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Framing The World, Numero LXXVIII

The main news from the world

Framing The World, LXXVIII Edition

The new issue of FtW looks at the current crisis in Ukraine and its economic and security impacts. Moving on to Africa, we look at the withdrawal of the Takuba Task Force from Mali and the Libyan question, where the new institutional crisis could increase instability in the country. As for the Asian continent, we examine the campaign for the upcoming presidential elections in South Korea.

All this and much more in the 78th issue of Framing the World!

INDEX

  • HUMAN RIGHTS
  • INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS AND FINANCE
  • SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
  • NORTH AMERICA
  • LATIN AMERICA
  • ASIA AND THE FAR EAST
  • WESTERN EUROPE AND EUROPEAN UNION
  • CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
  • MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
  • TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
  • INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS

HUMAN RIGHTS 

Madagascar, increasing concern for tolerance on child sexual abuse. In an appeal to the authorities to take action in order to protect young people from the minor-age prostitution and other violations, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reports that most children who have sex for money in the country, do it to survive. As a result of the normalization of this practice, child prostitution in Madagascar is now being carried out openly in bars, nightclubs, massage parlors and hotels. It is evident that poverty is the main driver of all, and some families have even pushed their children into the activity, mostly girls (although male prostitution has increased in recent years). Despite more than 250,000 tourists having visited Madagascar according to the latest 2017 data, most of the abusers are native-born citizens, with the most affected areas involving the capital and coastal cities.

Poland-Belarus, human rights defenders threatened at the border. Allegations that human rights defenders have been threatened at the Polish-Belarusian border have spread in recent days, including media workers and volunteer interpreters assisting migrants and asylum-seekers, who were reportedly stopped by armed soldiers while driving home. Since last November, armed soldiers have reportedly harassed journalists covering the arrival of migrants and asylum seekers. Outside a military camp, soldiers – who did not identify themselves – stopped, searched, and handcuffed photojournalists and humanitarian operators. The military men then searched their equipment, scrutinized their photos, and documented their phone messages and incoming calls.

South Sudan, Radio Miraya represents hope among hate and violence. In the African country, much of the population is living in the rural areas, where information means are rare. So, the easiest means to get information is radio. The project of Radio Miraya is a symbol of hope in a country devastated by internal conflicts. It is helpful for people working in farms, who can listen to news and updates about the country’s situation. Many of the people in South Sudan don’t read and write, so they rely on hearing what is broadcasted. Coverage of the peace deal remains an important part of the output. Important events taking place in the parliament are covered as well, along with discussion shows to different regions, to raise localized themes. Thanks to the station, many South Sudanese have been able to understand the conflict, the implementation of the peace deal, the humanitarian situation, and what’s going on with human rights and the protection of civilians.

Edoardo Cappelli

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS AND FINANCE

EU, the ECB does not react. Inflation, already at 40-year highs in the US, continues to rise in the Eurozone as well where it reached 5.1% in January (the highest since 1997, when the record began) and belied the forecasts of economists who expected the start of a slowdown and on average projected +4.4%. The figure is still driven by energy (+28.6% over last year), but unprocessed foods also accelerated to +5.2%, as did services (+2.4%), while goods slowed (+2.3%). Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, is at +2.3%, down slightly from 2.6% in December but not as much as expected (below 2%). If similar data have convinced the BoE and FED to schedule interest rate increases, the ECB does not seem keen on altering its plans, which see quantitative easing at least until October and rate increases no earlier than December 2022 or March 2023.

EVs, a new king. After two years at the top, the Tesla Model 3 has lost its top position in Consumer Reports' annual ranking of the best battery-powered vehicles to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, described in the survey as quieter, better to drive, with an easier-to-use infotainment system and more reliable. Overall, Tesla dropped seven spots in the manufacturer rankings, to 23rd place, right behind Ford (which moves up three spots and is considering spinning off its electric business). In the top-10, made up only of foreign brands, the Japanese stand out, controlling 4 of the first 5 positions with Subaru, Mazda, Honda and Lexus, with only BMW interrupting their dominance. Audi and Porsche also do well (6th and 7th), while Mercedes does not go beyond 25th place and two iconic brands like GMC and Jeep wrap up the ranking.

Russia-Ukraine: Gas. Natural gas is even more affected by geopolitical tensions than oil due to the more dominant position of Russia, which controls 25% of world gas exports, 85% of which are destined for Europe. The Old Continent is largely dependent on the Eurasian giant for many industrial productions that require the use of gas (such as fertilizers) and domestic heating, even more so this winter given the low levels of reserves due to slow deliveries since the summer. To make up for this (geopolitically) dangerous dependence, in recent years the US has invested in LNG terminals for the export of liquefied gas, and on Sunday 13 February for the first time all seven terminals were occupied. An eighth terminal will be soon opened, making the US the world's leading LNG exporter, with most of this supply going to Europe.

Russia-Ukraine: Oil. Tensions in Ukraine, combined with low production levels offered by OPEC countries for two years now, have sent crude oil prices close to over $96/barrel, at the highest since 2014 and at levels that could put the economies of import-dependent countries, especially European ones, in trouble. Russia is the world's third-largest producer and exports about 5 million barrels of crude per day (12% of world trade), 60% of which goes to Europe and 30% to China. The Brent price then fell all the way below $90 following the (unverified) announcement of a partial withdrawal of Russian troops and a rapprochement in the nuclear negotiations between the US and Iran, with a successful outcome that would re-add an important producer to the global market, but on Friday evening the escalation of tensions in Ukraine erased most of these declines.

Russia-Ukraine: palladium and neon. As if oil and gas were not enough, the markets of neon and palladium are also suffering from the saber-rattling in Ukraine, with increases in the order of 25-30%. Reuters reports that 90% of the neon used in the U.S. for the production of chips comes from Ukraine, while about 30% of palladium employed in the same production is mined in Russia. Neon is used for gas lasers and lithography, while palladium is employed in sensors and chip substrates. The concerns are obviously that a conflict would halt exports of these critical materials, and the White House National Security Council has urged chipmakers to find alternative sources as soon as possible.

Leonardo Aldeghi

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Africa-European Union: a new partnership between the two continents. Last week in Brussels, a summit was held between the African Union and the European Union to discuss many points concerning collaboration. The meeting featured the Presidents of the two international organizations, Macky Sall, Charles Michel, and Ursula von der Leyen. Among the issues touched on in these first meetings is that of the pandemic. Brussels has, in fact, ensured an increase in the doses sent to African countries; at the same time, in fact, the announcement has been made that six African countries will receive the technology necessary to produce vaccines mRNA. Also on the table was a new €150 billion investment package for Africa. Delegations from Sudan, Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso were absent due to the recent coups.

(Giulio Ciofini)

Burkina Faso: Coup leader Damiba officially swore as President. Just three weeks after the coup in Burkina Faso led by Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba last Wednesday, he formally swore as the new President. During a televised ceremony, the coup leader, dressed in the usual uniform and the red beret, has therefore sworn to "preserve, respect, support and defend the constitution"; jointly was also presented a so-called "fundamental act" where the main decisions approved by the military come to power are summarized. After the Constitutional Council had formally approved the appointment of Damiba as President, the official ceremony arrived, confirming the role of President for at least a transitional period.

(Giulio Ciofini)

Mali, France and its allies announce coordinated withdrawal. After a working dinner talking about the Sahel, also attended by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the Elysée Palace announced that France and its European partners will withdraw from Mali, where they are present with Operation Barkhane and the European special forces Takuba. This decision has been taken because "the political, operational and legal conditions are no longer met", it was therefore decided- it is written in a joint statement- “the coordinated withdrawal" from the African country. However, the willingness to remain engaged in the extremely strategic Sahel region remains. France has, to date, deployed about 4,300 soldiers in the region, about 2,400 in Mali alone.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Oxfam, Africa without vaccines while in Europe they are being thrown. A stark contrast, a two-speed world: this is what emerges from a recent Oxfam report on Covid vaccinations. On the one hand, the European Union will throw away 55 million doses of vaccines at the end of February because they are about to expire. On the other hand, only 30 million have arrived in Africa since the beginning of the year and only 11% of the population has received the first two doses. Oxfam, a member of the People's Vaccine Alliance, has decided to draw attention to this issue just a few days before the summit between the leaders of the European Union and the African Union on 17 and 18 February. Sara Albiani, Policy Advisor for Global Health at Oxfam Italy, pointed out that despite the rhetoric of a special relationship with Africa, the EU - which is the world's leading exporter of vaccines - would only send 8% of total exports to the African continent.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Somalia, two separate al-Shabaab attacks. On Wednesday, 16 February, at least five people were killed and 16 others wounded in a coordinated attack by the extremist group al-Shabaab against police forces in Mogadishu. A first attack involved a checkpoint in the Somali capital. According to the police spokesman, the terrorist group attacked a police station in the Kahda district, detonating a car bomb before starting a fierce firefight with local security forces. This is one of two violent actions carried out by Al-Shabaab in the outskirts of Mogadishu. The jihadist group immediately claimed responsibility for both attacks, saying they were targeting six different locations in and near the Somali capital.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Giulio Ciofini and Andrea Ghilardi

NORTH AMERICA

Canada, the Freedom Convoy protests. 15 January saw the birth of Freedom Convoy, the protest by Canadian truck drivers against compulsory vaccination for truck drivers entering the country. For several weeks, the group has been blocking the centre of Ottawa, causing many inconveniences and logistical problems throughout the country. The protest, which originated locally, has also taken hold outside the American continent, reaching Oceania and Europe, where it has met with moderate success. Even Elon Musk has spoken out on the issue, supporting the workers' cause and comparing Trudeau to Hitler.

(Emanuele Volpini)

HIV, a woman recovered from the virus. New hope in the fight against Aids. An American research team at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center reported that they successfully treated Hiv in a female patient, nicknamed “the New York patient”. The therapy was based on spinal cord transplantation obtained from the blood of a neonatal umbilical cord which a generic anomaly made resistant to the Hiv virus. The surgical operation was performed in 2017. Thereafter, the patient was treated with anti-rejection and antiviral drugs for 37 month. After 14 month the virus disappeared from the patient's blood.

(Federico Pani)

Meeting between the United States, Japan and South Korea: the North Korean threat on the table. The three countries decided to meet in Hawaii following the recent missile tests conducted by North Korea, during which they condemned the launches of the missiles. US Secretary Blinken said the three countries, which invited North Korea to engage in dialogue, will enter into a phase of close consultations. However, the North have rejected offers to resume the negotiating channel, at least as long as the sanctions imposed on them by the Americans remain in effect. The tests are allowing North Korea to hone its arsenal of weapons. One of the recently tested missiles, the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile, is capable of reaching the US territory of Guam and represents the longest-range weapon tested by North Koreans since 2015.

(Federico Pani)

The FBI on the trail of the “route 91 bandit”: the criminal has already robbed 11 banks. The FBI announced a $ 10000 reward for catching a bandit who has robbed at least 11 banks in four New England states since september. The robber was nicknamed “the Route 91 bandit” because the banks he robbed are all off “Interstate 91”. The first bank robbed was in Springfield, Massachusetts, while the latest “hit” was scored in Grenfield on January.

(Federico Pani)

USA, CNN and CBS anticipate the news of a Russian attack. After the announcement to evacuate the embassy in Kiev and move to Lviv (western Ukraine), some US media reportedly anticipated the news of an imminent Russian attack. CNN was the first broadcaster to release this information: according to official sources, the Kremlin offensive was to start on Wednesday 16 February. CBS, another state broadcaster, also confirmed the news. However, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby denied the persistent rumours, emphasising that diplomacy still remains the way forward to contain the Ukrainian crisis.

(Emanuele Volpini)

USA, Peter Thiel leaves Meta to support the Republican Party. One of Silicon Valley's biggest billionaires and Facebook's first outside investor, Peter Thiel has decided to leave Meta's board of directors to devote himself entirely to supporting the Republican party's campaign for the mid-term elections. During the 2016 campaign, he had been one of Trump's main backers and now, at a time when Biden's preferences are also declining, he has decided to devote himself to supporting Republican candidates in the upcoming presidential race, carrying forward several points of former President Trump's agenda.

(Emanuele Volpini)

Emanuele Volpini and Federico Pani

LATIN AMERICA

Argentina, agreement reached with the IMF. Thousands of people took to the streets in Argentina to protest against the agreements reached by the government with the International Monetary Fund. In 2018, the former President Macri had contracted a debt of 44,000 million dollars with the IMF, and after weeks of negotiation, the current president of Argentina Fernandez managed to close the agreements. The problem, however, arises in social legitimacy: this agreement is signed in the midst of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, which has already negatively affected Argentina on an economic and social point of view. Further burdening the public debt by adding foreign debts prevents the government from investing in improvements in public sectors, such as health or education, which the country needs. Myriam Bregman of the Frente de Izquierda says “They want us to believe that this agreement is the only thing that can be done. But we answer clearly that they will not convince us that the only option we have left is to bow our heads ".

(Ludovica Costantini)

Colombia, Strengthening Cooperation on Climate and Environment with the EU. On 14 February, Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, and his counterpart, Colombian Environment Minister Carlos Eduardo Correa, signed a Joint Declaration to strengthen cooperation on climate, biodiversity, disaster risk reduction, combating deforestation, the circular economy and plastic pollution. For European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Colombia represents an indispensable partner in the fight against change and in environmental action, which is why she stated that the European Union and Colombia will work together on a green agenda.

(Elisa Maggiore)

Costa Rica goes to the second ballot. On February 6, 2022, Costa Rica returned to the polls to elect the President and renew the Legislative Assembly. In the country the electoral system provides for an absolute majority for the election of President and his vice, which corresponds to 40% of the vote in the first round. Given the large number of candidates, as many as 25, the decision was clearly deferred to the runoff scheduled for 3 April 2022. The current President of Costa Rica is Carlos Alvarado Quesada, elected in 2018 with the Citizens Action Party (PAC), and will have to give way to one of the two candidates who will clash in the April election: José María Figueres, former president, of the National Liberation Party (PLN), and Rodrigo Chaves Robles, of the Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD).

(Ludovica Costantini)

Ecuador, The question of abortion in cases of rape. Until last year, abortion in Ecuador was only possible in cases of disability or where women were in danger of dying. Recently, the Ecuadorian parliament approved new rules on the termination of pregnancy in cases of rape. It seems, however, that the new law has certain limits, especially in terms of time: minors will be able to abort up to 18 weeks' gestation, i.e. four months, while women of full age will be able to abort up to 12 weeks, i.e. three months; finally: an extra month will be granted to women of full age who live in rural areas or areas without medical assistance. Conservative President Lasso has already announced his intention to veto the measure in whole or in part, which means that the law will probably be blocked, delaying by a year the possibility for parliament to deal with the issue again.

(Elisa Maggiore)

Peru, Life sentence confirmed for former dictator Morales Bermúdez. After the first criminal proceedings, in first and second instance, in which the position of the former Heads of State and exponents of the military juntas and security services of Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay in office between the 1970s and 1980s, accused of having carried out repression against opponents in those years, was examined, and after the rejection by the first section of the appeal presented after the sentences of first and second instance to Francisco Morales Bermúdez, former Peruvian dictator, comes the confirmation of the Cassation of the sentence to life imprisonment for the latter, who is accused of the disappearance of several Italians implemented with the Condor Plan: the system devised, precisely, for the repression of political opponents in Latin America.

(Elisa Maggiore)

Tensions between Nicaragua and El Salvador. On 6 February, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declared that some military ships from El Salvador have violated the maritime spaces of their country, more precisely in the area of ​​the Gulf of Fonseca, which separates the territorial waters of the two states. Nicaragua filed a diplomatic protest against the El Salvador government, which responded to the accusations by denying the incident. The country has in fact claimed that that area falls under Salvadoran jurisdiction. The tensions between the two originate with the signing of the bilateral agreement between Nicaragua and Honduras on 27 October which establishes jurisdiction over the maritime area of ​​the Gulf of Fonseca and which El Salvador opposed.

(Ludovica Costantini)

Elisa Maggiore and Ludovica Costantini

ASIA AND THE FAR EAST

China, UK and Australia increase their cooperation in the AUKUS. In a joint statement released on February 17, the UK government, along with the Australian government, said they are ready to commit approximately £25 million in military investment in order to “promote peace and stability” in the South China Sea. These funds would be used to strengthen regional resilience in a variety of military areas, such as cybersecurity. During the communiqué, Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison also expressed concern about the growing threat to stability and security in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, to which China claims exclusive sovereignty. In this regard, Johnson and Morrison recognized the importance of all countries in the region being able to exercise their maritime rights and freedoms in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

(Francesco Ancona)

North Korea, a huge construction project started: more than 10,000 houses. North Korea has begun work on a 10,000-apartment housing project as the country is poised to implement a housing initiative in the capital Pyongyang. According to North Korean media reports, Kim Jong-un reportedly attended a historic ceremony on Feb. 12 where he showed digital images of the massive construction project. The construction of 10,000 new buildings is planned. This project would be part of a larger housing push that has seen the government promise 50,000 new homes before the end of 2025. However, this promise could be put to the test by the heavy sanctions targeted against North Korea’s nuclear program, and the collapse of trade with its closest ally, China.

(Francesco Ancona)

India, 38 sentenced to death for terrorist attacks. On February 18, a local Indian Court handed down the death sentence for 38 defendants and life imprisonment for another 11. They were responsible for repeated attacks committed in Ahmedabad, in the region of Gujarat (historically known for the violent contrasts between Hindus and Muslims), which caused more than 50 deaths. This is the first time in India that such high numbers of death sentences have been handed down in the same case. The sentences have to be confirmed by a higher court. The militant jihadist group Harakat-ul-Jihad had claimed responsibility for the attack in Ahmedabad. In 2002 there were numerous clashes between different Hindu and Muslim groups, in Gujarat, where 1000 Muslims lost their lives. This recent attack would be seen as a response to the events of 2002.

(Francesco Ancona)

Japan, the government announced the decision to ease border control measures in March. Coronavirus-related border control measures will be eased from March, as announced by the Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last Thursday. “The spread of omicron variant infections is slowing down. I believe we are taking steps toward the way out of the sixth wave” he said during a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office. Currently the number of people that can enter Japan has a limit of 3,500 per day. From March, non-residents such as businesspeople, students and foreign workers, will be able to enter Japan and the limit will be raised to 5,000 per day. Not only will the number be raised, but also regulations for auto isolation will be eased from seven to three days with a negative test result.

(Agnese Marchesini)

South Korea, the new campaign for the next presidential election. Campaigning for the next President started on Tuesday in South Korea. It is expected to be the tightest race of the last twenty years. Opinion polls suggest that voters are looking for a President who can tackle corruption, deal with increasing housing prices and deepening inequalities. Elections will be held on 9th March. The famous two who are competing are Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party and Yoon Suk-yeol, candidate of the People Power Party. Also Sim Sang-jung, candidate of the Justice Party, declared that if elected she will end “super-Presidents” elections and give back the voice to the people. In a field of 14 candidates, Lee and Yoon are the frontrunners, with the latest opinion polls giving Yoon a slight lead.

(Agnese Marchesini)

Taiwan sees a new request to revive the Economic Partnership Committee from Japan. Japan asks for a new meeting of the Economic Partnership Committee with Taiwan for the first time in eight years. The meeting was seen as a positive response to Taiwan’s decision to lift the ban on food imports from five Japanese regions, specifically those hit by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. This could also mean that Japan sees as a positive attitude towards Taiwan’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Taiwanese officials described the suggestion as “extremely important and significant”.

(Agnese Marchesini)

Francesco Ancona and Agnese Marchesini

WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION 

Belgium, 4-day working week. Alexander De Croo, the Belgian Prime Minister, announced the introduction of a reduced working week during the press conference on the labour market on 15 February. It will be possible to work one day less, from 5 to 4 working days per week. The usual 38 hours per week will be condensed into these four days, giving the opportunity to take an extra day off. Employees will therefore be able to request a four-day working week for a trial period of six months. If they wish, they can stay with the reduced working week once the trial period is over. The initiative is part of a package of reforms that also includes the right to switch off devices and ignore work messages at the end of working hours without fear of reprisal.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

European Union, Von der Leyen on the Ukrainian crisis. On Wednesday 16 February, during the plenary meeting held in Strasbourg, the President of the European Commission spoke clearly on the difficult situation in Ukraine. Von der Leyen underlined that, from her point of view, there are hopeful signs for a slow détente driven by constant diplomatic dialogue. At the same time, however, her speech highlighted the fact that words must be accompanied by actions. In fact, according to the President, NATO has not yet seen clear signs of the withdrawal of Russian troops from the border, which is widely reported by Moscow sources. The situation is therefore still extremely volatile and both European capitals and Washington are suspicious of Russia’s actions. For the Kremlin, the question of NATO’s eastward enlargement is one that needs to be resolved immediately, thus inevitably intertwining with Kiev’s future. For the EU, on the other hand, Ukraine is fully a sovereign state free to make its own independent choices for its future. The situation on Europe’s eastern borders thus remains poised between a diplomatic solution and a possible escalation.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

Greece, the last tranche of the loan obtained from the International Monetary Fund will be repaid by March 2022, two years ahead of the initial agreement. The country, which received more than €260 billion in bailout loans from the EU and IMF during its financial crisis, has relied solely on the bond markets for its financing needs since 2018. Since then, it has also made several early repayments to the IMF and now it owes €1.9 billion in loans due by 2024, the last batch of a total of €28 billion that the Fund provided between 2010 and 2014. The Greek Finance Minister Staikouras said that despite an increase in spending to deal with the impact of the pandemic, Greece had implemented “a prudent and responsible fiscal policy” and that higher budget revenues would allow the country to return to a primary budget surplus in 2023.

(Bianca Franzini)

Italy, rejected the referendum on euthanasia. The Constitutional Court, called to rule on the admissibility of the referendum on euthanasia, has rejected the referendum question. It declared inadmissible the question aimed at decriminalising the murder of consenting persons. This decision stems from the fact that, according to the Court, the requested changes would not guarantee the constitutionally necessary minimum protection of human life in general, and with particular reference to weak and vulnerable persons. However, the decision to block the referendum was troubled and not unanimous. According to leaked indications, a third of the judges (5/15) believed admissibility was possible. In the end, however, the rejection line prevailed. There were strong reactions from the political world and public opinion. Marco Cappato, treasurer of the Coscioni Association, which proposed the referendum, said that this decision is bad news for all those who will have to continue suffering and for democracy itself.

(Andrea Ghilardi)

The Court of Justice of the EU rejects the appeal of Poland and Hungary against the mechanism linking the release of EU funds to the respect for the rule of law. Repeated violations of the rule of law in some EU countries led to the introduction of this mechanism, which also blocks access to the Recovery Fund. The Court of Justice has ruled that respect for the rule of law is a condition for enjoying EU membership; both countries have been investigated for threatening the independence of courts, media and NGOs and both are important recipients of EU funding. The EU may already require the freezing of Recovery Fund resources worth €36 billion for Poland and €7 billion for Hungary.

(Bianca Franzini)

The European Commission has presented the Chips Act. It’s a set of legislative, financial and regulatory measures to ensure the Union’s security of supply, resilience and technological leadership in the industries of semiconductors and processors The aim is to increase Europ’s share of global microprocessor production from 9% to 20%, following the example of China, South Korea, the United States and other countries that are investing to support the microprocessor industry. Brussels plans to invest €43 billion by 2030 and to propose measures to respond to issues that affect many sectors, including the automotive industry.

(Bianca Franzini)

Bianca Franzini and Andrea Ghilardi

CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA

Albania, Bosnia and Kosovo deny the sending of "mercenaries" to Ukraine. According to Russia Today, Sergej Lavrov allegedly said that mercenaries from those countries were heading to fight in Ukraine and that he would check as soon as possible. The denial combined with the profound perplexity of the Prime Ministers of Tirana, Sarajevo and Pristina was not long in coming. Furthermore, Lavrov allegedly accused Kosovo and the Balkans of being a hotbed of crime, drugs, the prey of drug dealers and terrorists. It is precisely there that future mercenaries would be recruited for the military conflicts triggered by the US at the turn of the Donbass, so as to unbalance Russia. Kosovar cabinet chief Blerim Vela: “Lavrov's false accusation [...] is an integral part of a disinformation campaign that seeks to justify military aggression against Ukraine. Kosovo is with its allies and Ukraine in the defense of freedom and democracy”. Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic will send an official investigation. “If Lavrov has information on such activities in Bosnia, I hope he will share it with our security services before disclosing it”.

(Giulia Patrizi)

Czech Republic will officially support the eventual entry of Ukraine within the EU. Interviewed by a Polish media outlet the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský announced that the Czech government is preparing an official document to support the entry of Ukraine in the EU, stating his optimism about the proposal. In addition to this, Czech Republic is also helping Ukraine by providing armaments. The same Lipavský recently announced that Czech government will supply 4,000 artillery shells to Ukraine. All these actions should be observed as parts of a bigger image where, if tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalate to an actual conflict, the situation would affect the entire Eastern European region.

(Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti)

Donbass, bomb exploded, civilian shootings. Hit a nursery school. Tension skyrocketed. The Russian separatist forces, as reported by the Russian news agency TASS, say that on Friday a car was detonated near the government building in Donetsk. The United States believes that the explosions are a Russian pretext for proceeding to the invasion of Ukraine, supported by the expulsion of Deputy Ambassador Bart Gorman. On Thursday Russian forces fired on the village of Stanica-Luganskaya with “particular cynicism”. The bullets destroyed a nursery school and some areas lack electricity. Jan Leščenko, head of the People’s Militia Department of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Lugansk reports that for hours there have been bombardments with 120 mm caliber mortar rounds and explosions by the Ukrainian army which has intensified the fighting against five settlements.

(Giulia Patrizi)

Greece, the government approves a new arms deal with France due to the rising tensions with Turkey. On February 15th the parliament decided to sign a deal of €3 billions for the purchase of three new frigates that will be provided by France in two tranches: the first two will be delivered in 2025 while the third would be provided the next year with the option of an additional frigate to be delivered in 2027. The perception of a possible escalation of Greece-turkey tensions seems to be real in the eyes of Greece which, in addition to the frigates, approved on very same day the acquisition of six new Rafale fighter jets to add on a previous order for 18 fighter planes submitted to France.

(Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti)

Poland, Ukraine and the UK sign a trilateral agreement to improve cooperation over the Russian crisis. On February 17th, the foreign ministers of the three countries announced the stipulation of the “Trilateral Memorandum of Cooperation”; this aims to reinforce the already stated support to Ukraine from both Poland and UK. In their joint statement, they referred to the actual situation as “Russian aggression” threatening the sovereignty of Ukraine. The Agreement will aim to improve Ukrainian defense over specific issues such as Cybersecurity, countering misinformation campaigns and energy security as well as support the activities of the International Crimea Platform.

(Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti)

Ukraine crisis, “a Russian attack would have enormous human costs”. President Biden called Putin's attack on Ukraine “still possible”; which would have an “immense” human cost. According to the White House, there are 190,000 Russian soldiers lined up on the border. Kiev estimates that 149,000 Russian troops are present on its territory. In addition, another 45,000 would have been amassed in Belarus, so as to generate pressure also on the Baltic and Poland, as stated by the Lithuanian president Gitanas Naueda. Lavrov said Wednesday that the Russian contingents would complete their drill operations in annexed Crimea and, therefore, would be returning to their homeland. The concerns of NATO and the European Union are strong. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has called on Russia to avoid the spread of “disinformation” about the actual withdrawal and asks for absolute transparency regarding their position. New exercises will take place on Saturday and will be chaired by Putin.

(Giulia Patrizi)

Giulia Patrizi e Rosario Giorgio Maria Saffioti 

MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA) 

Lebanon, tension with Israel on the razor's edge. Despite the optimism shown by the US advisor Amos Hochstein, relations between the two neighbouring states do not seem to improve. The maritime and energy dispute, now discussed for 10 years and never resolved, is a long-term damage that does not allow, especially for the country of the cedars, to exploit the natural gas resources in the disputed areas and to recover from the serious economic situation. A setback in UN-sponsored negotiations relates to a recent accusation by Israel: in a trilateral meeting between UNIFIL, the Lebanese LAF and the Israeli army, the issue of arms embargo violations of Hezbollah in the Middle Eastern region of Lebanon was raised by Israel. However, detecting the violation is very complicated, given the "fusion" between the armed wing of the Shiite movement and the Lebanese army since the post-civil war.

(Sara Oldani)

Libya, two prime ministers? On February 10, the House of Representatives in Tobruk, the political organ of the country's eastern region, appointed as its new prime minister Fathi Bashaga, a Misurata politician with ties to Cyrenaica. The premier of the Government of National Unity, Abdulhamid Dabaiba, called the vote a farce. Later, during the celebrations for the anniversary of the Revolution, he urged Libyans to support him in a speech and reiterated that he would not resign and would work to bring the country to elections. In the meantime, the risk of tensions rises, Dabaiba could mobilise militias loyal to him to maintain power and Bashaga could trigger new escalations, strong with the support of Cyrenaica and part of the factions that make up the political landscape of Tripolitania.

(Michele Magistretti)

Israel, a new historic visit. After having travelled to the United Arab Emirates last December, the Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, arrived in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. During his visit, the head of the Israeli government met the sovereign, Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, the crown prince, Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa, and numerous ministers. The trip is part of the political and diplomatic framework of the new climate of cooperation inaugurated by the Abrahamic Agreements. During the meetings, the representatives of the respective countries discussed how to deepen the partnership in the fields of economics, innovation, tourism and security, particularly with regard to the containment of Iranian influence. In addition, the Israeli premier met with fifty members of the local Jewish community and the commander of the US Fifth Fleet.

(Michele Magistretti)

Iran, close to an agreement? "Only once the compliance with the initial measures is verified, the main phase of the removal of sanctions will be initiated, culminating on the so-called Re-Implementation Day." These are the premises of the Iran nuclear deal that is in the process of being approved. Nevertheless, faced with an Iran that continues to enrich uranium in percentages close to military use, the United States restrain the more flexible approach of European allies. In fact, if a progressive easing of sanctions and the unfreezing of some Iranian treasuries are among Washington's intentions, the theme of discord - and of primary importance - is the role of oil. In this sense, the U.S. idea is to hold in check a sincere Iranian commitment to the negotiating terms through a maintenance of market prices, without favorable discounts. But with the Ukrainian crisis in the middle, the American leverage could fail, as much towards Teheran as towards the Western partners.

(Samuele Abrami)

Turkey, the military peace tour. As predicted, last week saw the materialization of President Erdogan’s long-awaited visit to the United Arab Emirates. The grandiose welcome is a sign of a clear change of pace in Turkey's relations with Abu Dhabi and, as a consequence, with other regional players, on some main points. First, the rapprochement marks the end of open conflict: Ankara is abandoning the Muslim Brotherhood and has stated its neutrality in the new Libyan imbalances, while the Emirates has promised to be the economic forerunner to Turkish business in the country. Moreover, alongside military agreements, there are significant steps forward in military matters, thanks to the "race for Turkish drones" which have appeared infallible in various recent conflicts. As a result, while recalibrating its brazenness, Turkey seems to be able to readjust to the US disinterest in the region, reducing its conflictuality and securing a primary role in low-intensity conflicts.

(Samuele Abrami)

Michele Magistretti, Samuele Abrami and Sara Oldani

TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY

Mali, France and its allies announce withdrawal from the African country. Through a joint statement, Paris and its Western partners have made official the withdrawal of their respective military forces from Mali. This decision puts an end, in fact, to the anti-terrorism mission - Operation Barkhane - launched by France in 2014 and later expanded with the involvement of European and regional actors in the framework of the Task Force "Takuba". In the joint note, as the motivation behind the withdrawal, Paris and its allies have made a clear reference to the deterioration of relations with Bamako, stressing that, since the installation of the military junta following the coup last May, the political, operational and legal conditions to continue military cooperation have been broken out. However, French President Macron wanted to emphasize the will of the Elysée to continue the fight against jihadist terrorism in the Sahel, envisaging a redefinition of the terms of the military presence in the region by next summer.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

Syria, Missile attack launched from Israel hits Damascus. Syrian state media have reported damages in the city of Zakiya, south of Damascus, after the strike of an SSM missile (Surface to Surface Missile) from Israel. The attack, the second hitting Syria this month, was carried out from the Golan Heights area, annexed to Israel. The previous attack from Israel was shot on February 9th, 2022, when anti-aircraft batteries in Syria were hit in response to a missile previously fired from Syrian territories. Israeli missile attacks towards Syria started in 2011, and since then have been aimed at fighting the presumed presence of Iranian armed groups – such as Quds Force- in the south of Damascus.

(Laura Salvemini)

Ukraine, Biden: “Putin has decided for the invasion”. At the end of the video conference held with NATO allied leaders, U.S. President Biden, during the press conference, said that the latest events in the Donbass, the mass evacuation of civilians and a series of explosions that hit the center of Donetsk and the “Druzhba” gas pipeline, clearly reflect Moscow's willingness to come to a pretext to invade. Biden also added that the U.S. and its allies will continue to keep the door of diplomacy and negotiations with Russia open, confirming the February 23 meeting, the latter requested by Moscow, between Secretary of State Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, unless the situation in Ukraine does not get worse.

(Davide Shahhosseini)

United Arab Emirates call for the end of the appeasement of the Houthi terrorist group in Yemen during a UNSC briefing. During the meeting, on February 16th, the UAE underlined their sovereign right to adopt the necessary measures to protect the security and stability of their territories, as well as the security of their citizens and residents from possible terrorist attacks. The UAE representatives highlighted how the terrorist attacks committed by Houthi are in violation of international law, perpetuating despite the condemnation from the UNSC and more than 120 countries and international organizations. The UAE Ambassador Nusseibeh reaffirmed the necessity to contrast the aggressive attitude of Houthi, calling for the adoption of stricter measures from the international community in order to block the group’s attempts to control the Yemeni area. The ambassador negatively judged the possibility of resuming negotiations with the group, considering the previous failures.

(Laura Salvemini)

Davide Shahhosseini and Laura Salvemini

INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

CSTO, The post-soviet security bloc has called for closer counter-terrorism cooperation with UN. The Collective Security Treaty Organization held a debate on February 16th with the UN to call on closer cooperation in countering terrorism. The CSTO originated from the Collective Security Treaty, signed in 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union. The meeting held the past week was the third meeting on the CSTO organized by Russia in recent years. According to its head Stanislav Zas, the organization has developed practices in order to deprive international terrorist organizations of breeding ground. One of the main security services conducted from the organization, “Mercenary”, had the aim of eliminating recruiting channels of nationals of the CSTO countries and neutralizing their resource bases.

(Laura Salvemini)

IAEA, The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) admitted to helping Egypt and Saudi Arabia with nuclear power. The head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, admitted on Wednesday that the organization has been helping Egypt and Saudi Arabia to develop nuclear power, as reported by Reuters. Already in January the Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman had said during the Future Minerals Summit that the country intended to develop nuclear power using its vast deposits of uranium. The country has always been clear about its intention of becoming a nuclear power, especially considering Iran’s precedent. Egypt has also been interested in nuclear power for ages, signing agreements to cooperate with Russia to build a power plant, a project that still hasn’t started.

(Laura Salvemini)

ICC, court examination requested on Iran's role in Syria. The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) submitted a request to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday to open a preliminary examination on the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) and the armed groups in Syria it controls in crimes committed during the conflict in Syria. In the request, IHRDC alleged that agents of Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps perpetrated, aided and abetted the commission of certain crimes such as deportation and persecution against Syrian civilians that forced them to flee to Jordan for safety. This hostility across Syria has led to the deportation of more than 650,000 Syrians to Jordan in an attempt to flee the violence of war. The request also included testimony from Syrian victims directly affected and forced to flee to Jordan due to Iran and the actions of its agents.

(Francesco Ancona)

NATO, Defense Ministers' Meeting concluded. From February 16-17, NATO Defense Ministers met in Brussels to discuss the increased Russian military presence on the border with Ukraine. Although there are signs that Russian diplomacy wants to continue to seek a solution, to date there is still no sign of de-escalation. "What we see today is that Russia maintains a massive invasion force ready to attack, with high-level capabilities, from Crimea to Belarus; this is the largest concentration of forces in Europe since the Cold War," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The summit of ministers also reaffirmed the sovereign right of each nation to freely choose its own path to determine its own security, reaffirming that "NATO's doors will remain open."

(Francesco Ancona)

WFP, Horn of Africa experiences the worst drought in 30 years. According to a report by the World Food Program, about 13 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are at very high risk of severe hunger in the first months of 2022; a risk due to the severe drought that is affecting the Horn of Africa region. For three seasons now, in fact, rainfall in the region has been well below the annual average. This lack of water is putting the crops and pastures of millions of people at risk, forcing just as many to abandon their homes. "Crops are ruined, livestock are dying, and hunger is growing with the recurring droughts affecting the Horn of Africa," reported Michael Dunford, WFP Regional Director for East Africa, "the situation requires immediate humanitarian action and strong support to build community resilience for the future."

(Francesco Ancona)

Francesco Ancona e Laura Salvemini



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

Fabrizio Emiliano Finocchi: Central and Eastern Europe and Russia, Asia and the Far East

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

Laura Salvemini: International Organizations and Terrorism and International Security

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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