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Framing The World, Numero LXXVI

The main news from the world

Framing The World, LXXVI Edition

In the new issue of FtW we cover the trial in Germany for war atrocities committed in Syria and the arrests in Congo of the alleged assassins of Ambassador Attanasio. Ample space is given to the critical situation on the Ukrainian border, which prompted Secretary of State Blinken to a diplomatic tour of Europe. Another tense situation is that between North Korea and neighboring countries, which has carried out new missile tests. Meanwhile, the dramatic war in Yemen continues, where the Saudi-led coalition has reportedly struck civilian targets.

All this and much more in the 76th issue of Framing the World!

HUMAN RIGHTS

Bangladesh paramilitary battalion in the spotlight. In a recent letter to Under-Secretary-General Lacroix, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations called for the Bangladesh Paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to be banned. Concern about this battalion stems from the violence, torture and human rights violations in which members of this unit have participated. “The evidence is clear; now it's time for the United Nations to draw a line,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. The country's government has responded with denials and crackdowns on human rights activists and victims' families. The intervention of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations was triggered by the fact that "members of the RAB would be allowed to participate in UN peacekeeping operations" as reported by Human Rights Watch.

(Federico Brignacca)

Germany, green light for the trial against war atrocities in Syria. Judges in Frankfurt, Germany, have begun the hearing on January 19, 2022, in a trial involving allegations of torture and murder by state agents during the brutal 10-year Syrian armed conflict in two military hospitals in the cities of Damascus and Homs. German prosecutors accuse the doctor Alaa M. of torturing civilians in hospitals and a detention facility run by Syrian intelligence services in Homs between April 2011 and the end of 2012. Alaa M. arrived in Germany in mid-2015 and worked as a doctor near the city of Kassel until his arrest in June 2020. He has been in custody since. Besides the Alaa’s individual issue, this is a clear sign that justice efforts against atrocities in Syria are gaining momentum.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Pakistan, more protections for women in the workplace. The Pakistani government has recently approved a bill that aims to strengthen the protection of women in the workplace, often victims of violence and harassment. The law, effective January 14, also takes effect in informal workplaces, bringing it closer to the International Labour Organization's (ILO) definition of a workplace. It also includes a broader definition of harassment that includes "discrimination on the basis of gender, which may or may not be sexual in nature," according to Human Rights Watch in a statement. The test of the law, however, will be its implementation, at the moment it has only been approved by Parliament and it is good to remember that Pakistan has not ratified the Convention on Violence and Harassment (C190).

(Federico Brignacca)

Serbia, increasing concern about recruitment of Vietnamese migrant workers. Eight companies, including Vietnamese labour recruitment agencies and Chinese construction firms registered in Serbia, have reportedly been implicated in serious human rights abuses, according to some independent experts’ investigations. The concern regards the purposeful traffic of migrant workers with the aim to guarantee forced labour in Serbia, under horrible working conditions and at strong risk for their lives and health. The experts make pressure because regulation and monitoring of labour recruitment agencies is critical to effectively prevent trafficking for the purposes of forced labour. They also reminded governments of their duty to protect against human rights abuses perpetrated for business reasons.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

United States, the war against terrorism marked by abuses. On January 11, 2002, a good twenty years ago, the U.S. military, as part of the global war on terrorism, began detaining the first prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of Muslims have been illegally detained since the beginning of the war on terror, often without charge. To this day, despite two decades of thinking about the bay, President Biden has not spoken on the future of this prison after promising to close the detention center. Human Rights Watch, in a commentary published on its website states that "of the 39 men still detained at Guantanamo, 27 have been held for a decade or more without being charged with a crime," many also lack adequate care.

(Federico Brignacca)

Edoardo Cappelli and Federico Brignacca


ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE

2022, not a good start. For the US markets, 2022 has started with three straight negative weeks, with investors frightened more by the increasingly impending interest rate hike than by geopolitical tensions (at least for the moment) and dumping the technology sector accordingly. It is in fact the Nasdaq to pay the highest price, with a drop of 13% since the beginning of the year that brings it into correction (a drop >10%), but even the S&P 500 (-8%) and Dow Jones (-7%), although doing less worse, are not only far from the -10% threshold. Also weighing down were the below-expected result of retail consumption and the earnings of U.S. banks such as Goldman Sachs, down -7% for missing profit estimates mainly due to higher costs for salaries, compensation and benefits, up 23% over 2020.

China, a weak growth. Negative data from the Chinese economy in the last quarter of 2021, with GDP growing only by +4%, inflation below expectations at 1.5% and a drop in investment in property by 8% caused by the repressive measures imposed by the government, has gotten Beijing worried. The reaction - which came on Wednesday 19th - was to cut the one-year loan prime rate by 10 basis points to stimulate the economy, just as other major central banks are discussing raising rates to 'cool' their economies and slow inflation down. Analysts, however, are not optimistic about China's future, with a widespread belief that the excessive stringency of anti-contagion measures will weigh on growth in 2022, which Goldman Sachs has revised downward to +4.3% and for the central bank will not exceed 5.1%, contrasted with the +8% in 2021.

Europe, the automotive industry sinks. Car sales in Europe fell again in December, for the sixth consecutive month. The 22% drop in the latest monthly data means that 2021 will close with a 1.5% decline compared to the already bad 2020 and with the worst performance in recorded history. Particularly affected is Germany, the only country with declining production in 2021 (partly due to the -30% of sales in December for VW). Even the Renault group reports to have produced 500,000 fewer vehicles than expected. The cause, as known, is the shortage of chips, a fact that has led the houses to favor the production of high-end vehicles, where margins are much higher than in mass production and allow to compensate for lower volumes. Chip supply is expected to remain difficult until mid-year, and then gradually improve.

Fed, hikes in sight. Chairman Powell, in a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee for his confirmation to lead the Federal Reserve, said he will do everything possible to control inflation, which in December reached 40-year highs. Powell explained that the rebalancing of supply and demand expected this year should help reduce inflationary pressure, but also that he is ready to raise interest rates. Powell also noted how the U.S. economy has rebounded from 2020 lows and that since it does not need additional stimulus measures, it's time to start moving from emergency pandemic settings toward a "more normal level."

Netflix, a historic drop. Somewhat surprisingly and despite earnings beating forecasts, with Q4 revenue growth of 16%, Netflix's stock lost over 21% in a single day, sending just a little less than $50 billion in capitalization up in smoke, and is down 42% since November. What has weighed heavily are growth estimates for the first quarter of 2022, which were cut to from 4 to 2.5 million users globally (and down 75% compared to the previous quarter), a figure on which obviously weighs the return to a post-pandemic normality and the reduction in the demand for home entertainment, but also the increased streaming competition, which has also led the platform to raise prices in the U.S. and Canada by 10%. All of this also sank Netflix's main rivals, such as Disney and ViacomCBS, both down about 7%.

Leonardo Aldeghi


SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Congo, arrested the alleged murderers of Ambassador Luca Attanasio. This is the first real breakthrough in the investigation into the murder of the Italian ambassador and members of his escort, which took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo almost a year ago. The Congolese police has in fact announced the arrest of the alleged assassins of the diplomat. Six people have been stopped; they are all members of various criminal gangs in the region. Among them, according to the police, are those who carried out the fatal ambush. However, not all of the perpetrators appear to have been caught. The material author of the assassination, the one who shot the ambassador, the leader of the criminal group, is still on the run. However, the police are confident that he can be traced and arrested. The circumstances of the tragic attack near Goma remain unclear, however, and it seems that the group wanted to kidnap the diplomat, and then demand a large ransom. However, the precipitation of the situation, with the subsequent death of Attanasio, would have ruined this plan.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Ghana, major explosion with casualties. At least 17 people died and 59 others were injured in a massive explosion on Thursday, January 20. The large explosion was triggered by a road accident near the mining town of Bogoso, in western Ghana, about 300 kilometers west of Accra. The accident involved a truck carrying explosive material for a mining company, a second vehicle and a motorcycle. Of the injured people currently hospitalized in health centers and some are in critical condition. All hospitals in the area have been mobilized to treat the injured and an evacuation plan has been activated to transport people in critical condition to Accra.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Liberia: stampede at religious gathering causing 29 deaths. During a Christian religious festival in Monrovia, Liberia, at least 29 victims, including 11 children and one pregnant woman, were caused by a stampede. According to statements by police spokesman Moses Carter, the confusion began when a group of armed people attacked the hundreds of people present at the ceremony last Wednesday night. The mass of faithful, trying to escape, hence caused the victims. At the moment, one person was arrested. President George Weah visited the site of the tragedy the following Thursday, declaring three days of national mourning.

(Giulio Ciofini)

Sudan, Unicef denounces numerous violations of children's rights. It is strong the denunciation coming from Ted Chaiban, Unicef regional director for the Middle East and North Africa: since the military coup of last October 25, more than 120 serious violations of children's rights have been verified in Sudan. Chaiban also said that nine children have been killed in popular demonstrations and 13 injured. Most of the violations occurred against adolescent boys, who were often targeted because they were in medical facilities affected by repressive government attacks. Unicef reiterated that children are not, and should not be, targets during conflicts or political events, and called for an end to the excessive use of force against civilians.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

South Africa: Cyril Ramaphosa inaugurates a new vaccine manufacturing plant. Last Wednesday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa inaugurated a new vaccine manufacturing plant in Cape Town. The construction of the new facility is the result of a partnership between an American biotechnology company, the government, and some South African universities. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the founder of Nantworks, was also present at the ceremony, the multinational company that invested about two hundred million dollars in the project. The prospect of the new production plant, according to Soon-Shiong, is to produce about one billion vaccines per year by 2025.

(Giulio Ciofini)

Giulio Ciofini and Andrea Ghilardi

NORTH AMERICA

Canada, Covid in waste water. Researchers at Ontario Tech University have been analysing the region's wastewater since the spread of the Omicron variant began. Although the peak of infections was reached over the Christmas holiday period, researchers have still observed a significant level of the virus in wastewater. This worries scientists, who have pointed out that the spread of the virus has not yet stopped. This is confirmed by data from individual regions: in Ontario, 15.9% of daily positives have been reached.

(Emanuele Volpini)

USA, Airlines suspend some flights to the United States due to uncertainties about 5G. Some of the major international airlines, including Emirates and Lufthansa, have decided to cancel or modify flights to the United States due to discussions around potential interference between new 5G cell phone services and airplane technologies. The companies themselves have requested the Biden administration to take immediate action on the matter. Transport regulators had already expressed their concerns in the past that the 5G version could interfere with on-board instrumentation, expressing the risk that cellular antennas located near airports could alter the functioning of “radar meters” that pilots use to land in poor visibility conditions. In consideration of these problems, the giants of the US mobile networks, AT&T and Verizon, have agreed to postpone the expansion of their 5G service in some airports.

(Federico Pani)

USA, Blinken returns to Europe. On 18 January, Secretary of State Blinken began a tour of European diplomatic meetings regarding the Ukrainian crisis. The first stop was Kiev, where he met President Zelensky and Foreign Minister Kuleba. Then, on 20 January, he flew to Berlin, where he reiterated the need for joint action by European countries in the event of an escalation of the crisis. Finally, the most eagerly awaited meeting: on 21 January in Geneva, he met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to try to cool tensions.

(Emanuele Volpini)

USA, first pig heart transplant. The first pig-to-human heart transplant took place in Baltimore. The recipient, Dave Bennett senior, is so far doing well and is not rejecting the organ. This is the first successful operation in the history of surgery. Since 1984, the year of the first xenotransplantation, the scientific community has worked to enable humans not to reject non-human organs. In this case, according to Maryland surgeons, the pig's heart was genetically modified to eliminate a sugar that could cause rejection.

(Emanuele Volpini)

USA, The Biden press conference after twelve months of Presidency. Exactly one year after the election victory, during the usual press conference, President Joe Biden acknowledged the frustration of the americans but said that the United States is on track to face the challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic and inflation but giving credit to the low level of unemployment achieved during the first year of office. “Our work is not finished”, said the Democratic leader. Biden defended, also, his administration's work on him and promised that he will undertake several US tours over the next few months. On foreign policy issues, Biden believes that Russia will invade Ukraine but threatens Moscow with economic sanctions if it decides to cross the Ukrainian border.

(Federico Pani)

USA, Trump is back. His first speech of the new year in Arizona. Former President Donald Trump held his first demonstration of 2022 in Arizona, lashing out at those he regards as “his enemies” namely some members of the Republican Party, especially those who voted in favor of his impeachment; President Biden; the media. “I raced twice and we won twice”, so the tycoon pronounced following one of the focal points of the so-called “Big Lie”, according to which last year's elections for the White House were rigged. Trump has targeted several issues in which he believes that the work of the democratic administration is unsatisfactory, namely border security, the management of the coronavirus pandemic, withdrawal from Afghanistan, economic issues.

(Federico Pani)

Emanuele Volpini and Federico Pani


LATIN AMERICA

Argentina, it's a climate emergency. A historic heat wave has hit Argentina in recent weeks, with temperatures above 40 degrees celsius. Even in the Arctic region of the country, the data is worrying, as the thermometer has risen above 10 degrees celsius. This record heat has caused a series of problems for the country, with energy blackouts especially in large cities. In 2019 Argentina was the first Latin American country to declare a climate emergency, and now the effects of this emergency are under the eyes of the whole world.

Barbados, the birth of a republic. On 30 November, Barbados abandoned the British Commonwealth, effectively putting an end to the monarchy. The country is the fourth former colony in the Caribbean area to make this decision. With the reigning figure of Elizabeth II gone, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has called early elections for January 19, 2022. Mottley herself, leader of the Barbados Labour Party, won all 30 seats in the House of Assembly, also confirming herself as the country's Prime Minister for the next term.

Chile, the new Boric cabinet. On Friday 21 January, the new Chilean president Gabriel Boric presented the cabinet of the government. His team will be characterized by a strong presence of women, of independents, along with a number of representatives of traditional left parties, which broaden its political support base.

"We promised to do a city government, with the doors open, close and always on the side of the people", said Boric at the presentation, held in the park of the Quinta Normal, in the capital Santiago. The team of ministers is made up of 14 women and 10 men. Among the names stand out the one of Dr. Izkia Siches, at the Ministry of the Interior, and that of Maya Fernández Allende, granddaughter of former President Salvador Allende, at the Ministry of Defense.

(Ludovica Costantini)

Colombia, elections in 2022. Ingrid Betancourt has announced that she will run for the Colombian presidential elections scheduled for May 2022. The politician had been kidnapped by the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) in 2002, also during the election campaign, and remained hostage for six years. Betancourt will participate in the electoral competition with the environmentalist centrist party Partido Verde Oxígeno, in the coalition Coalición Centro Esperanza. "I'm here to finish what I started in 2002 - were Betancourt's words at the announcement of the candidacy - I'm here to claim the rights of 51 million Colombians who cannot count on justice, since we live in a system designed to reward the criminals".

Ludovica Costantini


ASIA AND THE FAR EAST

China’s outward direct investments continued to grow in 2021. Last year, the outward direct investment for the People’s Republic of China grew by 2,2% annually, reaching 936,89 billion yuan. These are the data given from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. If we compare these figures in USD, the outward direct investment has grown by 9,2% more than in 2020, with an estimated value of 145 billion dollars. Moreover, it has been noted that non-financial investments have increased 14% in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In 2021, more than 560 foreign projects were signed, especially in the infrastructure and transport sectors; their value is estimated to be more than 100 million dollars, 46 more than those in the previous year. According to the data provided by the Ministry, at the end of 2021, investments in economic and commercial foreign cooperation zones have reached 50,7 billion dollars, creating more than 392.000 new jobs.

(Agnese Marchesini)

Japan signed a joint statement in the Non-Proliferation Treaty with the United States. The joint statement in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) between the Japanese and American governments has been signed to achieve better cooperation towards a world without nuclear weapons. Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, mentioned the signing of the plenary session at the House of Councillors and highlighted the importance of reaching all countries with nuclear weapons, especially the United States. For Kishida and its government, the Non-Proliferation Treaty is essential, notably for atomic weapons. Nevertheless, being a crucial treaty, cooperation with powers that hold nuclear weapons is still challenging because no one has disarmament effectively. Japan stays dependent on the United States and its nuclear weapons because of the constant growth and development of the North Korean threat.

(Agnese Marchesini)

North Korea carried out new missile tests. On Jan. 17, North Korea confirmed that it conducted its fourth weapons test this month, launching two tactical guided missiles, the latest in a series of nuclear weapons tests, despite United Nations sanctions. The Academy of Defense Sciences conducted a test of tactical guided missiles from the west of the country, and they “precisely hit an island target” off the east coast. The launches were detected by both Japan and South Korea, which said the test took place at Pyongyang’s airport and involved two short-range ballistic missiles. “The test fire was aimed at selectively evaluating the tactical guided missiles produced and deployed and testing the accuracy of the weapon system”, the North Korean Central Media Agency (KCNA) reported.

(Francesco Ancona)

South Korea, new partnership signed with Riyad. Saudi Arabia and South Korea recently agreed to jointly implement 35 intellectual property projects. A memorandum of understanding was signed on the sidelines of the Saudi-Korean Investment Forum in Riyadh by Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Suwailem, chief executive officer of the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, and Dr. Kim Yong Rae, commissioner of the Korean Intellectual Property Office, in the presence of Korean President Moon Jae-in. The agreement, according to a statement, “strengthens the strategic partnership between South Korea and Saudi Arabia”, and will result in the posting of Korean intellectual property experts to Riyad. Under the agreement, the two sides will meet regularly to review and evaluate its implementation and “suggest complementary measures or future plans if necessary”.

(Francesco Ancona)

Taiwan, new air raids by China. Last January 20, a Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ); it would be the 17th intrusion this month. A single Shaanxi Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew over the southwest corner of Taiwan’s ADIZ, according to the Ministry of National Defense (MND). In response, Taiwan sent aircraft, issued radio alerts, and deployed air defense missile systems to monitor the PLAAF aircraft. China has sent its aircraft into Taiwan’s identification zone every day this month except Jan. 3, 9, and 16. A total of 69 Chinese aircraft have been spotted there so far since the beginning of the year, including 45 fighter jets and 24 spotter planes. Since September 2020, China has increased gray zone tactics by routinely sending aircraft into Taiwan's ADIZ. In 2021, a total of 961 Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan's ADIZ in 239 days, according to the MND.

(Francesco Ancona)

Tonga, the eruption of the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai. On 15 January, an explosion and subsequent tsunami overwhelmed the Tonga zone situated in the southern Pacific Ocean. The dramatic event has destroyed the coasts and has hit more than 100.000 people, among which there are three victims. Not even Tongatapu island, where most of the population lives, has been spared. The ashes also hit water reservoirs, which could cause water and air diseases and a lack of fuel. According to NASA, the eruption had 500 times more power than Hiroshima's atomic bomb at the end of World War II. The explosion also seems to be one of the loudest since 1883, when the eruption of Krakatoa, an Indonesian volcano, took place.

(Agnese Marchesini)

Francesco Ancona and Agnese Marchesini


WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

Denmark, new troubles for the secret services. Lars Findsen, head of the Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, Denmark’s military intelligence service, has been arrested and accused of having shared state secrets. There is little news about the case outside Denmark, but this seems to be linked to the big scandal that hit FE between 2020 and 2021, when it was discovered that the Danish intelligence services had collaborated with the US National Security Agency during cases of spying on some European politicians. According to Politiken, these incidents can lead to extremely serious consequences not only for Denmark, but also for EU and NATO countries. The investigation is still ongoing.

(Bianca Franzini)

Germany and the Vatican, pedophilia cases in Munich. A new scandal for cases of pedophilia committed by priests in Bavaria, in the Archdiocese of Munich, causes an earthquake that reaches as far as Rome, in the Vatican. The victims of abuse committed between 1945 and 2019 are almost 500, mostly young males between 8 and 14 years old. More than 200 people were involved within the diocese. Even Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger is accused of having covered up these behaviors in at least 4 cases, relative to the period in which he was Archbishop of Munich. Ratzinger responded with an official note, defending himself and affirming that he has never covered up abuses and that he has always behaved as he should.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

UK, party-gate puts Boris Johnson under further strain. The scandal linked to the parties held in Downing Street in spring and December 2020, during the lockdown, in which Prime Minister Johnson also participated, continues. Criticism is coming not only from the opposition but now also from within the Conservative party which seems to have begun to discuss a possible successor to Johnson. Although the investigation is still ongoing and no replacement process has begun, Johnson’s position seems increasingly at risk. Already criticised for his actions in a number of situations, including his handling of the pandemic and the English Channel migration crisis, the party-gate further damages the Prime Minister’s reputation, not only in the UK.

(Bianca Franzini)

Europe, different and contrasting anti-COVID measures. The Old Continent has been the epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic in recent months, with high numbers of infected people almost everywhere. However, to date, different European countries are taking different paths to deal with the pandemic in the coming months. Outside the EU, Britain, according to the latest rumors, is preparing to soften measures. Boris Johnson is planning to remove the obligation of self-isolation and quarantine for those who test positive for Coronavirus. A clear step, criticized by many, but that wants to go in the direction of coexistence with the virus. Even in Austria there have been controversies for a recent government decision, which goes however in the opposite direction of the English one. In fact, Vienna has made the vaccine mandatory for all adults; in France, on the other hand, it has been decided to adopt the Super Green Pass, while removing the obligation to wear masks outdoors. EU Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, speaking at the extraordinary meeting of EU Health Ministers, said that fragmentation and discrepant messages spread by politicians and media increase uncertainty in the population, thus weakening confidence in the measures and reducing the sense of acceptance of the restrictions.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

European Union in mourning for the passing of President David Sassoli. Only on the day of his passing, January 11, 2022, news had spread of his hospitalization in Italy for the onset of a serious complication due to an immune system dysfunction. He himself, a couple of months before, had spoken publicly about his illness in a video published on Twitter. Grief and dismay in a Brussels with flags at half-mast and across Europe for the loss of the President of the European Parliament. “A staunch pro-European, a sincere democrat and a good man”, was how European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen remembered him, later emphasizing when this is a great loss for the whole of Europe.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

European Parliament, Roberta Metsola is the newly elected president. Since January 18 2022, Maltese centre-right MEP Roberta Metsola has been President of the European Parliament following the passing of David Sassoli. After Simone Weil and Nicole Fontaine, she is the third woman to lead the Parliament. Metsola has progressive positions on important issues such as immigration, corruption, LGBTQ+ rights and the rule of law, but she is against the right to abortion (Malta is the only country of the EU where the voluntary termination of pregnancy is still illegal). Although in her speech after taking office she announced that on this issue she will promote the initiatives and decisions of the majority of the European Parliament, her anti-abortion positions are worrying, especially at a time when many women in Europe are fighting for this right (for example in Poland, whose government tries to deprive women of the right to abortion, or in Molise, Italy, where there is only one doctor performing abortions).

(Bianca Franzini)

Bianca Franzini and Andrea Ghilardi


CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA

Bulgaria and North Macedonia, new talks and détente? In 2022, North Macedonia has a new government, headed by Social Democrat Dimitar Kovačevski, who will have to catalyse his efforts to overcome the impasse with Bulgaria. At the end of 2021, the country blocked its entry procedure again, and the two will have to come to a common point to resume negotiations. To this end, Kovačevski met Petkov to intensify attempts at dialogue. At the meeting in Skopje, Bulgaria finally decided to abandon the diatribe over the use of the name “North Macedonia” in international organizations. The name, according to the Bulgarian point of view, implied enemy territorial claims. Skopje, in a note to the UN, formalised the desire to use this term and claimed that it had nothing to do with the territorial claims imputed. The working groups, with weekly appointments, will intervene in five areas: economy, infrastructure, EU integration, culture and historical issues.

Montenegro, between “temporary” landfills and lack of environmental protection. In 2003, in Niksic, the local municipality decided to install a temporary landfill, a source of huge income for the municipality itself and the owner of the land. For almost ten years, every single day, Montenegrin authorities have been throwing 50 tons of waste in the landfill of Mislov Do, a few kilometers away from the city. As reported by the CIN-CG (Center for Investigative Journalist Montenegro) journalistic investigation, that centre disposed of waste from other municipalities, although this involved an explicit violation of the lease agreement. Aleksandar Perovic, Director of the environmental NGO based in Niksic Ozon, believes that «The law prohibits the mixing of hazardous waste with municipal waste and that is precisely why we say that this place is an environmental time bomb». The damage affects the aquifers, the soil and the air.
Russia and Ukraine, will it be war? Tensions are growing thanks to the increasing accumulation of Russian arsenals on the border. The Kremlin denies allegations of a potential invasion, while Ukraine is in alarm. The ultimatums of Western countries have been of no avail. The US and NATO describe border movements as “unusual”. President Zelensky had a telephone conversation with Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, during which he reiterated the need for tougher sanctions for Russia, the necessity to carry on a joint effort to prevent the escalation of the conflict, and thanked the EU financial aid it is receiving. Despite warnings from Biden and European leaders of strong repercussions should Russia actually invade Ukraine, there are at least 127,000 Russian soldiers on the border, including 21,000 air and sea personnel, a number which could double in the short term (Blinken).

Russia and the United States, will the talks lead to disarmament? Geneva, 21st January. Antony Blinken's words to his Russian colleague Lavrov raise few doubts and great fears: «We do not expect a turning point in the talks, but answers to the security guarantees» - which confirms the desire of the United States to find a diplomatic solution. Lavrov's reply is icy: Moscow «has no plan to attack Ukraine and has never threatened the Ukrainian people». «Our concerns» - he specified - «regard the dispatch of Western weapons and military experts to Ukraine». Russia expects written responses from the Americans to its requests “next week”. On the other hand, the United States is asking for guarantees. Otherwise they will react to any kind of Kremlin attack, even non-military ones.

Serbia, former Bosnian Serb soldier convicted of crimes against humanity. Soldier Sabahudin Kajdic was found to be the perpetrator of crimes against humanity in 1992 in Prijedor, among which persecution of Bosnian civilians, murders and enforced disappearances. The first instance verdict comes from a Bosnian state court. Kajdic was part of the Third Company of the Prijedor Motorized Brigade. The attacks on the non-Serbian population in the area have been repeated between July and August 1992, when he forcibly took two civilians and killed them, kidnapped a man from his home, wounded a woman with her offspring, and beat a child. Saban Maksumic, President in Office, said that, at the material time, non-Serbs were not allowed to leave the municipality of Prijedor and that, due to the round-ups of Croatian and Bosnian civilians in their houses, a climate of great terror had spread.

Giulia Patrizi


MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)

East Jerusalem, demolitions in Sheikh Jarrah begin. Tensions are rekindled in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood: last Wednesday, following a night raid by the Israeli armed forces (about 50 officers), the property of the Salhiyeh family was demolished a few days after a final eviction order. Mahmoud Salhiyeh had threatened to set himself on fire along with the house, in order to not abandon it, and the act of protest had brought other Palestinian neighbors to come together to help him. The demolition, illegal from the point of view of international law and comparable to a war crime as it is located in an occupied area, was also followed by numerous arrests. This act of force is to be inscribed in the attempt of the Israeli authorities to change the demographic structure and to bring "Judaization" to East Jerusalem: it is a real geopolitical conflict for the control of the territory, which could lead to an outbreak of violence such as the one last May.

(Sara Oldani)

Iran, the alternative trio. Certainly, the military, economic and political triangulation of the first three in aversion to the United States is nothing new. Nevertheless, in recent weeks, the hot dossiers for the U.S. with respect to the tensions in the Pacific with Beijing and the belligerent winds from Moscow on the Ukraine issue have come to coincide with the last decisive steps in the talks on the Iranian nuclear issue. In this sense, the tug-of-war with Tehran now seems more than ever hinged not only on Middle Eastern dynamics but on broader international balances. And the Iranian leadership seems to be seizing the ball, raising the tone in contractual terms and joining for the third time in a short time joint naval exercises with Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman. The message is not properly military, but rather aimed at renewing the idea of an "alternative axis" to the "coalition for democracy" of Biden.

(Samuele Abrami)

Turkey, pecunia non olet. Among the many attempts of external projection, the ultimate evidence of thaw in Ankara's relations with those who have represented its major regional competitors in recent years is significant. In fact, following an initial meeting with Emirati Prince bin Zayed al Nahyan, the president of the Grand Assembly of Turkey, Mustafa Sentop, returned from the United Arab Emirates with a series of steps forward. First of all, the commercial and financial agreements (rumors say of billion-dollar packages and immediate swap deals) sound, at least in the short term, like a breath of fresh air for a Turkish economy in serious pain. Moreover, such a pragmatic rapprochement could represent a driving force for resuming commercial and diplomatic relations with the other major player in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia. Therefore, if the announcement of a "peacemaking tour" of President Erdoğan in the area were to materialize, we could witness yet another turning point in Turkish foreign (and domestic?) policy.

(Samuele Abrami)

Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition bombards the country. The death toll is dramatic, at least 100 dead and around 138 injured, according to data provided by the NGO Doctors Without Borders based in Yemen. The Saudi-led air retaliation is in response to the drone attack against the United Arab Emirates carried out last week by the Houthis, a Shiite group that controls part of Yemen. The targets of the air raid, located in the north of the country, were a prison in the city of Saada and some telecommunication infrastructures in the port city of Hodeidah. By the coalition they are considered "military targets", so she did not properly take responsibility for hitting civilian targets, but said, "we take this report very seriously and it will be fully investigated as all reports of this nature are, using an internationally approved, independent process. Whilst this is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further". Worried by the escalation of violence, UN Secretary Guterres condemned the bombing on Yemen, pointing out that hitting civilian targets is a violation of international humanitarian law.

(Sara Oldani)

Samuele Abrami and Sara Oldani


TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY

Iraq, attack in Diyala. More or less in the same hours of the above attack, armed men have perpetrated an offensive against an Iraqi military base. According to local sources, 11 soldiers were killed, hit while they were sleeping. The attack took place in al-Azim district, Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad. Despite the attack has not been claimed, concrete suspicions fall on ISIS, whose cells continue to be particularly active in the area - Diyala province is in fact part of the so-called "triangle of death", which also includes Kirkuk and Salah al Din. The attack is among the deadliest that has occurred in recent months against Iraqi security forces.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Syria, ISIS assault on a Kurdish prison. On the night between Thursday and Friday, a commando of jihadists attacked the Ghwayran prison, near Hassakeh, in northeastern Syria. The prison, run by Kurdish forces, houses more than 3,500 suspected IS members and is the prison with the highest concentration of terrorists in the Middle East. Dozens of inmates managed to escape following the attack, and there were bitter clashes between IS militants and Kurdish units. The fighting, which continued over the next few days, reportedly resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people - including jihadists (mostly), Kurdish militiamen, and civilians. Although the military (and territorial) defeat of three years ago, the Islamic State continues to be felt, proving to be strongly resilient.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Pakistan, Lahore bombing. On January 20, a bomb exploded in a crowded market in the city of Lahore, in the eastern province of Punjab. The death toll is three and the attack was claimed by a newly formed separatist group from Balochistan, the Baloch National Army. Balochistan is a southwestern province of Pakistan, the site of a long-standing separatist insurgency by ethnic Baloch people, where groups such as the Balochistan Liberation Front and the Balochistan Liberation Army stand out. There have been numerous attacks conducted against Pakistani security forces by these groups and, in recent years, Baloch separatists have also been the protagonists of offensives against Chinese works and projects that pass through their territory (as part of the Silk Road). However, it is rare that the Baloch forces conduct an attack outside their region, in this case in Lahore, the second urban center of the country.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Italy, an Anglo-Pakistani citizen accused of evading tax to finance Al-Qaeda. The denunciation, initiated by the lawyers of the families of the American soldiers who died in Afghanistan, was made public by a group of editors working on the so-called 'Pandora Papers' investigation. The name of Ymran Yakub Ahmed, a British citizen of Pakistani origin who in 2017 was convicted in Italy of a billion-euro VAT fraud, appears on the list of people that hundreds of family members of American soldiers who were victims of attacks in Afghanistan have reported to the US justice system. According to the prosecution, the tax fraud was used for a vast money laundering operation aimed at generating money flows for al-Qaeda, which the terrorist organisation used to support attacks against NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan. According to the family's lawyers, the money laundering scheme was carried out with the assistance of several international financial institutions.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

Ukraine, Biden backtracks and raises a hard line in case of Russian invasion. Following the talks at the NATO-Russia summit, the US President wanted to reiterate the Atlantic Alliance's line of interpretation regarding future Kremlin actions on Ukrainian territory. While he had initially suggested a wider margin of tolerance on Washington's part, should Moscow limit itself to “small incursions”, Biden reiterated that “any Russian step” across the border will be considered a real invasion, and therefore liable to a harsh and coordinated response. The White House has therefore retraced its steps, after Biden's first statements had been interpreted by Kiev as a “green light” towards the Kremlin. The Ukrainian President himself, Volodymyr Zelenskyj, has said that for Kiev there are no 'minor incursions', or small nations, just as there are no minor victims, or minor suffering from the loss of loved ones.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

Sudan, 7 dead in an anti-coup demonstration. In a large demonstration last Thursday, thousands of anti-coup protesters took to the streets of Khartoum and other cities to march against Sudan’s military regime and recent killings of protesters. The protests were the latest in a series of mass demonstrations that have rocked the country since October last year, when the military overthrew established institutions and seized power. Since then, it is estimated that at least 72 people have been killed in anti-coup demonstrations, where the Sudanese have called for an end to military involvement in the state and a transition to a civilian government. The country’s judges condemned the violence, while the United States sent diplomats to monitor the situation.

(Edoardo Cappelli)

Vincenzo Battaglia, Davide Shahhosseini and Edoardo Cappelli


INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

APEC, Russia seeking stringent alliances with the presidents of APEC, G20 and ASEAN. Moscow is looking for economically relevant partners in Southeast Asia. Its choices fell on Bangkok, Jakarta and Phnom Penh, who respectively hold the positions of presidents of APEC, the G20 and ASEAN. The sectors in which collaboration is sought mainly regard the political question of stability in the region, including with regard to security, economic, scientific, technological and commercial support, with the hope of a speedy resumption of tourist, cultural, humanitarian and bilateral relations in general. As evident from the the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation’s statement in response to media inquiries, Russia supports the leading role of ASEAN in seeking joint forms of international cooperation to intervene in Myanmar and provide health care.

ASEAN+3, promotes economic cooperation with Vietnam. ASEAN+ 3 is a very important economic partner for Vietnam. For almost thirty years the country has played an active role in its economic integration, until the decision to formally join this group. The economic development that is taking place in the state is also possible thanks to the support of countries such as Japan, India and South Korea which have contributed to a sustainable and rapid development of the country. Vietnam's import and export of goods with ASEAN reached 53.6 billion USD, down 6.8% compared to 2019, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Data retrieved from last year’s estimates confirm that the commercial turnover between the two has increased by 30% on an annual basis, reaching a value of 56.6 billion dollars in just ten months.

NATO, Russian request to let out Bulgaria and Romania rejected. Mircea Geoana, NATO Deputy Secretary, has rejected Russian requests to disarm Bulgaria and Romania, members since 2007. Russian diplomats had “invited” NATO to withdraw weapons, troops and military equipment from the two states, by virtue of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in progress. Sergej Lavrov, Chief of Diplomacy, said their intentions regard «withdrawing foreign troops, equipment and weapons, [...] restoring the 1997 configuration of those countries who weren’t NATO members at that time, and that includes both Bulgaria and Romania». The atmosphere is tense: talks are taking place while winds of war with Ukraine are approaching. The United States and France have sent new NATO troops to Romania. The Russian soldiers deployed near the Ukrainian border so far number 127,000. The Romanian Foreign Minister said that the withdrawal of NATO troops from the country requested by Russia is simply «unacceptable and non-negotiable».

Giulia Patrizi



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: 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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