haiti, violence does not stop. Saturday 1 January is a national holiday in Haiti, and on this occasion Prime Minister Ariel Henry and a group of ministers following him were targeted by an armed group. The Prime Minister was released unharmed, but in the shooting one of the men following Henry lost his life. Only 7 months after the attack that killed the Haitian President Jovanel Moise, the violence of the armed groups, which are now proliferating on national territory, returns to attack. Since the death of the former President, the political crisis in the country is evident.

(Ludovica Costantini)

Nicaragua, from Taiwan to China. Former Sandinista guerrilla fighter Ortega, now President of Nicaragua, announced the recognition of the People's Republic of China as "the only legitimate government representing all of China", effectively refusing to acknowledge Taiwan. In this way, the South American country has re-established relations with the Asian giant, becoming the 181st country in the world to recognize "only one China". In Latin America, only Guatemala and Belize remain on the Taiwan side. This decision has already sparked the reaction of the United States, which considers it the move of a dictatorship rather than the will of a country. And although Nicaragua has been fluctuating between China and Taiwan over the years, for now Ortega's decision seems definitive.

(Ludovica Costantini)

Peru, 500.000 native trees planted in Machu Picchu. The Andean News Agency reports that the National Service of Protected Natural Areas (Sernanp) has achieved the ambitious goal of planting 500,000 native trees in the historic holy Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, which is celebrating 41 years since its establishment as a protected natural area. Sernanp specified that 50 per cent of the target launched by the government of the Cusco region through the campaign 'One million trees for the historical sanctuary of Machu Picchu' has been reached. The reforestation of this area (an area of around 780 hectares) aims to encourage the planting of trees of indigenous species to restore areas degraded by forest fires. Machu Picchu not only preserves impressive archaeological complexes and monuments of high historical and cultural value, but is also one of the country's richest places in terms of biodiversity.

(Elisa Maggiore)

Colombia, the first euthanasia on a non-terminal patient authorized. Victor Escobar, a 60-year-old resident in Cali, died in Colombia on January 7. It is the first time that euthanasia has been authorized on a non-terminal patient (despite suffering from a series of serious diseases) in Latin America. Escobar had started a legal battle in 2020, and after a series of failed maneuvers his will was honored. In Colombia euthanasia has been legal since 2015, but only in July 2021 did the Constitutional Court extend the right to non-terminal patients who have suffered "intense physical or mental suffering due to physical injury or serious and incurable illness".

(Ludovica Costantini)

Elisa Maggiore and Ludovica Costantini


ASIA AND THE FAR EAST

Kazakhstan, violent protests over rising gas prices continue: Russia intervenes. On January 2, following the government’s decision to double the cost of liquid natural gas, hundreds of people took to the streets of major cities, such as Zhanaozen and Aqtau, demanding a reduction in the price of gas. In just a few days, discontent and protests spread throughout the country, from large urban centers to small villages. In spite of the government’s attempt to restore order by promising the return of gas to previous prices, and President Tokayev’s decision to dissolve the government, the protests did not stop, also changing their objective and scope: the deposition of President Tokayev. Over the course of the week, there were numerous violent protests that saw the arrest of nearly 2000 people, caused more than 300 injuries and the death of dozens. The exponential scale of the clashes and violence, described by many analysts as the worst protest in Kazakhstan since 1991, prompted the president to declare a state of emergency for two weeks, and also requested the Collective Security Treaty Organization to provide assistance on the ground. Russia heeded the call, and on January 6 sent a contingent of 2,500 military personnel as a peacekeeping force to Kazakhstan.

(Francesco Ancona)

China, discontent grows over forced lockdown in Xi’an. Since December 23, the city of Xi’an, a metropolis of about 13 million inhabitants, has been under strict quarantine in order to minimize cases of COVID infection, in what Chinese authorities have called the “Dynamic Zero” approach. This approach, in fact, consists of a complete ban on any movement within the city (except to store for groceries or receive medical treatment), the total closure of non-essential stores and premises, the conduct of mass testing, and the mandatory use by citizens of tracking apps. Although these measures have limited the number of infections, several Xi’an citizens have expressed discomfort resulting from the severe restrictions: entire communities have complained of poor access to food, supplies, and medical care. Suffering from these conditions has mainly spilled over online, on the Chinese social platform Weibo, where personal stories have been shared; in particular, many were outraged when a woman in the city, eight months pregnant, lost her baby after being kept waiting for hours in a hospital because she was unable to prove she had not contracted the virus.

Philippines, non-vaccinated people leaving home can now be arrested. Last January 7, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte issued a directive ordering authorities to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals. This directive also includes the possibility of arresting such individuals who refuse to “stay where they are”, and will be enforced nationwide. According to President Duterte, this measure would aim to ensure the health and well-being of citizens, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. “The only way out of this pandemic is to vaccinate”, Duterte said during a press conference, “and the ministerial function of the government is to propose measures that protect the public interest, public health and public safety”, he continued.

(Francesco Ancona)

Japan, a new bilateral defense treaty with Australia. On January 6th, the virtual summit between Japan and Australia was held and signed the bilateral defense treaty that will help facilitate joint training of both armed forces. The treaty will contribute to regional stability and military and economic China’s containment. Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, affirmed the agreement “to be a declaration of commitment of both countries to deal with common strategic problems and to contribute to a more safe and stable Indo-Pacific region”. The signing of the “Reciprocal Access Agreement” has sped up thanks to Quad institution, an initiative for the security in the Indo-Pacific region and to Aukus security agreement between Australia, USA and the UK.

(Agnese Marchesini)

South Korea, grace granted to ex-president Park Geun-Hye. Grace has been granted to the ex-President Park Geun-Hye from now-President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, a few months before the elections. Park, the first female president of the country in 2003, is now in prison since 2017 and has been serving 22 years. Her charges were an abuse of authority, corruption, and coercion. Due to her health conditions, she will be set free next week. The official notice defines her release as an event in line with national harmony. The South Korean Minister of Justice, Park Beom-kye, stated that ex-President Park had been released to overcome historical events, consolidate national unity, fight against COVID-19 and step towards a brighter future.

(Agnese Marchesini)

Taiwan welcomes the US and Japan’s pledge to uphold regional stability. On January 7th, Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs welcomed the US and Japan’s pledge to deter China from weakening regional stability and Taiwan Strait peace. On January 6th, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a virtual meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi. It followed a joint statement highlighting the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. It called for a peaceful resolution of tensions in the Strait. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Joanne Ou, declared that both countries have agreed to block China from destabilizing the region jointly and that they would respond when necessary. They also promised to strengthen intelligence sharing.

(Agnese Marchesini)

Francesco Ancona and Agnese Marchesini


WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

EU, consultations to include nuclear and natural gas into the “Taxonomy”. The European Commission has recently begun consultations on the draft of the Taxonomy Complementary Delegated Act regarding natural gas and nuclear activities. The EU Taxonomy, fine-tuned by the Platform on Sustainable Finance, consists of a list of economic activities considered sustainable for the environment; according to the Commission, nuclear power and natural gas could be included in this list. While the eventual addition of natural gas has not led to any particular dissent by European governments (despite the gas-fired plant’s emissions), the addition of nuclear power has brought to concerns from a number of countries, worried about nuclear waste management and plant safety. The Commission has already proposed some criteria and targets for the sustainability of these two energy sources; however, the document will have to be revised by the Parliament and the Council.

(Bianca Franzini)

Council of the European Union, beginning of the French Presidency. The French-led six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union began on Saturday 1 January. Last December, Macron announced the priorities of the French Presidency using the slogan “Recovery, Power, Belonging”. Among the main goals of France there are: the ecological and digital transitions, the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the relaunch of the negotiations on the Migration Pact. For France, these will be six crucial months, conditioned by the results of the presidential elections to be held in April and the legislative elections in June, and surrounded by several crises, including the health, climate and migration ones.

(Bianca Franzini)

France, President Macron against the no-vax. Harsh were the words of French President Emmanuel Macron against that part of the population that is hostile to COVID vaccines. During a press conference in Paris, the president has in fact emphasized, in very heated tones, how he is bothered by the current situation. Macron said that he is disturbed by those who make of their freedom, which becomes irresponsibility, a slogan. The president also had in the past expressly stated his willingness to “bother” the unvaccinated. During an interview, using a rather colorful terminology, Macron has made it clear that he does not intend to give in to those who do not want to vaccinate, on the contrary, his government will continue to complicate the lives of no vax. The government’s idea is to allow access to most public places only to those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID. “On the unvaccinated we put pressure by limiting them, as far as possible, access to the activities of social life”, explained Macron, adding that “in democracy the worst enemy is lies and stupidity”.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Record inflation in the Eurozone. The energy sector is providing the greatest impetus, but prices in other economic sectors are also continuing to rise. In December, according to Eurostat's estimate, annual inflation in the eurozone countries reached 5%, which is higher than the previous month’s record. This goes in the opposite direction from that indicated by many experts and analysts, including those of the ECB, who predicted a contraction of prices towards the end of 2021.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Bianca Franzini and Andrea Ghilardi


CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA 

Albania, former Minister of Energy detained following questionable fundings to waste incinerator companies. The investigation about illegal fundings, carried out by the Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organized Crime (SPAK), led at last to the arrest of the then Minister of Energy Lefter Koka on December 14th, while Stela Gugallja (Albtek Energy’s owner) and Klodian Zoto (Integrated Technology Services’ owner) are still wanted by the law. Nonetheless, Albania’s PM Edi Rama continued to justify the financing activity, appealing to the legal obligations arising from the contract stipulated with these companies during his last public intervention on the matter. In a scenario where opposition is claiming for a parliamentary inquiry accusing other senior politicians to be involved, the situation will soon see further development.

(Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti)

Croatia, between economic crisis and covid-19. What will 2022 be like? The government is facing serious challenges: inflation is reaching high peaks, the pandemic is relentlessly claiming victims, the economy is increasingly fragile and, as if that were not enough, the country is awaiting massive reconstruction work after the earthquake. The government of Andrej Plenkovic and the civil protection are subject to fierce criticism for their (mis)management of the pandemic. In November, protests in Ban Jelacic Square in Zagreb saw the participation of around 20,000 people against the introduction of the Covid Pass.

(Giulia Patrizi)

Greece, government’s implementation of AI-based surveillance system in monitoring refugees’ camps. Since the migration crisis arose again last year, Greece began to discuss the introduction of High-Tech surveillance, to catch-up on migrants’ management within its own territory. On the 24th of December, the ICT head for the Greek Migration and Asylum Ministry showed to Al-Jazeera its brand-new surveillance system, “Centaur”. This tool can predict and recognise threats such as the presence of guns or intruders, using sensors and cameras managed by its algorithm, to subsequently alert authorities. Nevertheless, because of its hard-surveillance approach and its high-degree reliance on AI, the implementation of the system has been already strongly criticized by human rights organizations. Thus, as part of the Greek National Migration Policy 2020-2021, Centaur’s implementation has been partially funded by the EU, causing additional criticism.

(Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti)

Poland, PM vetoed “media law”, finally putting an end to its lively approval process. On December 27th, Polish president Andrzej Duda vetoed the so-called media law, which had the objective of banning any form of controlling ownership in media companies by foreign stakeholders from outside the European Economic Area. Just ten days before the veto, the nationalist opposition party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law & Justice), managed to get the law approved by the Polish parliament’s lower chamber. After that, only the president’s signature was needed to make the law effective. However, various allegations were made regarding the law’s approval: it was accused of having the intention to disrupt the biggest independent TV broadcaster, TVN, because the majority of its shares are owned by a Dutch company controlled by the American Discovery. The decision was strongly criticized by both the US and EU, eventually leading to Duda’s veto.

(Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti)

Russia, Pogrom Empire. Kazakh chaos and Russian rise. Russia has always had great ambitions on the Republic of Kazakhstan and the disintegration of the USSR, Kazakhstan was a member in the years 1936 - 1991, has not sanctioned the end of the influence that the Kremlin continues undaunted to assert. As reported by the “Novaja Gazeta”, the results of the Kazakh chaos bring great benefits to Moscow, which can return to hegemony. Tokayev has won thanks to his iron discipline and ruthlessness, while Nazarbayev and his entourage are running away. This is the first time there have been such violent uprisings in Kazakhstan. On January 7, the president allowed firing into the crowd, then asked CSTO troops to help keep the peace, as “a terrorist attack from outside threatens the integrity of the state”. The foreign military personnel who responded most heavily to the call were Russian. The Duma, although Tokayev hopes for a temporary foreign military intervention, is making concrete plans to extend its stay as long as possible.

(Giulia Patrizi)

Russia, staggering numbers of covid-19 cases. 16,246 cases were recorded in Russia in a single day. The country is facing very high numbers of cases, as the vaccination coverage continues to be very low and the recent restrictions made by Putin prove to be of little use. Finding different vaccines from Sputnik is impossible. In Moscow, in the last few days, 3274 new cases have been detected, while in the oblast' of the capital cases are 1124. Petersburg follows with 1323. The number of deaths stands at 763 per day. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the infected have been 10.6 million and deaths more than 316 thousand. The Ministry of Health in a note has formalized the presence of the Omicron variant even among citizens who have not crossed borders: “We see in our country not only cases of infection imported with a new strain. In the regions there are already cases of detection of “omicron” in people who have not left our country”.

(Giulia Patrizi)

Ukraine, Porošenko accused of treason, while Kiev court seizes his property. The politician had announced his return to his homeland on January 17, from which he had fled in mid-December. The court in the Pečers'k district of Kiev ordered his arrest on charges of aiding and abetting terrorism and suspicion of treason. The day before his departure they had tried to serve him with a notice to appear for questioning regarding coal supplies. The Court, therefore, granted the PM's request to seize all of the accused's property, as reported by the Russian newspaper ”Novaja Gazeta”. In October, the Ukrainian secret service had begun investigating Porošenko and his possible involvement in the supply of coal destined for the self-proclaimed independent republics, the Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic.

(Giulia Patrizi)

Giulia Patrizi and Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti


MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)

Libya, a new jump into the void. The country enters a new phase of uncertainty. Elections were not held, the High National Electoral Commission decided to postpone the electoral process. The political tensions of the last month have made the arrangements for holding the elections chaotic and contradictory. The commission has proposed a date of 24 January, but this is considered unrealistic by the House of Representatives. The High Council of State is also of the same opinion, suggesting a postponement during the summer. Calls for the formation of a new government are beginning to be heard, as the mandate of the Government of National Unity (GNU) is considered to have been fulfilled. Moreover, the House of Representatives declared the British ambassador persona non grata after the British embassy confirmed its support for the GNU.

(Michele Magistretti)

Lebanon, new year, same economic stagnation. The economic and financial crisis in the land of cedars continues unabated, as the reform initiatives by the ruling class have come to nothing. The only important measure to meet the demands of citizens is the recent directive of the Lebanese Central Bank that doubled the exchange rate of withdrawals in Lebanese pound on accounts in US currency. In fact, before the directive came into force, withdrawals on dollar deposits were limited due to the scarcity of foreign exchange reserves (specifically dollars) of Lebanese banks. With this measure, which in retrospect will cause a further increase in already soaring inflation (equal to 174% in October 2021), it wants to defuse the protests against high prices and bad governance. A double-edged choice, however, authorized by the government and the institutions, which are preparing for the electoral campaign in view of the elections in May.

(Sara Oldani)

Syria, tensions with Israel reignite. Relations between the two Middle Eastern countries have been exacerbated by two recent events: the Israeli approval of a settlement expansion plan on the Golan Heights and the airstrike against the port of Latakia in Syria. According to the first event, Israel will invest one billion shekels for the construction of 7,300 homes to double the number of settlers (currently 24,000). This decision was strongly criticized by Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, who defined the Israeli operation as "criminal, null and void", since it concerns a territory occupied by the Jewish state during the 1967 war and unilaterally annexed in 1981. For its part, Israel considers the border extremely important for its security, calling it a "buffer" against the Iranian militias and proxies present in Syria and Lebanon. The Iranian threat was in fact the aim of the attack in Latakia, where weapons and munitions from Iran were destroyed, which supports the Assad regime and aims to have a regional project contrary to Israeli interests.

(Sara Oldani)

Turkey, quasi friends? Dipped in a spiral of economic crisis and regional (un)balancing, the moves of the Turkish Republic seem to have taken - if not distinct - at least parallel paths. In fact, if on the one hand there is a firm grip on its main strategic dossiers (Libya, Syria, Eastern Mediterranean), on the other the risk of unsustainability has become an influential element. On the Middle East front, where the U.S. are dictating new lines, isolationism is not appreciated by any actor: hence, the bipartisan intention for "indistinct" reconciliation talks between Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. More sensation, however, is generated by the announcement of new meetings of Turkey with Armenia. Certainly not the first historic attempt, but a key geopolitical reading on both sides, aiming to limit the dependence on Russia and its influence in the Caucasus. Favor to NATO with personal gain.

(Samuele Abrami)

Iran, the strategic impulse of commemorations. Two years after the killing of the famous Iranian general Soleimani, the celebrations in the streets are not mere exhibitions of collective memory, but also the lifeblood for the geopolitical moves of the Raisi government. In fact, in addition to the classic anti-Western symbolism, Teheran wanted to impress an exhibition of strength also externally, resuming targeted bombings in Syria and Iraq in the areas of US interest. Nevertheless, the objective is not limited to the regional battlefield, but is more wide-ranging. With the new negotiation rounds on the JCPOA nuclear agreement in Geneva in the background, it is foreseeable that Iran aims at raising the tension in order to sit with more bargaining power. Israel itself, recognizing Iran's increased atomic capabilities, now seems to be leaning towards the Gulf monarchies' thesis: less sanctions against Iran in exchange for increased "military packages" from the US.

(Samuele Abrami)

Samuele Abrami, Michele Magistretti and Sara Oldani


TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY

Italy, the founder of a supremacist organisation arrested in Rome. The identity of the founder and leader of the 'Identitarian Forces Union', a neo-Nazi organisation accused of subversivism and proselytism, the latter aimed at radicalising extremist and supremacist thinking in the affiliates, has not yet been disclosed. The affiliation was mainly aimed at minors living in difficult situations, where the indoctrination was carried out both through the exaltation of terrorist actions, defined as 'white Jihad', and an intensive web propaganda. According to the investigations coordinated by the Rome Public Prosecutor's Office, the characteristics of the organisation resembled those of a real paramilitary structure, the same one operating throughout the country and close to the extremist and white supremacist group Feuerkrieg Division.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

Ukraine, telephone conversation between Biden and Putin on the Donbass crisis. On the night of 30 December, the two leaders held a telephone conversation on the Ukrainian issue, where the increase in Russian military forces on the eastern border has once again exacerbated tensions with NATO, restoring a cold war climate. While on the one hand the US President reiterated the importance of de-escalation in order to favour a diplomatic approach to the solution of the crisis, avoiding resorting to sanctions and deterrence, on the other hand the Kremlin leader called a possible adoption of new sanctions against Moscow a "colossal mistake". Putin also emphasised the need to receive legal guarantees from Washington that would rule out a strengthening of the NATO presence beyond the so-called "red line", a point on which Moscow does not intend to negotiate.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

Kenya, Somalia border attack. On January 3 an attack was perpetrated in the coastal region of Lamu, on the border with Somalia. The toll is six victims and the attack has been attributed to Somali al-Shabaab militiamen, as announced by a local government official. The al-Shabaab jihadists have conducted several attacks in Kenya in response to Nairobi's dispatch of troops to Somalia in 2011. In particular, the region of Lamu, near the border with Mogadishu, has been the scene of frequent attacks in recent years.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Burkina Faso, violence is spreading (affecting also education). The episodes of violence continue in the African State, where on January 5 an attack was carried out against the village of Ankouna, in the center-north of the country (eleven victims according to local sources). According to infowat magazine, 2021 has been a terrible year for Burkina Faso in terms of its security profile. Over the past year, 1184 cases of violence were reported, with a total of 2141 people killed. The growing insecurity has also strongly affected schools: more than 3280 educational facilities have been the target of terrorist attacks during 2021. According to the Burkinabe Minister of Education, since the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, already 400 schools would have closed for security reasons.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Vincenzo Battaglia and Davide Shahhosseini


INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS 

NATO, Russia's demands on alliance expansion rejected. The U.S. and NATO have rejected Russian demands not to admit new members into the Atlantic alliance. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had no say in who should be allowed to join the bloc. They also warned Russia of a "strong" response to any further military intervention in Ukraine. Their comments amounted to a complete rejection of a key part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's demands for reduced tensions with Ukraine. "We will not compromise on fundamental principles, including the right of each nation to decide its own path, including the kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of" - Stoltenberg reported. Under Article 10 of the 1949 Washington Treaty, the organization can invite any willing European country that can contribute to security in the North Atlantic area, as well as fulfill membership obligations.

(Francesco Ancona)

UNESCO, 55 journalists were killed in 2021. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that fifty-five journalists and media professionals were killed in 2021, noting that impunity against journalists is alarmingly widespread. Since 2006, nearly nine out of ten of these murders remain unsolved. Although the death toll is the lowest in a decade, UNESCO highlighted the many dangers journalists face in trying to cover stories and report wrongdoing. In 2021, as in previous years, journalists faced high rates of imprisonment, physical attacks, intimidation and harassment, even when reporting on protests.

(Francesco Ancona)

WHO, new COVID variant discovered in France. Last December, scientists at the IHU Mediterranee Infection Foundation - in the city of Marseille - discovered a new variant of Covid-19 (B.1.640.2) in twelve patients living in the area. The new variant has been dubbed "IHU," after the institute where it was discovered. Researchers identified 46 new mutations in the new variant that could make it more resistant to vaccines and more infectious than the original Coronavirus, although the variant does not appear to be as contagious as the “Omicron” variant. The World Health Organization reported that while the IHU variant is on their radar, it remains confined to Marseille, and has not been identified as a "variant of concern" by the agency at this time. The variant continues to be under close surveillance, and its effects are under investigation.

(Francesco Ancona)

ECHR, decides not to appeal the UK supreme court ruling. A seven-year-long legal battle against a Belfast bakery that refused to bake him a cake with the message "support gay marriage" was lost. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that his complaint was inadmissible, causing disappointment among gay rights groups. The Court, in a majority decision, did not reconsider the decision of the U.K. Supreme Court, which had overturned an earlier £500 compensation imposed on the Northern Ireland bakery in 2018. This failure of the ECtHR to act leaves a questionable gap for protection against sex discrimination.

(Valeria Lavano)

UNICEF, 2021 report: looking ahead to 2022. A brief report of the past year has been proposed by UNICEF, highlighting not only the pandemic that has been affecting us for two years now, but also conflict, poverty and the growing impact of climate change. In Latin America, thousands of migrant children and their families have fled poverty and violence through the Darien Gap. Humanitarian crises have further escalated in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The number of children suffering from life-threatening malnutrition is increasing. Moreover, climate change is worsening the scope, frequency and intensity of emergencies with devastating effects on families. Through UNICEF's support and action, there has been a rapid response through the “COVAX Facility”, aimed at procuring and supplying personal protection equipment, diagnostics, therapeutics and Covid-19 vaccines. In Sahel, Venezuela, Somalia, and Sudan, the organisation worked to protect children's health, nutrition, and learning. The four priorities for 2022 are clear: timely request for funding, disaster prevention, meaningful participation of children, youth and communities in their future, and effective response to evolving humanitarian challenges.

(Valeria Lavano)

CAP, strategic plans submitted: one third of EU states are missing. On December 31, the deadline for submitting CAP 2023-2027 national strategic plans expired. Only eighteen plans - including the Italian one - have reached the table in Brussels, while the nine national plans drafted by Belgium, Germany, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Romania and Slovakia are still missing. It appears that no action will be taken, pending the January 10 vote of the Eu Parliament on the secondary legislation of the reform. As far as the Italian National Strategic Plan (NSP) is concerned, the Mipaaf, in a note, announces an unitary strategy, through direct payments and common market organizations, rural development and NRP. The main objectives are sustainability, resilience, giving life to rural territories, job security, research and innovation, optimization of governance.

(Valeria Lavano)

Francesco Ancona and Valeria Lavano




Framing The World is a project conceived and created by the collaboration between members of the team of Mondo Internazionale associates.

Agnese Marchesini: Asia and the Far East

Andrea Ghilardi: Western Europe and the European Union, Sub-Saharan Africa

Bianca Franzini: Western Europe and the European Union

Davide Shahhosseini: Terrorism and International Security

Edoardo Cappelli: Human Rights, North America

Elisa Maggiore: Latin America

Federico Brignacca: Human Rights

Federico Pani: North America

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

Ludovica Costantini: Latin America

Michele Magistretti: Middle-East and North Africa

Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti: Central and Eastern Europe and Russia

Samuele Abrami: Middle-East and North Africa

Sara Oldani: Middle-East and North-Africa

Valeria Lavano: International Organizations

Vincenzo Battaglia: Terrorism and International Security


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