Framing the World, number XIV.
Heat is back, but we’re back up to cool you off, writing about the main international issues.
We’re beginning with Europe, where Ursula Von Der Leyen is the new-elected Commission President, and she has several dossiers to handle, from Brexit and migration to relations with Russia, which seems to be involved in many EU States’ internal politics.
Jumping to East, elections have been held in Greece and Ukraine; this last country has to chose between a pro-Russian or pro-Western orientation.
The Middle East front presents very hard situations, as usual: tensions related to the Strait of Hormuz are increasingly harsh, Turkey has been excluded from the F-35 programme, and Afghanistan is hanging the balance between hopes for peace and daily terrorist attacks.
Concerning Africa, Al-Shabaab carried out a further terrorist attack, while Sudan found a deal to undertake a democratic transition.
Referring to the United States instead, on the one hand they are having the greatest economic period but, on the other hand, they might be ready to intervene militarily in Iran, while anti-death penalty movements rise within the country.
Moving to Asia, a strange boycott case has been carried out against Japan, where people recently voted for a new Upper House.
Finally, this edition treats the latest negotiations between government and opposition forces in Venezuela, and news regarding the former FARC chief, who’s now a fugitive from justice.
Croatia, migrants forced back over Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the past days Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic admitted that the national Security Forces border guards are using violence to force migrants over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Most of migrants come from Middle East (afflicted by several conflicts), and they arrive to Croatia through a ramification of the Balkan route, in order to avoid the wall built between Serbia and Hungary. The “pushback” practice, employed by Croatia’s border guards, constitute a violation of European laws and the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Human Rights organisation demand to stop expulsions and violence, and to start investigations to establish the liability of Croatian authorities.
Israel, the Ministry for Education declares too be in favour of a “conversion therapy” for homosexual people. During a TV interview, the Israeli Ministry for Education Rabbi Rafi Peretz declared to support the institution of a “conversion therapy” for homosexual people. His declaration has been harshly condemned by many government representatives, especially Benjamin Netanyahu, who distanced himself from Peretz, affirming that his position does not reflect the opinion that the government shares.
Italy, IMIs have been recognized as victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. On July 9 the civil Court of Brescia condemned the Italian and German States for having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity towards former Italian military internees (IMIs), who were deported to the Nazi lager on 8 September 1943.
This case concerns a group made up by 33 IMIs coming from Mantova, which have been granted an Award of Compensation amounting to 30-40 thousand Euros per person, that has to be added to the coverage of legal costs, for a total value of 140.000 Euros. The judgment is immediately enforceable; however Germany hasn’t formed in judgment as it excluded the jurisdiction of Italian Courts on the matter.
United States, Republicans also battle against death penalty. During the past years, in several U.S. countries ruled by Republicans – such as Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana and Wyoming – several draft laws aimed at abolishing death penalty have been tabled.
Equally, Republican Deputies supported many similar drafts, even in countries governed by Democratic parties. The main reason of the said changing opinions are related to economics and morality: Conservatories stand for a fiscally responsible government and believe in the sanctity of human life.
However, several U.S. countries apply the death penalty; it is hoped that the new position adopted by the Republicans lead to a new abolitionist wave.
INTERNATIONAL FINANCE AND ECONOMICS
Google, any problems with China? Google maintains close cooperative ties with the Chinese Intelligence. The accusation comes from one of the most important entrepreneurs of the Silicon Valley: Peter Thiel. The billionaire of German origin revealed that Google is cooperating with the Chinese government through DeepMind, th Artificial Intelligence company that develop technological applications “more dangerous than those of the Manhattan Project” (development of the atom bomb); therefore these last should be protected with the same protection measures.
Furthermore it happens after that Google had renounced to work on the development of Pentagon’s drones driving programs, because of some protests of Google employees, who deplored the lack of “ethical leadership”. Thiel even hypothesized high treason, (that’s punishable by death or life sentence) but Google has denied any involvement or cooperation with the Chinese military machinery.
President Trump, who use to be critical towards the web Company, has announced that CIA and FBI will carefully investigate.
G7 topics: Libra and taxation. The news that Facebook will create a digital currency wasn’t welcomed very warmly. Beside all doubts expressed by technicians and Ministers of the Economy, the G7 finance – reunited in France last week – reached a “broad consensus” on the necessity to urgently act in order to avoid that private subjects will get typical State instruments, without facing the same responsibility, and prevent problems affecting monetary sovereignty and the functioning of the international monetary system.
Furthermore, during the same meeting the Ministers discussed about how to tax multinational companies that until today have been able to reduce their tax burden in several ways. The “web-tax” is particularly supported by France and its Minister Le Maire, but it is strongly disliked by treasury secretary Mnuchin, while the U.S. had declared to be ready to retaliate by imposing additional tariffs on more products of the French companies.
The meeting has ended when it was established that Companies must be taxed, even
if they’re not present in the territory; however this principle isn’t yet concretely applied.
Stock Market, a new historical record. The day in which the FED is supposed to reduce interest rates is getting closer: a 20-25 basis points rate cut (0.25-0.5%), from the current 2.5% rate, is scheduled for 30 or 31 July. The American Stock Markets are taking advantage of it to pull their historical records higher: Dow Jones reached 27.000 points and the S&P recorded a market growth of more than 3.000 points (+50 points in less than three years), marking the greatest economic expansion in the history.
However, not all stocks recorded high growth rates: after that Netflix boosted the stock exchange for three years (+300%), it announced to have lost users for the first time in 10 years, and its Wall Street shares value fell by -10.6%.
This drop is due to Netflix decision to drive up the subscription prices; however this choice enabled the raising of profits by 26% in the second quarter; but the presence of competitors such as Disney, Apple and T&T, scheduled for autumn, will hurt Netflix chances to freely drive up its tariffs, so that the Company foresees troubled days.
Brazil, historical reform. The Brazilian Parliament approved an important pension reform establishing a new minimum age for drawing a retirement pension (65 years for men, and 62 years for women) that will enable Brazil to save at least 230 billion Dollars by the next ten years.
The reform was adopted by a larger majority than expected, as centre parties and many Deputies from left parties voted in favour. The bill had been long-awaited because the entitlement reform represents the half public expenditure; this last drove up Brazil’s price lists, which rise started in May, thanks to expectations on interest rates cuts.
Despite the slowdown of the economic growth and prospective of imminent recession, the Bovespa index - that’s the most important Brazil Sao Paulo stock exchange index- grew by more than 15% in the past two months, reaching 150.800 points, its historical record .
Billionaires, a new #2. A new entry on the list of the world’s richest men: from a few days Bernard Arnault is the second richest man in the world, as his patrimony reached 107 billion. It exceeded Bill Gates’ fortune, marking a gap of 1 billion, thanks to the great performance of LVMH (+50 since January until today), while Microsoft recorded +34%.
Even if it is less known, LVMH is a holding company, and it owns the most of luxury brands. Arnoult started by acquiring Dior, Louis Vuitton and Mӧet&Hennessay, and then he bought more than 60 prestigious brands, among which Bulgari, TAG Heuer, Hublot, Fendi and many others. Arnoult’s climb up the charts was swift: in 2015 he owned “only” 37 billion heritage, and this year, in January, the same heritage had a value of 76 billions, added to the 31 billions, earned in the following six months. Yet he got this idea during a conversation with a taxi driver, on the way to New York...not bad!
Boeing, the latest updates. Boeing is still going through the 737MAX issue.
After the two accidents where 346 people died – maybe these last were due to a defective software – the giant company of Seattle prevented its completely built examples to leave, and slowed down the production speed related to new models on the assembly line.
All this led to a drop in profits for $1.7 billion, and $4.9 billion additional costs, concerning only contracts with airlines. Also, the company must pay compensations for victims’ families, which amount to about 1 billion Dollars.
However, the 737 MAX might come back to fly in October, anticipating expectations; it was supposed that they would have been stopped until 2020.
Airbus took advantage of it to surpass the activity of the company (+28% deliveries of airplanes), and it became the first planes producer in the world. It was also due to some Boeing’s cancelled contracts, which caused a 37% decrease in deliveries.
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
Mullah Krekar arrested in Norway. On 15 July 2019 the Norwegian Police arrested Mullah Krekar -settled in Norway as a refugee for thirty years- upon request of the Italian authorities, after that the Court of Bolzano (Italy) issued a sentence the same day.
During the trial against six jihadist militants, the Court of Assise sentenced Mullah Krekar to 12 years in jail, as it’s considered the spiritual guide of the jihadist cell named “Rawthi Shax”. It was dismantled in 2015 after that the Ros (in English: Special Operative Group) of Trento conducted some relevant investigations.
The Court of Assise, leaded by Carlo Busato, also condemned Rahim, Karim Twana and Hamasalih Wahab Awat to 9 years in jail. Abdul Rahman, Jalal Fatah Kamiland Hamad Bakr were sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison.
Apart from Krekar, two other who have received their sentence live in Norway, while the remaining three would be resident in England.
The Mullah has always declared to be innocent as he wasn’t linked with the Islamic State.
Through his legal representative, He affirmed that “there are no terrorist cells either in Italy or any other nation he lived in”, and declared that he never planned any terrorist attack; his lawyer said that “his only task was to go back to Kurdistan and engage himself in politics [...] as a free man”.
Al-Shabaab strikes back. On Friday 12 July some Al-Shabaab militants carried out an armed attack against the Asasey hotel in Kismayo – a southern Somalia port town -.
It’s a well-known hotel, where business men and Somali politicians often sojourned.
Among the victims (the complete toll is 26 dead) many strangers figure, and a candidate in the Jubaland (the region of Kismayo) next regional elections was killed too.
The Sunnite Jihadist group soon claimed responsibility for the attack declaring that their aim was to kill “functionaries employed in Jubaland administration”.
Therefore Al-Shabaab keep striking terror in Somalia by attacking hotels (those attended by tourists), government buildings, Security Forces and civilians. Furthermore, even if the terrorist organisation is settled in Somalia, it also operates in some other bordering countries (Kenya for example), constituting both a national problem and a regional threat.
Afghanistan, negotiations and terrorist attacks occur at the same time. While negotiations between the US.A. and the Taliban, and those between these last and the Afghan government take several steps forward, terrorist attacks keep on destabilizing Afghanistan daily.
A further attack was carried out on Friday 19 July, when a violent explosion at one of the entrance of the Kabul University, killing at least six students (more than twenty people were injured). At the moment no terrorist group claimed responsibility for this armed action, but it is supposed to be linked to the Taliban, or maybe to the Afghan ISIS cell (IS-K). The mentioned attack occurred few hours after the massacre carried out by a suicide bombing against the General Headquarter of the Police of Kandahar (Southern Afghanistan). The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack and declared that many Security Forces officials have been killed.
Pakistan, double Taliban attack. Two attacks have been conducted in the city of Dera Ismail, in the Province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both terrorist actions, during which eight people were killed (around fifteen people were wounded).
During the first attack the terrorist militants hit a Police checkpoint killing two agents, while in the second one a woman blew herself up, causing the death of 6 people.
Therefore, a further terrorist attack tore apart Pakistan, that’s a territory historically characterized by orthodox Islamist ideologies and by the presence of Jihadist groups.
Laura Vaccaro Senna and Vincenzo Battaglia.
Chad, four nations agreement on the lake Chad. Many people welcomed the decision took by the four countries bordering with the basin (Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon) to allocate $100.000 to fight against the expansion of Boko Haram.
However there are stiill many issues to deal with: their dependence on international donations, the time needed for implementing the plan (two years), and defining details of the plan type (rapid response activity against terrorist actions).
However the fact remains that it is necessary to react to terrorism, in a region where violence goes on (and it seems to increase) since many years.
Sweden, Germany, UK and the European Union already confirmed that they will contribute to the plan, which constitutes one of the topics discussed during the EU High Representative Mogherini visit to the region, for the fifth ministerial meeting between the EU and the G5 Sahel, held in Ouagadougou.
Extraordinary ECOWAS meeting. Referring to the up-mentioned meeting, on July 12 the Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara (recently critical of MINUSMA and the G5 Sahel) announced that the Economic Community of West African States will reunite (on September 14) in Ouagadougou to discuss about terrorism in the Sahel countries.
However, the meeting might be the result of EU countries’ pressure; once these last gave aids and investments in fact, they began to stress the importance of empowering G5 Sahel countries to require a stronger engagement of the Organisation in fighting against terrorism in the area.
Madagascar, Christian Ntsaj Prime Minister. The technocrat, former United Nations officer, has been elected head of government again, in the legislative elections.
Ntsaj leads the government since January 2018, when he was chosen to replace Hery Rajaonarimampianina, after many civilian protests.
He doesn’t belong to any one of the three main Malagasy parties and he’s considered as a trustworthy man for this reason. He may turn out to be the right person to lead to the Constitutional reform, desired by President Andy Rajoelina, –but the said reform was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the country – supposed to eliminate the Senate, allow the creation of regional governments and amend rules on Parliamentary immunities.
Sudan, transition deal signed. In the night of 17 July the deal we discussed about in the previous edition has been signed. After the first rumours, it was confirmed that civilian and military parties will take turns in governing the country for the coming three years, until people will chose a civilian government through free elections. The Council that will direct the transition will be made up by 11 figures: 5 civilians, 5 military personalities, and one civil individual having a military background.
Precisely, the transition process will last for 39 months: a general will head the country for 21 months, then he will be replaced by a civil chief. The Cabinet will be directed by a civilian Prime Minister, but two military personalities will take office as Minister for Defence and Minister of the Interior. These last however have been denied immunity concerning the events occurred on 3rd June.
U.S.A., the “policy of the pendulum”. A well-known Italian policy, the “policy of the pendulum” seems to inspire Trump administration, which is going to adapt it to the US context.
In fact on one side the U.S. administration talks about (through a tweet) the first American president visiting the North Korean territory, on the other side it promotes the escalation against Iran and a reintroduction of the embargo against Cuba. On the one hand the U.S. show a constant openness towards one of the most feared dictators of the history, who is involved in the ongoing process of nuclear enrichment, on the other hand it was so hostile against Iran – even if this last signed international agreement to suspend the nuclear programme – and its antagonism led to the U.S. retirement from negotiations about the nuclear deal.
Also, the Strait of Hormuz experienced attacks against oil tankers, for which the U.S. accused Iran without any hard evidence. At the same time the U.S. army announced its will to create an international military coalition to patrol waters near Iran and Yemen, in order to protect the trade routes.
Colombia, José Santrich. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as FARC, have been led by José Santrich for a long time. The former commander, who’s almost completely blind, was required to appear in the Supreme Court, on charges of drug trafficking towards the U.S.
However it seems that on 30 June 2019, despite his vision problems, he escaped from the former militants reintegration camp of the Cesar Department. It is said that he’s run away because he became aware of a plan to kill him, but according to the most reliable version he only wanted to evade justice.
Cuba, the restoration of economic sanctions. The U.S. Trump administration gave a decisive turn to the process of normalizing relations with Cuba, that is considered as one of the last pillars of the Cold War still present. Ex president Obama started to reopen the U.S. embassy and all the consulate houses, he promoted greater tourism and economic activities, and prepared the lifting of the embargo, in view of a possible Hillary Clinton administration. But it didn’t happen; the embassy has been closed again, and higher economic sanctions have been imposed, banning all kind trade relations with the Cuban military system, which controls 60% of the country’s economy.
It is previewed that this situation may reach a standstill, but it increased awareness of the Cuban people.
Venezuela, human rights violations. As previously announced, the UN high commissioner for Human Rights conducted some investigations to redact a report on the human rights situation in the country. Michelle Bachelet then published the report, and it was found that data concerning human rights violations are seriously alarming.
According to the report, since 2016 Venezuela adopted a strategy aimed at neutralize and criminalize political oppositions and anyone criticising the government.
The current president Nicolàs Maduro soon quickly contested the content of the document, considering it as partial, as the interview used to redact the report only involved (in 82% of cases) Venezuelans living abroad.
At the same time, meetings between the government and the opposition have been resumed in Barbados islands.
Mercosur countries implement the agreement with the EU. Mercosur countries were reunited on 16 and 17 July n Santa Fe, Argentina, for the 54th meeting of the organisation. The leaders of the block discussed about regional integration problems on July 16, while on July 17 the treated topic was the implementation of the agreement between Mercosur and the EU, signed on 28 June, after twenty-year negotiations
The task of the meeting was to define a common activity to boost the implementation of the free trade agreement with the EU.
The execution of the said agreement will follow the so-called mechanism of “provisional implementation”, which will start once the agreement will be approved by the European Parliament and every single Parliament of South America regional block.
Two Iranian ships ferrying corn have been stuck for weeks in the Bazilian port of Paranagua. The national oil company of Brazil, Petrobas refuses to sell to two Iranian ships the fuel they need to go home, because of the U.S. sanctions.
The mentioned ships had ferried a petrochemical product used as fertilizer, and they would have had to go back to Iran transporting corn; as the vessel would have transported food, it is not included in goods subject to the embargo imposed against Teheran. Iran is one of the main consumers of Brazilian agricultural products: it imported two-and-a-half tonnes of corn, only this year. However it is the first time that Iranian ships make the exchange.
Michele Pavan and Mario Ghioldi.
ASIA AND FAR EAST
China, military meetings. Monday 15 July the “China-Africa Peace and Security Forum” started in Beijing, where Representatives of the Chinese Army met 100 other Representatives of 50 African States and the African Union to discuss about security and cooperation among these countries.
The American National Defence Act – That has not yet been approved by the Senate – provides for the sale of arms in Taiwan for a total value of 2.2 billion Dollars. Beijing sustains that the mentioned provision constitutes a violation of Chinese sovereignty, and it threats to impose sanctions against all companies taking part in the sale. The Vietnamese PM’s spokesman expressed his opinion on the presence of Chinese vessels in the South China Sea, affirming that Beijing “ conducted activities in the Southern Area of the East Sea that violated Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf”.
India instead showed to be open to cooperate with China, so that these two countries scheduled a joint military training for December 2019; its name is “Hand in Hand”. Yesterday also the Saudi Prince Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited China.
Taiwan, ready to welcome? “We will handle the matter on a humanitarian basis” said Tsai ing wen referring to the hypothesis of welcoming some refugees fleeing Hong Kong (even if this island has a specific legislation regulating the matter) after the massive protests against the purposed extradition bill. Around sixty people coming from Hong Kong arrived to the island. In view of the elections, Tsai spent 4 days in the U.S.A. (she arrived on July 11) also with the aim to discuss on the sale of weapons, receiving harsh criticism from the PRC.
The new Kuomintang representative Han Kuo-yu, who’s in favour of approaching continental China, brings pressure on Tsai, but she warns: “voters [...] will be focused on the future of our country, especially whether we can keep our democratic and freedom way of life” referring to the 2020 elections.
North Korea, elections time. Thursday 18 July a sumptuous celebration was held in Pyongyang in honour of 70 years of close relation with the People’s Republic of China. Therefore Xi Jinping visited the country,, where a poser even recited “Long live the unbreakable friendship and union between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Chinese people”.
Also, elections are imminent in North Korea (new deputies from local assemblies will be elected). Although only one candidate will be presented, Korea’s law provides that if this last doesn’t obtain the majority of votes, a new candidate must be purposed, but it seems that it never really happened.
South Korea, Bycott Japan! South Korea’s Supreme Court sentenced two Japanese Companies to pay compensations to Korean employees who experienced forced labour during Japan’ occupation period (1910-1945). Therefore Japan imposed tariffs and limited high tech products imports from the country (however Seoul thinks that these last are not related to the Court’s sentence); that’s the reason of the relevant boycott of Nippon products and services.
Concerning diplomatic news, on Sunday 14 July the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited South Korea in order to finalize a memorandum of understanding on trade and robotic matters, as these two countries are intentioned to sign a free trade agreement. On July 15 ROKAF obtained the third and fourth F-35A Lighting II; a total amount of 40 missiles is still due to be delivered.
Japan is preparing for elections too. Yesterday (21 July, editor’s note) the elections of the upper house of the National Diet of Japan. According to NHK television polls, Abe Shinzo’s Liberal Democratic Party will obtain the majority of votes. Hiroyuki Takahashi, political columnist for the same issuing body, says that Shinzo’s coalition should get at least 89 seats to amend the Constitution. The U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, visited Japan and South Korea.
Referring to the first, Bolton expects Japanese commitment to lessen tensions with Seoul, and to include the country in the anti-Iran coalition. Japan however specified that it didn’t assess similar actions.
India, Iran and space. India won’t take part in the U.S. coalition in the Persian Gulf , as one of the officials said to Reuters, specifying that Indian vessels will stay positioned in the Gulf to escort merchant ships. The double tie linking the United States and Saudi Arabia with India on oil imports might influence future events.
Moving to space matters, the Indian Chandrayaan2 shoots for the moon, and a second launch attempt is scheduled for July 22 (as on July 15 some technical problems obstacle the mission). The aim is to bring three vehicles on the surface of the moon.
WESTERN EUROPE AND EUROPEAN UNION
United Kingdom, a second Brexit referendum? During the past weeks the United Kingdom has been focusing on Corbyn’s openness to a second Brexit referendum; his party would stand for the “remain” option. The leader of the Labour Party never expressed a clear position on the exit from the European Union, and many observers sustain that this is the reason for the unsatisfactory result in the last elections.
In fact Corbyn often criticized Bruxelles, but it’s necessary to remark that during the 2016 elections campaign he was aligned with his party’s position, sustaining the “remain” option.
Furthermore, the reasons of Corbyn’s openness to a new referendum stay unclear too: he wants to drive Tories to hold a second referendum before they finalize Brexit processes. In this case the Labour would sustain the “remain” position, in order to oppose the party against the “no-deal” or any deal reached by Tories. However Corbyn has not specified what would be his position if he won the general elections before the exit from the EU.
Does France aim to the conquest of the space? On July 13 President Macron announced that in September it will start the construction of a new space defence command, to replace the one built in 2010. In his speech, the president mentioned the active protection of French satellites; therefore many experts started thinking that France adopted an offensive conduct.
Also, during the Bastille Day parade, President Macron had to deal with the yellow vests’ protest, degenerated into clashes with the police. However, the protest was attended by less protestors than the previous ones, held in winter, during which Paris was the scene of urban guerrilla warfare.
Italy, the scandal of League’s relations with Moscow. American Buzzfeed website published the interception of a conversation at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow between Gianluca Savoini (president of the Lombardy-Russia cultural association, and former Salvini’s spokesman), Gianluca Meranda (a lawyer), Francesco Vannucci (former banker) and some Russian representatives.
L’Espresso news magazine had already started investigating on alleged financing provided by Russia to the League. Minister Salvini denied that Savoini worked in his staff, but some photos featuring them working together, even during official meetings, were published. The Public Prosecutor’s Office of Milan investigated three people present at the Metropol, suspected of corruption.
This scandal is about much more than the Italian policy for two reasons: the newly-elected president of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen has never been pro-Russia, and Salvini’s allied states of the Visegrad Group neither. It’s important to remark that the Austrian Kurz government has been dissolved because of a similar case, when chancellor Strache (representative of FPO right party) appeared in a video while talking about public funds with a Russian oligarch’s niece.
Helsinki, restricted meeting on migrants. The Finnish capital hosted a meeting among the Interior Ministers of France, Italy, Germany and Malta aimed at dealing with the main issues linked to migrations. Italy and Malta were united in standing against the rule providing migrants’ disembark at the first safe port, but France and Germany would approve a document where this principle is accepted.
Mediterranean countries fear the up-mentioned rule because Paris and Berlin would responsible only for refugees, while the migrants would stay in the first country they reach.
All Ministers tried to approach their positions through personal meetings, but no deal was found.
European Union, Ursula Von Der Leyen elected President of the Commission. The German politician belonging to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, obtained a majority of 383 votes during the plenary session of the European Parliament. The former Minister of Defence became President of the EU Commission for only 9 votes, 40 less than her predecessor Jéan-Claude Junker. The majority is composed by deputies from the People’s party, Liberals, some of the Socialists and deputies from the Movement 5 stars, therefore it will urge the German president to adopt compromising policies.
In the coming weeks Von Der Leyen will present her team of Commissioners, which needs to be approved b the European Parliament.
CENTRAL EASTERN EUROPE
Russia and European Union, Ursula Von Der Leyen has the floor. The new-elected President of the European Commission released has been interviewed by many journalists coming from different EU countries.
One of the themes on which the President wants to focus is the EU behaviour towards Russia. Von Der Leyen reaffirmed Europe’s intention to keep an open dialogue with Moscow, which was recognised as one of the EU neighbouring countries, but it won’t accept an assertive and unstable foreign policy. Therefore she has shown a purposeful attitude towards Russia, without renouncing to Europe’s priorities, such as economic sanctions and an extended campaign against fake news.
Cyber security, the FaceApp risk. Many criticism have been addressed to FaceApp, the free app that allows users to apply filters to transform faces in photographs by using a smartphone. The mentioned app had an immediate success in the U.S., therefore panic started dominating in the country; worries concern the possible link with the developer company WirelessLab, headquartered in Saint Petersburg, and with the Kremlin.
Users’ privacy seems to be in danger, as the company reserves the right to use the images saved in the server almost indiscriminately. Just as the Cambridge Analytica case, the free service offered by the app might be very expensive in terms of personal data.
However the direct link with the Russian government seems to be excluded.
Ukraine, close attention to the Parliamentary elections. Close attention has been paid to Ukrainian parliamentary elections, held last Sunday. These elections will test Zelensky’s presidential mandate, after his decision to dissolve the Rada on 20 May 2019.
226 seats out of 450 will be necessary to form the majority, that’s the aim of Zelensky’s party, the “Servant of the People”. It will be a turning point to have a strong presidency in Ukraine, and try to reach a higher Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration; it represents a challenge, given that some other political forces have a different point of view.
But the defy also concerns relations with Russia, and the hoped normalisation of the Donbass region.
Zelensky and Putin, the first talk about the Ukraine’s conflict. On July 11 Ukraine’s President Zelensky had a telephone conversation with Russian President Putin to discuss about the ongoing conflict in the eastern territory of the country, for the first time since he took office. According to the AP (Associated Press) the main point treated concerned the Ukrainian sailors imprisoned after the boating accident involving Russia; also the two leaders focused on the possible dialogue aimed at finding a solution to the conflict, considering the “Normandy Format”, that means to involve France and Germany. The two presidents will meet again in Minsk to have a further talk on the matter.
Tallinn, the Baltic city that focuses on innovation. The city of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, might become the new “city of the future”; in fact the Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) contributed to promote a huge investment in innovation, aimed at the creation of a new environment where innovation, technology and business initiatives coexist. Through the cooperation between industry and academic institutions, Tallinn wants to create a reference point to find new solutions and enable people to lead a sustainable lifestyle in the coming future. The project will involve experts and representatives from several industrial sectors and disciplinary fields.
Lithuania, the appeal against Sputnik news website. News concern the appeal brought before the European Court of Justice after that the Lithuanian Government decided to black out Sputnik, a well-known Russian news agency, as this last would have infringed some copyright laws. The agency has been accused of publishing contents issued by national press agencies without asking for their consent.
In 2016 the European Court of Justice already welcomed an appeal against the Lithuanian government, for the temporary black out of another mass media (NTV Mir Lithuania), as it was charged with “incitement to hatred”, directed against the Baltic nations.
Croatia, disputes among leaders led to a government reshuffle. On July 17 Croatia’s PM Andrej Plenković introduced his new government.
After weeks of political upheaval, during which two Ministers resigned, Plenković replaced six Ministers of his government. It is an extreme change occurring six months before the Croatian presidency in the Council of the European Union begins (it’s scheduled for January 2020). The reshuffle is aimed at giving a new direction to the government but, although the PM used reassuring words, it shows the increasing disorder dominating the Hdz (Prime Minister’s party), that divided between Moderates and Nationalists.
Greece, centre-right regains power. As expected by polls, Kyriakos Mitsotakis centre-right party won the elections in Greece. The Nea Demokratia party got almost 405 of consents and it will have an absolute majority in Parliament. At 8:45 p.m. the outgoing Premier Alexis Tsipras called his rival and admitted his defeat. Early elections were held in the country, after that the PM resigned because of his defeat in the European elections.
The polls already expected that Nea Demokratia would have had a distinct advantage over Syriza Tsipras’ party. Now that the centre-right party won, the country will come back to the past: Nea Demokratia governed Greece before that the debt crisis expanded, and Tsipras still was unknown.
Andrea Maria Vassallo and Mario Ghioldi.
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
Iran, the dispute on oil tankers starts in the Strait of Hormuz. A new player entered the the spiral of tensions between Iran and the U.S.: it’s Great Britain.
In fact Iran provoked Great Britain by announcing the seizure of a British oil tanker – the “Stena Impero” – occurred in the Strait of Hormuz. The sequestration would have been requested by the authorities of Hormozgan, which accused the vessel of not respecting the International Maritime Code. Also, since the oil tanker has been confiscated, communication with the crew (23 people) have been interrupted, and the ship is moored off the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
In addition, a second tanker would have been stopped and controlled by the Pasdaran, but it was allowed to continue its navigation.
At first, the “Stena Impero” was going to Saudi Arabia, and the reasons for its change of direction (it left international waters) stay unclear.
As response, the authorities of Gibraltar extended the detention (started two weeks ago) of the Iranian tanker, with the charge of violating EU’s sanctions against Syria.
Of course all the events occurred are getting ever more serious. Washington and London request for the oil tanker release, warning Iran of “serious consequences”: the possibility of a military attack is now concrete.
Turkey is kicked out of F-35 NATO programme. After that Turkey acquired a Russian air defence system including S-400 missiles, Washington prevented the country to purchase the U.S. F-35 fighter jets, as provided by the NATO programme. However the White House declared that it won’t affect the strong cooperation between the two countries. The sale was stopped because of the U.S. conviction that F-35 missiles cannot be combined with any Russian platform (as it may gain equal advanced performance capabilities).
On July 12 the Russian Enterprise “Rosoboronexport” started delivering its anti-aircraft missile system to the Turkish authorities. Turkey’s Ministry for defence specified that the competent authorities will chose how to employ the up-mentioned system.
United Arab Emirates withdraws from Yemen. After that rumours lasted for days, the UAE confirmed the retirement of its troops from Yemen.
Since 2015 the UAE took part in the Arab coalition (led by Saudi Arabia) fighting against the Houti. Firstly chaos started reigning: in fact, without any strong coordination, the Yemeni troops started fight with each other.
According to diplomatic sources, Saudi Arabia was deeply disappointed by the UAE decision, as Riyadh is committed to continuing the conflict. Among the victims there are thousands civilians but, although Saudi Arabia has stronger troops, the Houti rebels – supported by Iran – still control a large part of Yemeni territory.
Afghanistan, talks to implement the peace process. The conference promoted by Germany and Qatar was held in Doha between 7 and 8 July, and it kick-started the dialogue among the Taliban, the Afghan government and some Afghanistan’s civil representatives. The final non-binding document defines some relevant points, and it outlines a “road map”. It is hoped that this last will lead to: decent, sustainable and prolonged peace; the establishment of a new Islamic system; the decrease of violence and the exclusion of civilians in the conflicts (in order to not make civilian victims).
The event is so important that the seventh meeting between American and Taliban negotiators that started on June 29, was interrupted on July 7 (and therefore resumed on July 9) in order to allow all parties to take place in the conference.
The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Khalizad declared that the last round of talks was “the most fruitful until now”. Although negotiations continue, the Taliban keep carrying out terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, making rise instability levels in the country (see Terrorism and International Security).
Vincenzo Battaglia and Federica Sulpizio.
The United Nations have to deal with humanitarian crisis and armed conflicts. With the passing of the years, the international scenarios are ever more complicated. On the one side humanitarian emergencies and public health problems afflict Africa, Asia and Latin America; on the other side, seemingly endless armed conflicts and social crisis go on.
The World Health Organisation declared that the Ebola outbreak afflicting the Democratic Republic of Congo constitutes a Public health emergency of international concern, as it even reached Uganda (unconfirmed).
Furthermore, Rwanda is going through difficult situations too. In these countries some armed groups impede the access to medical cares, that was already difficult in such countries.
At the same time many armed clashes still occur at the border between Sudan and South Sudan, that’s a disputed area, rich in oil. And actions against the United Nations peacekeeping forces were also carried out – during the last one a peacekeeper died.
United Nations activities also go on in Libya, but no effective solution has been found.
NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. NATO is going through a difficult period. Turkey acquired the S-400 Russian missiles, strengthening its relations with this last; in the complex geo-strategic scenario, Turkey now results allied to the Kremlin and Iran in the Syrian conflict.
The United States soon cancelled its purchase of F-35 fighting jets, excluding the possibility to associate Russian Intelligence Systems to the U.S. ones.
At the same time, in Europe, Germany started the first joint training with China, to symbolize the new strategic opening that never occurred before. The operation constitutes the response to a violent earthquake, not a strategic and operational training, but it has a strong symbolic meaing.
Positive signals come instead from North Macedonia, that’s approaching NATO, after it reached a deal with Greece regarding the name of the country. Also, fourteen other members of NATO ratified their accession treaty.
Framing The World is a project conceived and created by Mondo Internazionale association.
Andrea Maria Vassallo: Eastern Europe and Russian Federation
Federica Sulpizio: Middle East and North Africa
Laura Vaccaro Senna: Terrorism and International Security
Leonardo Aldeghi: International Finance and Economics
Leonardo Chierici: Western Europe and European Union
Marcello Alberizzi: Sub-Saharan Africa
Mario Ghioldi: South America, Eastern Europe, Russian Federation
Marta Stroppa: Human Rights
Michele Pavan: North America, South America, International Organisations
Stefano Sartorio: Asia and Far East
Vincenzo Battaglia: Middle East and North Africa, Terrorism and International Security.
Translated by: Simona Maria Vallefuoco.
Original article https://mondointernazionale.com/framing-the-world-numero-xiv published on July 22, 2019