With this 48th issue of Framing the World we will go around the world once again. In recent weeks, China has been at the center of tense relations with both Australia and the United States, accused of cyber espionage from Brazil and under the gaze of NATO, which is defining its strategy towards 2030. Studies for an effective vaccine and for the global socio-economic recovery are the focal points in the international agenda, especially United Nations' one... but not only. We also talk about how the conflict in Ethiopia is progressing, about the continuous terrorist attacks in Nigeria and Mozambique, about the new implications in North Africa and the Middle East and much more. Enjoy the reading!
South Korea, 40 years prison for the "doctor" of online sexual abuse. His name is Cho Ju-bin, he is 24 years old and his nickname is “Baksa” - “doctor” in Korean. He was arrested in March and sentenced on November 26 for violating child protection laws, for sexual abuse and "virtual slavery" against about 74 women, and for running a criminal network to profit from the production and distribution of illicit videos transmitted through a Telegram chat. This is a key sentence in the Country's fight against this type of sexual and virtual crimes, which until now had only been sanctioned with fines. It is therefore expected that these crimes will be considered in their complexity and that not only the managers but also the subscribers will be investigated.
Spain, Gran Canaria, continuous arrival of migrants and closure of a refugee camp. Between 15 October and 15 November, 8.000 migrants landed illegally on the Canary Islands, compared with the previous average of 800 arrivals per month. The cause of the new influx on the western side of Europe stems from the tensions between the Polisario Front for the independence of Western Sahara and Morocco. All this has led to the overloading of the Spanish reception system in the Canary Islands, the reopening of the question on the management of migration flows at the EU level, and terrible living conditions for those living in refugee camps in Spain. On November 28, the Arguineguín camp, whose conditions were described as "deplorable", was dismantled and the migrants transferred in hotels. With the words of the Regional President Ángel Victor Torres, now "it’s very important that we make sure these people who have risked their lives on the dangerous Atlantic crossing receive dignified and humane treatment".
Elections in Ivory Coast: repressions and violence. After the presidential elections on October 31 in Côte d'Ivoire, violence and repression involving more than 50 people took place. The police and security forces were unable to guarantee the right protection to civilians, and in some cases they used force to disperse the demonstrators, killing two and leaving one unconscious. The president, Alassane Outtara, re-elected for the third term with 94% of the votes, is in the center of these controversial elections that - according to Human Rights Watch reports - have been boycotted also by the main opposition parties. It was at the end of the elections that the problems occurred, in fact, the Ivorian authorities proceeded to the arrest of numerous members of the opposition who protested about the results and had established a National Transitional Council. On November 10, the National Council for Human Rights of Côte d'Ivoire declared that 55 people died and the wounded are about 282 in the period between October 31 and November 10, while several statements by the Ivorian government declaring the death of 85 people.
Violations of international humanitarian law in Azerbaijan. The announcement of violence by Azerbaijani forces against Armenian military troops captured during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are reported in recent days by Human Rights Watch offices. The evidence of this violence are the videos that the Azerbaijani military shot while slapping, kicking and humiliating the Armenian prisoners in every way. "There can be no justification for the violent and humiliating treatment of prisoners of war," commented Hugh Williamson, HRW's Director for Europe and Central Asia. Williamson, in his statements, also called for respect for humanitarian law, which clearly states that prisoners of war must be protected. International humanitarian law requires parties involved in an international armed conflict to treat prisoners of war humanely in all circumstances. Some prisoners, in some communications with their families, have stated that they are treated well, despite the fact that objects of violence are well depicted in the videos. To date, the exact numbers of Armenian prisoners are unknown, thought to be "dozens".
India, from poverty to slavery. A report by the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation reveals some very worrying data regarding the rights of children in the post-lockdown phase as a consequence of the economic crisis. In fact some Indian NGOs declared that a new emergency is araising in the most remote areas of India with an increase in child labour, school dropouts and trafficking and exploitation of children. The report was drawn up thanks to the valuable work of 53 NGOs that deal with child rights in India and has involved many families living in the most impoverished States by the crisis, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, which today represent the basin of child labor and child trafficking. The ngos declare a real incidence of the crisis on the increase in child labour, due to the deficit created in the labour offer which mainly affects the poorest families and their income, forcing them to send their children to help them survive.
Switzerland, “NO” to more ethical and responsible multinationals. Switzerland's voters rejected the referendum for the introduction of two popular initiative proposals with the intention of making companies in the country responsible for environmental and exploitation crimes, including those committed abroad, and a ban on financing companies that produce weapons and war material. Yet, neither of the two arguments has reached a total majority to make such changes to the Constitution. The question regarding the respect of human rights and environmental standards obtained a majority but stopped only in 9 cantons. The question of preventing the financing of arms manufacturers, on the other hand, was strongly rejected by the majority of voters; the federal government and business organizations declare that if approved, these standards would have put Swiss economic interests at risk.
Chiara Scuderi, Federico Brignacca and Sara Squadrani
ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE
Stocks, a record month. The best month of November since 1987 for the American stock exchanges sets historical records on all the main indexes in New York (DJIA, NASDAQ, S&P500) in the wake of hopes of recovery for the most affected sectors such as airlines/cruises and hospitality, but also for energy. This sector is also supported by the agreement reached within OPEC for a slight increase in crude oil production after the cuts decided this year. If the American performance was very strong, with the Dow Jones passing the threshold of 30,000 points after having reached 20,000 as early as on January 25, 2017 and the S&P 500 that since March has grown by 62.1% (109.8% annualized, a historical record), the European performance was even better, with the Stoxx 600 that grows by a record +14% and reduces the gap accumulated in 2020.
M&A, a busy month. November was also the month with the highest number of acquisitions of the year, bringing the third quarter 2020 to have the highest number of M&A since 2016. In total, companies have announced deals worth $760 billion, explained by two different strategies: some companies are trying to buy at attractive prices those companies struggling with COVID but with a relatively bright future, while others are buying knowledge and skills they don’t have in house. To the former can be ascribed the negotiation between PNC and BBVA for the purchase of the American branch of the Spanish bank for $11.6 billion and that would create the fifth American retail bank by assets; to the latter belong the decision of Facebook to buy Kustomer ($1 billion), that of Salesforce for Slack ($28 billion) and S&P Global for IHS Markit ($44 billion).
France v. USA, a new instalment on digital tax. French tax authorities demanded several millions of euros from US technology groups like Facebook and Amazon. This move ends the truce reached last January between the two countries that had agreed to suspend any request pending a multilateral solution at the OECD level, and follows the interruption of negotiations in June. The ball is now in the American court and Washington is ready to put 25% duties on French handbags and make-up products worth $1.3 billion, but the issue will also occupy the new Biden administration, which could find itself facing a more or less unified European front behind the French leadership. The future President said that he wants to ease trade tensions, but in Congress there is a bipartisan opinion that European countries are unfairly hitting American companies, and it will be difficult for tariffs to be removed immediately.
China and the US, the fight continues. The United States also raised the level of commercial confrontation with China, with Congress approving (pending Trump's signature, deemed a mere formality) a law that will delist from Wall Street the Chinese companies that will not comply with American accounting rules. Currently Beijing prohibits its companies from sharing their audits with foreign market authorities, but this has generated many problems of transparency, exploded in all their relevance in the case of Luckin Coffee, expelled from Nasdaq for having fabricated sales data. This measure follows last month's executive order prohibiting U.S. investors from owning shares in companies related to the Chinese military, identified on a blacklist that includes SMIC, China's top chipmaker.
China and Australia, a trade war brewing? The relations between China and Australia are increasingly straining, with the signing of the trade agreement last month seems to belong to a different era. Last week, in response to Australian statements on sensitive issues for Beijing (the repression of Hong Kong's dissent, the favourable position towards Taiwan and the request for an investigation into the origins of the COVID), Beijing raised the level of confrontation and imposed duties between 107% and 212% on Australian wines, a measure that adds to similar measures decided against beef and barley. China does not only represent 40% of Australian wine exports, but it is also the main buyer of all Australian exports and if, as it seems, China is ready to hit coal, copper and fish products, the GDP of the island could drop by 6%.
Nigeria, more than one hundred farmers slaughtered by Boko Haram. On Saturday 28 November, some men brutally slaughtered 110 farmers involved in rice harvesting. The UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said that this is the worst attack on civilians this year. Although there has been no official claim, everyone is pointing the finger at Boko Haram. According to some witnesses, the retaliation was due to a kind of jihadist revenge against the peasants, who captured and disarmed one of their militia and then passed information to the military. The promises made by President Buhari, who had guaranteed the elimination of the threat by the end of the year, would seem in vain.
Ethiopia, filtered information. What's happening in Tigray? On 28 November the army of Addis Ababa besieged Macallé, the capital of Tigray: starting on Saturday morning, heavy bombardments began on the city centre, the capital of the rebel region. At the same time as the siege, food for about six million people began to become scarce: the UN is calling for the immediate establishment of humanitarian corridors to support the civilian population, which is being obstructed by Ahmed's government. On Monday 30 November, the Ethiopian Prime Minister announced the taking of Macallè and control of the Tigray region. The leaders of the People's Liberation Front do not think so, however, as they say they are ready to fight the invaders to the last.
Zambia, the risk of a "debt tsunami" is increasing. The news of Zambia's bankruptcy, which could have very serious consequences for the geo-economic stability of the region, has gone unnoticed. Among the countries most at risk are certainly Angola, Chad and the Republic of Congo, but they may not be the only ones. The situation has started to worsen since 2011, when interest on the debt reached 8% of GDP and fell definitively with the Covid-19 pandemic, which drastically compromised export revenues. A week ago, the government announced default, and “The Guardian” warned of the risk of a "debt tsunami", which could definitively undermine the most indebted and pandemic-hit nations. Zambia could be just the first.
South Sudan, first special court for gender-based violence. In a country burdened by several problems, progress is being made in the attempt to stem gender violence. Cases have increased and an intervention was necessary: the government, together with the United Nations Development Agency, has established a special court in the capital Juba appointed to take charge of gender-violence that continues to happen in large numbers – it is reported that more than 6000 cases occurred from January to September, a number underestimated considered that many victims tend not to report the fact.
(Rachele De Simone)
Mozambique, Al-Shabaab shows new abilities. The terrorist group Al-Shabaab continues to hit Mozambique, especially in the Cabo Delgado province. However, the most worrying news concerns the group’s ability to attack also by sea, where some islands near to Palma have been hit, which led the government to the decision to temporarily suspend supplies by sea to the city of Palma. Meanwhile, government offices in the Muidumbe district have also been attacked. The civilian population is still the most affected and the weakest: more than 45.000 people have fled, and humanitarian aid is becoming increasingly indispensable.
(Rachele De Simone)
Martina Pignatelli and Rachele De Simone
Towards the transition. The handover to the new Biden administration, which will take office on 20 January 2021, has begun. President-elect Joe Biden has announced the names of the team that will plan and lead foreign policy over the next 4 years, including Anthony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, Alejandro Mayorkas, Janet Yellen, Avril Haines, Linda Thomas Greenfield. Meanwhile, US Congress is working on a new economic aid package for the effects of the coronavirus and the outgoing president has already announced the possibility of running in 2024. We are approaching the so-called "safe harbor", on 7 December, the date by which each state must certify the outcome of the elections, while on 14 December the electoral college will meet to assign the 306 voters to Biden and the 232 to Trump.
(Marta Annalisa Savino)
Indigenous and vaccine. The COVID vaccine is now within reach. One of the biggest problems that states will have to face to immunize as many people as possible. In addition to deniers and novaxes, Canada will also face the distrust of indigenous communities. The federal government has many faults in this regard: historically the health policies aimed at natives have been ethically questionable, if not real experiments. Unsafe food for children, unnecessary skin grafts, and forced sterilization are just a few examples. On social media, many pages of indigenous people question the safety of vaccines. Anticipating resistance, the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs is moving quickly to raise awareness among communities.
The Meng Wanzhou case. According to the Wall Street Journal, Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., could be released and leave Canada two years after his arrest. The US Department of Justice has offered to drop the extradition request in exchange for admitting guilt for the alleged activities: violating US sanctions on Iran through a Huawei subsidiary. The case has been a source of tensions between Beijing and Ottawa for years. China has hit exports hard and even arrested two Canadian citizens on spurious charges and attacks the US for artfully creating allegations to target strategic Chinese companies. Prime Minister Trudeau and Justice Minister David Lametti declined to comment on the news.
Marta Annalisa Savino and Lorenzo Bonaguro
Brazil, allegations of espionage. Eduardo Bolsonaro, son of the Brazilian president, has accused China of cyber-espionage. The Chinese embassy replied that its entrepreneurs have always respected the local laws and that Bolsonaro's statement is inappropriate, given the role he plays in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies. In a tweet posted on the night of November 23, and then deleted, E. Bolsonaro had communicated that Brazil was already cooperating with the U.S. for the development of 5G, thus avoiding the risk of espionage by the Chinese. However, despite this controversy, Brazil and China are still cooperating in other areas. Indeed, China is sending millions of doses of anti-Covid vaccine, which has yet to be partially tested, to Brazil.
Chile, protests continue while the government is seeking agreements. On November 27th, a demonstration took place in Santiago de Chile, which resulted in a violent clash with the police, who used tear gas to disperse the protesters. At least 25 people were arrested. In particular, Chileans are asking for the release of the demonstrators who have been detained for months and for the resignation of Sebastián Piñera. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Andrés Allamand began his tour of European countries to discuss the trade agreement between Chile and the EU in the new context of the constitutional reform wanted by the population. The Minister hopes to achieve a renewal of the free trade agreement with Brussels.
Cuba, The San Isidro Movement. Carlos Fernández de Cossío, Director General for U.S. Affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, said that the government will not allow the U.S. to interfere in the country's internal affairs. The statement referred to the support the United States showed in favor of the Movimiento San Isidro (MSI), whose protest against the arrest of one of its own militants was repressed by the police in recent days in Havana. The repression of the demonstration led a group of more than 200 Cubans to gather on November 27 to support the MSI. The episode also provoked the reaction of the European Parliament, the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which see the cuban government’s hostile attitude against the MSI as a clear violation of the freedom of expression.
Nicaragua, the situation after the hurricane. Nicaragua has suffered hundreds of millions dollars of damage to infrastructures and economic production. The situation is so serious that the U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua, Kevin Sullivan, announced that USAID will give one and a half million dollars to the communities that have been hit hardest by hurricanes Eta and Iota. The money will be channelled through international humanitarian organizations. In addition, the UN Human Rights Council offered its help to Nicaragua to solve the crisis and asked Daniel Ortega to enter the country in order to monitor the peaceful transition to a more democratic political system.
Peru, a fragile political situation. While the clashes between the protesters and the police continue, Francisco Sagasti, third president in just over a week, has declared that he will not make changes to the Constitution because of lack of time to do so. However, this was the opposite of what Sagasti said some days ago. In fact, the reform of the Constitution was exactly what the population was asking for after the resignation of Martín Vizcarra, now former president of the republic. Sagasti also stressed that he would not hesitate to repress any attempt to destabilize the government. In the meantime, Vizcarra announced that he will stand for elections in April 2021, in which Peru will vote for a new Parliament and a new president.
Venezuela, The Citgo 6 affair. The United States has asked Venezuela to repatriate the six former Citgo’s executives, who were accused of corruption and conspiracy in 2017 for signing contracts with Frontier Group Management and Apollo Global Management. Agreements that, according to the Venezuelan justice, would have compromised the future of Citgo itself. Citgo is an oil-producing corporation, founded in 1910 in the USA and then acquired entirely by Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) in 1990. It seems that the Venezuelan Court has recently found the six guilty. Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State of the USA, condemned the sentence stating that he will do everything possible to allow the former managers to return to their country.
ASIA AND THE FAR EAST
China, clash with Australia on Twitter: from a "fake" image to a satirical cartoon. Diplomatic relationships at stake. On Monday 30th November 2020, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry posted an image that allegedly pictures an Australian soldier pointing a knife to an Afgan child’s throat. The comment to this picture was "Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, and call for holding them accountable". This of course provoked a reaction from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who referred explicitly to the picture as "truly repugnant, deeply offensive, utterly outrageous". In the same speech he continued saying that Australia was investigating the matter in a transparent way as it is custom in democratic countries. This led to a counter reaction from Hua Chunying, another spokesperson of Chinese government, who said "It's not China which should be ashamed, but Australia''. In the meantime, a Chinese artist published a satirical cartoon criticising Australia and Western countries at large. This conflict has other roots: in fact Chinese imposed higher tariffs on Australian wines as a consequence to the progressive deterioration of diplomatic relationship between the two countries. The origins of the controversy lies in the investigation from Australian government into the origins of Covid 19 virus, that escalated in this Tweet war. Moreover, Morrison posted this comment on WeChat “The Diplomatic dispute does not diminish respect and appreciation for the Chinese community in Australia”. It was censored by the social media which justified its actions claiming that “the content violated regulations [ ...] distorting historical events and confusing the public”.
(Lydia Milly Certa)
China, relations with the US: Meng Wanzhou, could be released to return to China. Meng Wanzhou (Huawei’s Finance Chief), daughter of Ren Zhengfei (Huawei’s founder) was arrested in 2018 on the charge of conspiracy to defraud HSBC and other banks in Iran. She has always denied her wrongdoing and some whispers suggest she might be offered a deal to return to China. Ms Meng has always maintained that her arrest was a political move in the war between US and China over 5G technology. This has had consequences also for Canada, where Ms Meng has a home. Infact, after the arrest, the diplomatic situation between the two countries has worsened: China stopped importing some products from Canada and arrested two Canadians on Chinese soil charging them with espionage. Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister has underlined that this war is between the US and China and its country is being used as a pawn in it.
(Lydia Milly Certa)
North Korea, Kim Jong-un is cutting off his economic lifeline to stave off Covid-19. The North Korean leader appears to have kicked his country's pandemic prevention plan into overdrive, further tightening the country's nearly impassable borders and cutting off nearly all trade with China. Beijing exported just $253,000 worth of goods to Pyongyang in October -- a drop of 99% from September to October, according to data published by China's customs administration. The new customs figures, if accurate, show that Kim appears to be willing to pare back -- or even cut off -- trade with China to prevent the virus from entering North Korea, even if it means risking the country's food and fuel supply.
(Andrea Angelo Coldani)
South Korea, defense minister to attend virtual Asia-Pacific meeting. Defense Minister Suh Wook will join his counterparts from the United States, China, Japan and other countries in an annual Asia-Pacific defense ministers' meeting this week, officials said Sunday. The 7th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) will be held via video link on Thursday, which will bring together top defense officials from 18 countries, also including the 10 ASEAN member states, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand. Since taking office in September, Suh has held dialogues with US and Chinese defense ministers but not with his Japanese counterpart amid frayed diplomatic ties between the neighbors.
(Andrea Angelo Coldani)
Japan, the increase in suicides and the buzzword of 2019: Sanmitsu. In just one month, the number of suicides in Japan has exceeded the total number of deaths from Covid-19 since the beginning of the year. Experts have underlined how women have been most affected and how this phenomenon can also occur in other countries of the world, as the consequences of the pandemic can easily lead to mental health crisis. In Japan, the buzzword of 2020 was chosen: Sanmitsu. Popularized by the governor of Tokyo, Sanmitsu refers to the three situations that have to be avoided in order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus: confined spaces, crowded places and environments in close contact.
India, the farmers’ protests and the India Love Project. In the past few days, thousands of farmers have protested against laws that would allow them to sell products to private buyers and outside the government-controlled market. These laws have been criticized for not containing directives on minimum support prices. During the protests, police forces used tear gas and water cannons against the protesters. In recent weeks, five Indian states ruled by Modi’s party have announced bills that would make interfaith marriages a crime. The India Love Project challenges these bills, creating social accounts on which people can share stories of interreligious marriages and offering legal and psychological help to new mixed couples.
Lydia Milly Certa, Margherita Camurri and Andrea Angelo Coldani
WESTERN EUROPE AND THE EUROPEAN UNION
Italy renews its commitment to NATO in Afghanistan. On Thursday 18th November, Italian Minister of Defence, Lorenzo Guerini, assured NATO General Secretary, Stoltenberg, that Italy will remain in Afghanistan. The confirmation was necessary since Trump’s administration started to withdraw about 2,500 troops from the Country. Guerini said, using the slogan "'in together, out together”, that Italy will continue to contribute. In February NATO Ministerial Meeting it will be necessary to decide the common guideline and the future of the Alliance in Afghanistan with the new US administration. Right now, Italian military commitment in the Country remains unchanged and it amounts to 800 soldiers, 145 land vehicles and 8 air vehicles.
The new Italian proposal for the creation of an EEZ. Nowadays Italy is the only Mediterranean Country which has not an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) yet. Especially for hydrocarbon presence under the seabed, the ambitions of many international actors were focused on Mediterranean Sea. Because of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, Italy as well has the sovereignty right on the Mediterranean. The threat represented by other Countries’ intentions to grab marine areas close to the Italian coastline, led to the proposal of a new law. The main points of the law are: the EEZ institution, EEZ extension and EEZ delimitation. The Italian strategic position on the Mediterranean became fundamental in order to exclusively manage natural resources.
European Union, deadlock on the Recovery Fund. The veto of Poland and Hungary on the rule of law seems difficult to overcome. The two Countries are trying to force the hand, aware that the remaining European states need to approve the Multiannual Financial Framework as soon as possible, but Brussels does not want to give in to the Warsaw and Budapest strategies. In the past few days, Ursula von der Leyen has studied a solution together with Gentiloni, Michel, Hahn and other key players involved. If the budget stalemate with Hungary and Poland cannot be broken at the summit on 10 and 11 December, it is possible that the Recovery Fund will only involve the remaining 25 Countries, effectively excluding the two opponents. The European People's Party is also considering the possible expulsion of Fidesz from the political group in the European Parliament.
Italy, hard weeks for the government. On 9 December next, the Parliament will vote to approve the reform of the European Stability Mechanism, not to be confused with the credit line for health expenses started at the beginning of the pandemic. The majority is in danger of splitting, with some of the grillini lined up for no to the reform, along with the opposition. The President of the Republic has made it known that, in the event of a government crisis, he will put an end to the legislature. In reality, it is difficult for Mattarella to dissolve the chambers in the midst of a pandemic, but it is more likely that he is trying to "make responsible" the part of the Five Stars hostile to reform. Tensions, however, are not lacking. Renzi, in an interview with La Stampa, explicitly said that if the ESM reform did not pass, President Conte would have to resign.
Europe, again at the core of NATO agenda. On 25 November a document called NATO 2030 was published to reflect on the challenges of the next decade. The relationship that emerges with the European Union is one of mutual concessions: on the one hand the strengthening of a defence capability is encouraged, but on the other hand it is recalled that this must be used to increase European participation in the objectives of the Alliance. Russia is still identified as the main military threat to the Euro-Atlantic area, while China's expansive strategy, which touches the interests of the Atlantic Alliance in several areas of the planet, is recognised. The tone of the document, however, is that of a renewed partnership between the two sides of the Atlantic, already advocated by von der Leyen following the election of Joe Biden.
Leonardo Cherici and Alessandra Fiorani
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA
Covid Russia: "Go with mass vaccination". For Russian President Vladimir Putin there are no longer any doubts: the experimental “Sputnik V” vaccine, developed by the "Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology", is ready to be administered in two doses starting from the end of next week. The news of Putin's decision, broadcast by the Russian news agency Ria Novosti, came just hours after the British authorities approved the vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, which will be available in the United Kingdom right at starting next week. “This week I hope, indeed I'm sure, that we will finish all the preparations to tell you that we are ready to start mass vaccination next week”, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova told Putin, stressing that the vaccination will be free and voluntary.
Sputnik V: Russia presents the experimental vaccine to the United Nations. In early August, the Ministry of Health of Russia registered the world's first vaccine for the prevention of Covid-19, developed by specialists from the Gamaleya National Center, based on the well-studied human adenovirus vector platform. His name is “Sputnik V”. In November, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce announced that Moscow was in discussions with Budapest about the production of the Russian vaccine in Hungary, where a production site is already being prepared. "It is currently among the top candidate vaccines nearing the end of clinical trials and the start of mass production," Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said at the videoconference event called "Sputnik V: the Covid-19 vaccine", adding that Sputnik V showed “a powerful immune and antibody response” and stating that over 40,000 people have participated in post-registration vaccine tests taking place in Russia, Belarus, India, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
Orbàn reaches out to the Balkans. On 25 November the European Parliament held a plenary debate to discuss Hungarian influences on the media in Slovenia and North Macedonia. In 2017, the Hungarian television company TV2 Média Csoport Zrt, managed by the magnate Jozsef Vida, acquired the Slovenian Nova24TV participated by the Slovenian Democratic Party, an ally of Orbàn. The same happened in Macedonia. Businessmen close to Fidesz are helping pro-Hungarian media and pushing hostile or independent media out of business. Through these maneuvers it is suspected that millions of European funds have ended up in the pockets of investors who are friends of Orban with the help of local politicians. However, according to the EU survey, the local media are resisting this offensive and the influence of the Hungarian premier remains limited overall.
Lorenzo Bonaguro and Arianna Giannino
MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)
Turkey, “a bitter but necessary pill”. This is how President Erdogan defined the rise in the interest rate of the Turkish lira by the Central Bank. Nevertheless, hopes for further openness on the part of the government have been sunk by the continuous turmoil inside the majority which, at a time of pressure from the nationalist ally Bahçeli and resignations from the AKP, also saw the exit of former deputy PM Bülent Arınç, who was in favor of some prisoners’ releases. In order to keep holding the Country, foreign policy also ingested bitter pills. In fact, the OIC summit in Niger was an opportunity to reengage with Saudi Arabia: Turkish TB2 drones in exchange for financial support? Likewise, after an “accident” with Operation IRINI’s ships, the upcoming summit of the European Council will be more delicate than ever. Afraid of possible European sanctions, Erdoğan replayed the card of “the European soul of Turkey”, but the unknowns on the still open hot fronts (Libya, Syria, Caucasus) and the advent of new Euro-Atlantic relations weigh heavily.
Iran, the thin dark line. Everything is currently revolving around the murder of a prominent scientist of the Iranian nuclear program on 27 November. The reconstruction of the dynamics has immediately presented a double-edged sword for the regime: if on the one hand it is clear and strong the accusation for Israel’s (and the United States) involvement, on the other hand the Iranian establishment finds difficulties in justifying the holes in its domestic security apparatus. Consequently, as predictable, the regime tentacles have responded radically. In fact, the ultraconservatives are pushing towards the approval of a plan for a massive production of enriched uranium, which would sanction a total violation of the JCPOA limits. This eventuality represents a further obstacle to future negotiating tables. The clock for Rouhani's “reformist” government is fast ticking, Trump’s sanctions are pressing and hopes are all turned to Biden's opening for a new agreement.
Egypt, released the three activists of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. "Union makes the strength": this must have thought the various world leaders and all the more or less famous individuals who fought for the liberation of the three human rights activists in Egypt. Gasser Abdel-Razek, Kareem Ennarah and Mohamed Basher had been arrested at different times by the Egyptian authorities since mid November. Beyond the charges, the arrests represent only the tip of the iceberg of the repressive action taken by Al Sisi since 2014, aimed at stifling dissent through arbitrary arrests, travel bans, asset freezes and other restrictions of all kinds. It is not known whether the charges against the trio have been dropped or will face trial in the future. On the other hand, the arrest of a well-known Egyptian influencer, accused by the government of having offended Egyptian culture for having her photo taken without permission at the archaeological site of Saqqara, makes news. The images, considered "inappropriate" had been made, according to the model, to sponsor tourism in Egypt.
Tunisia, the spectre of unemployment. The possibility of getting out of unemployment: this is the reason behind the protests that have shaken the Country in recent weeks. In particular, the demonstrators have put an abrupt stop to the entire production of Tunisian phosphate, causing serious economic damage in addition to the crisis situation caused by the pandemic. On December 2, the government decided to reopen the plants in the governorate of Tataouine, in exchange for the promise to create jobs for local unemployed young people. In the meantime, the infected in the country have exceeded 100,000. From the point of view of external relations, a joint military exercise was held between the Tunisian navy and the perhaps special US navy off the coast of Bizerde, north of Tunisia; this is an important signal of military cooperation between the two Countries.
Algeria, political situation besieged by internal problems. Following the victory of the constitutional referendum that aimed to work for a rapprochement between the political class and the people, little seems to have changed in Algeria. If the intentions were to satisfy the demands of the Hirak movement and to increase popular participation in decision-making, both failed; the movement is not satisfied with the reforms and electoral participation has set a negative record. Moreover, the absence of President Tebboune, who has been hospitalized in Germany for weeks after contracting Covid-19, has only made the situation worse, creating a temporary vacuum of power. Also from the economic point of view, Algeria seems to be on the verge of losing the supremacy of China's most important trading partner in the Maghreb, as Beijing is increasing its investments in Morocco, considered a more stable Country.
Libya, the chess game continues: after the end of the negotiations, on which some had hoped so much, the Country returns to the classic restless calm. In spite of the holding of the truce, the actors involved seem willing to strengthen their positions. Turkey continues the aerial bridge with the Al Watija base, most likely military supplies. Italy, too, which seems to be negotiating for the recovery of the fishermen of Mazara del Vallo, is also enjoying some success in Tripolitania. The Italian Defence Minister, Lorenzo Guerini, on the line of the previous meeting in Doha, signed a technical-military cooperation agreement with his Tripolitan counterpart, Salah Eddine al Namrush. The agreement ranges from demining to training, assistance in military medicine and the fight against illegal immigration. Last but not least, Italian becomes a subject of study again from the age of 12.
Israel, political earthquake: the Country is likely to return to the polls for the fourth time in just two years. In the last few days the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, approving the first dissolution motion, has brought the Country closer to the umpteenth election; it will take three motions to dissolve the legislative body definitively. Bibi and Gantz are now at loggerheads: the second one accuses the former of not being a loyal government partner and of seeking only personal success, as well as running away from the courts' judgment. The last disagreement, in a long series, concerns the budget law. However, the elections would not smile at both. Gantz would see its consensus crushed in favour of its former ally, Yair Lapid. Netanyahu's Likud is being followed by the ultra-nationalist right-wing party Yamina.
Samuele Abrami, Federica Sulpizio and Michele Magistretti
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
Afghanistan, the violence continues while progress is being made in the negotiations. On November 29, a suicide attack hit a military base in Ghazni (in the east of Afghanistan), causing about thirty deaths. On the same day, another kamikaze attack was perpetrated at the Qalat provincial council headquarters (southern province of Zabol), with the aim of killing the local governor, who was unharmed. As far as Kabul is concerned, between 20 and 30 November the Afghan capital city was the victim of several attacks, which caused 14 victims and 70 wounded. Meanwhile, in the last days, diplomatic progress has been made in the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Nigeria, Boko Haram attack against civilians: at least 110 deaths. Jihadist militiamen attacked a village in the northeast of the country, near the city of Maiduguri, on Saturday 29 November. The victims, whose number had initially been underestimated, were seasonal agricultural workers from the state of Sokoto employed in the rice fields. The UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, called the event the biggest attack against civilians this year. In addition, several women were allegedly kidnapped by the militiamen. Abubakar Shekau, spokesperson of Boko Haram, said two days later that the group would act to avenge the arrest of a comrade, handed over to the national authorities by the farmers.
France, the government announces measures against "separatist" Islam. On Tuesday, the French Ministry of the Interior ordered the closure of the Collectif contre l'Islamophobie en France (CCIF), an association formed in 2003 which, according to Darmanin, conducts "Islamist propaganda". However, the CCIF had announced its own self-absolution on the previous Friday, declaring that it would reconstitute itself abroad and accusing the government of making concessions to the Lepenian right for electoral purposes. Darmanin also announced an action against "separatist Muslim places of worship": they are supposed to be 76, 18 of which at risk of imminent closure. The French government's decisions have polarised public opinion, between those who claim that the new measures are appropriate to address the problem of Islamist terrorism in the country, and those who believe they will have the opposite effect, exacerbating the social conflicts which feed radical Islam.
Italy, reported two Tunisian citizens for funding a foreign fighter with the citizenship income. The two Tunisian citizens, a 33-year-old resident in Bologna and a 50-year-old resident in France, reported by the GICO della Guardia di Finanza of the Emilian capital for embezzlement, had unduly received a welfare sum of 12,000 euros, based on untrue income declarations. According to the investigations carried out by the Yellow Flames, through the international cooperation instruments made available by Europolil (in particular the Terrorism Finance Tracking Program), the same amount of money they fraudulently used, would have been allocated to the financing of a Tunisian foreign fighter, the latter registered on Belgium's anti-terrorism lists, through a money transfer circuit in the province of Ferrara. In addition, the suspects have been charged with the crime of invasion of land or buildings as occupants, since 2011, of popular housing although they no longer have any rights.
Italy, trained to carry out massacres, an arrest for terrorism in Calabria. He is an Italian citizen resident in the province of Cosenza, the man arrested by the district Digos on charges of self-training for terrorist activities, even international. To constitute overwhelming evidence with respect to the accusations, there is a huge amount of computer material seized by the investigators: instruction manuals on the construction of bombs, tutorials on training and conducting terrorist operations, as well as videos and bloody images of executions of the Isis, official magazines of the media agencies of Daesh, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. The analysis of the devices also revealed that the suspect had followed the rules suggested by the Caliphate's propaganda bodies to keep the information and materials in his possession anonymous and secure.
Vincenzo Battaglia, Davide Shahhosseini and Laura Morreale
UN General Assembly, special session dedicated to the pandemic. The discussion, which took place on 3 and 4 December, focused on the consequences of the pandemic crisis not only limited to the health sector, but also from a socio-economic, humanitarian and security point of view. The special session focused on the analysis of the global response coordinated by the UN, which tried to support the efforts of various governments through the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund, in particular by enacting measures to support the most vulnerable countries. On the other hand, the practices implemented by individual member states were discussed and compared. Studies for a vaccine and socio-economic recovery were found to be the focal points of a global strategy that the UN wants to promote.
UNIDO and aid for Africa. While UNIDO is committed to providing online training and workshops to build science, technology and innovation skills in developing countries and contribute to the achievement of the goals set out in Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, the German government is signing a funding agreement to support the UNIDO-WHO programme for African countries. Last Wednesday, Gerhard Küntzle, Germany's Permanent Representative to UNIDO, met the Director-General to discuss this important project, to which Germany will provide funding totalling 1 million euros. This project aims to protect health, industrial and other workers by reducing the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19.
OSCE, a commendation to the current Council of Ministers. Edi Rama, Chairman of the OSCE, Prime Minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, spoke at the close of the 27th OSCE Ministerial Council of Ministers, by outlining the main challenges raised by the current pandemic and the new hostilities that have emerged in the OSCE regions. On the occasion of this important event, the President also stated that the appointment of the four senior OSCE officials and the States' commitment to the fight against organized crime, corruption and torture have made it one of the "most productive" Councils of Ministers in recent years. Moreover, on this occasion the participating States agreed to strengthen their co-operation with the Asian OSCE Partners.
ECLAC, the need for new educational systems for the 4th Industrial Revolution. At the 78th Governing Council of the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI), held last Tuesday, their Secretary General presented an analysis, conducted together with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which revealed certain shortcomings in the current education systems in the Ibero-American region. With regard to these issues, Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC, stressed the need for schools to review the priorities of academic curricula in view of the impact that the 4th Industrial Revolution will have on the labour market, which will not only require new and specific skills but will also lead to the disappearance of some professions and the creation of new jobs.
Guterres gives a speech to the Security Council about UN-AU cooperation. The Secretary General, intervening during the debate on partnerships between the UN and regional bodies, highlighted the importance of the relationship with the African Union. The areas of common interest relate in particular to disarmament and conflict mediation, gender equality and employment opportunities for young people. It is important that the UN, in Guterres' opinion, provides logistical support to the AU to achieve these goals. The UN acknowledges that significant progress has been made, at the national level, in many conflict or economic crisis scenarios. But cooperation must look at the challenges of the future, chiefly with regard to the field of peace and security: only renewed multilateralism can, according to the SG, represent an effective response.
The WHO launches the Africa Infodemic Response Alliance (AIRA): the initiative, which includes international and regional organisations and fact checking groups, aims to combat misinformation on health issues in Africa. The spread of fake news about the coronavirus has made the problem of misinformation about diseases even more evident. According to the promoters of the initiative, only a strong international cooperation on the issue can be an effective barrier to the phenomenon.
Valeria Scuderi e Laura Morreale
Framing The World is a project conceived and created by the collaboration between members of the team of Mondo Internazionale associates.
Alessandra Fiorani: Western Europe and European Union
Andrea Angelo Coldani: Asia and the Far East
Arianna Giannino: Central and Eastern Europe and Russian Federation
Chiara Scuderi: Human Rights
Davide Shahhosseini: Terrorism and International Security
Federica Sulpizio: Middle East and North Africa
Federico Brignacca: Human Rights
Ginevra Ricca: South America
Laura Morreale: Terrorism and International Security and International Organisations
Leonardo Aldeghi: Economy and International Finance
Leonardo Cherici: Western Europe and the European Union
Lorenzo Bonaguro: Central and Eastern Europe and Russian Federation, North America
Lydia Milly Certa: Asia and the Far East
Margherita Camurri: Asia and the Far East
Marta Annalisa Savino: North America
Martina Pignatelli: Sub-Saharan Africa, South America
Michele Magistretti: Middle East and North Africa
Rachele De Simone: Sub-Saharan Africa
Samuele Abrami: Middle East and North Africa
Sara Squadrani: Human Rights
Valeria Scuderi: North and South America, and International Organisations
Vincenzo Battaglia: Terrorism and International Security
Translated by: Andrea Angelo Coldani, Andrea Maria Vassallo, Arianna Giannino, Chiara Scuderi, Davide Shahhosseini, Federica Sulpizio, Federico Brignacca, Ginevra Ricca, Laura Morreale, Leonardo Aldeghi, Leonardo Chierici, Lorenzo Bonaguro, Lydia Milly Certa, Margherita Camurri, Marta Annalisa Savino, Martina Pignatelli, Michele Magistretti, Rachele De Simone, Sara Squadrani, Samuele Abrami, Valeria Scuderi, Vincenzo Battaglia.