background

Framing the World, XXVIII numero

A review of the main events of international resonance

This beginning of 2020 has given us strong emotions. After the crisis between the United States and Iran, January ends with the Coronavirus epidemic, which is causing strong repercussions all over the world and which we will explore from a several perspective. Our attention as always is not limited to this topic and in this issue we point out the delicate Libyan situation and the fragility of the truce reached by the parties, but also an increasingly active Russia in the Arctic and the diplomatic initiatives of Argentina and of Mr. Guaidò (Venezuela). In the United States the process of impeachment is coming to a end, while in Europe Brexit is finally done (even if even though the most important negotiations will take place over the next few months) and the economic data are not reassuring at all. The tension is once again high in the Middle East over President Trump's peace plan, praised by Israel but condemned by the Palestinians. To conclude, in Africa one of the most serious grasshopper invasions in history threatens the food security of the Horn of Africa. But this is just a taste, much more awaits you in this new issue of Framing the World.



HUMAN RIGHTS

Coronaviruses, racist episodes against Chinese people increase. In the past days, the threat of coronavirus has given rise to a real psychosis across Europe, leading to numerous episodes of racism against Chinese people. In Rome, for example, some bars and restaurants of the city-center have prevented people coming from China from entering in their facilities, so to avoid any risk of contagion. In Tuscany, few parents decided not to send their children to school because they had Chinese classmates. In response to these racist and xenophobic episodes, several campaigns to support the Chinese population were created: for example, the slogan "Je ne suis pas un virus" (I am not a virus) has spread all over the social media.

Italy, the Memorandum between the Italian and the Libyan government soon to be renewed. On February 2, the Memorandum on migrants between the Italian and Libyan governments will be renewed for three more years, further extending the Italian collaboration between the Italian and the Libyan Coast Guards. The latter, however, has been repeatedly accused by the United Nations for promoting human trafficking and unlawful detention of human beings. Furthermore, the bombings are continuing in Tripoli. How can Libya continue to be considered as a "safe haven" by Italy? Both Emergency and INTERSOS have asked the Italian government to respect its commitment with the voters, by cancelling the so-called 'security decrees' and the Memorandum with the Libyan state.

Italy, for the 15.6% of Italians the Shoah never existed. According to an alarming Report of Eurispes, the 15.6% of Italian citizens - that is, 1 Italian out of 6 - believe that the Shoah never existed, while 16.1% of Italians acknowledged the Shoah but did not recognize it as a particularly important phenomenon for our country. As it can be seen, the number of denialists in Italy is growing: until 2004, “only” 2.7% of the population was negationist. Furthermore, according to the same data, the 19.8% of Italians - about 1 in 5 – believes that "Mussolini was a great leader who only made a few mistakes" – such as, for instance, adopting the racial laws against Jewish people.

Pakistan, a university professor has been sentenced to death for teaching women's rights. The Pakistani professor Junaid Hafeez, 33, has been sentenced to hang for blasphemy for teaching women's rights to his students at the Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, in the Punab region. After returning to his country from an academic stay in Mississippi thanks to the Fulbright Program scholarship, in 2013, the teacher had tried to transmit his love for social justice to his students; nonetheless, the law enforcement forces have arrested him for "having denigrated the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad", and since then the man has been detained in isolation. His lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was assassinated in 2014 for taking his defense.

The Netherlands, the International Court of Justice orders Myanmar to protect the Rohingyas from genocide. On January 23, the International Court of Justice unanimously adopted a historic ruling in which it orders the government of Myanmar to take all the necessary measures to protect the Rohingya Muslim minority from genocide. The case had been brought before the Court by the State of Gambia, which had been the spokesman for the Rohingya’s rights. To this date, due to the ethnic cleansing campaign that began in 2017, over 740,000 people have had to leave their homes to seek refuge in neighboring countries. According to a report adopted by the United Nations, however, the more than 600,000 Rohingya people left in Myanmar are more likely than ever to be persecuted.

Syria, the bombings of pro-Assad forces against civilians continue. Continued attacks by the pro-Assad forces in the Ibid region have led to the death of numerous civilians and to the destruction of important civilian facilities - such as the Ariha city hospital. To this date, over 700.000 people have had to flee towards the border with Turkey. Turkey, however, does not seem to be well disposed to allow other migrants to enter its country; on the contrary, if the offensives continue, Turkey threatens to intervene militarily against the government’s forces.

Marta Stroppa


ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL FINANCE

Coronavirus, the impact. The coronavirus epidemic is having heavy effects on Asian stock markets, down by about -10%, but European and American stock markets have also paid their toll (-2%). Investors are not so much worried by the victims, still limited and just comparable to the normal winter flu, but by the damage that the widespread panic is causing to the Asian economy. The sectors most exposed to travel bans, such as airlines, hotels and entertainment (cinemas and amusement parks), but also the luxury sector, given that Chinese tourists are the most important buyers of these goods, have been particularly affected. Beware today (February 3) of the reopening of Chinese mainland markets, whose closure for the Lunar New Year had been extended by one week due to the virus.

Coronavirus, the effects. Chinese tourism abroad is worth over €130 billion a year. An extended stop to flights to and from China would severely affect the tourism sectors in the European (France, Italy, UK) and Asian (Thailand, Singapore and Japan) destinations preferred by Chinese travellers. The effects on China's economy will be even greater. Several foreign companies have stopped their production (IKEA, Toyota) or closed their stores (Starbucks, McDonald's), but Chinese companies are taking similar measures too, and the impact on GDP could reach the levels of -2%. Lower economic activity and the consequent lower demand for oil (down to -700,o00 barrels per day) has also caused the price of crude oil to fall: in the last 3 weeks, the WTI fell 17% to $52, while Brent prices fell 12% to $58.

Grey and black swans. Professor Taleb in his famous book “The Black Swan” identifies a phenomenon called Black Swan as a entirely unpredictable event (i.e. nothing in the past can possibly point to it), with an extreme impact and which can only be rationally explained after it has occurred. An example of a black swan are the 9/11 attacks. Grey Swans instead are events (either positive or negative) which can be anticipated, but whose likelihood is considered very low. Devastating natural disasters such as hurricane Katrina, political developments such as Brexit or Trump’s election or epidemics such as Sars or Coronavirus are all Grey Swans. The outcome of these events cannot be predicted with ease. However, that does not mean that those who stand to be affected should not draw up some form of plan for how to potentially handle them, regardless of how improbable they might seem.

Q4, technology is flying. Apple, Microsoft, Tesla and other technology stocks are flying after record data for the last quarter of 2019 come out. Apple revenues are at $92 billion (+9%) and profits at $22 billion, driven by sales of iPhones (+8%) but mostly by AirPods (+37%). On the stock market, however, the reaction is limited due to fears that the epidemic in China could affect both sales and production of Apple, which has several suppliers in the Hubei Province, the most affected by the virus. Microsoft also reports good results, pushed by its cloud business Azure (+62%). Finally, sky’s the limit for Tesla: after good quarterly data (revenues up 17%, record car deliveries, though profits are down), the stock is over $650 and capitalization exceeds $100 billion (117 to be precise). This is an important threshold because if maintained for at least 6 months it will guarantee Elon Musk (who is not paid a salary from Tesla) a compensation of about $350 million.

Trade, the latest. During the Davos summit, France and the United States reached a truce in their dispute over the taxation of American digital companies, which were to be subject to a 3% tax to compensate for the loss of revenue due to their HQ being located in countries with advantageous taxation (e.g. Ireland). The United States, in fact, after threatening 100% duties on some French products worth $2.4 billion, agreed to suspend this measure until the end of the year in exchange for a similar move on the digital tax. The two countries, joined by the UK and Italy, have also decided that the issue shall be resolved through a multilateral agreement within the OECD that would provide new rules to tax these companies. If no such agreement is reached, France and Italy, however, reserve themselves the right to impose the tax unilaterally.

GDP, a few numbers. GDP figures for the last quarter are out and the Eurozone has the worst result since 2013, with an average growth of 0.1% (+1.2% for the whole year). The only country with good results is Spain (+0.5%), while France, hit by the strikes, fell 0.1% (much worse the industry, -1.6%), and Italy decreased by 0.3%. In the latter country the situation is quite worrying, since to suffer have not been exports, even though affected by tariffs, but domestic consumption. This points to either little confidence in future economic conditions or little economic availability, a worrisome omen in both cases. The figures for Germany and the United Kingdom will come later in February. The U.S. grew +2.1% in the quarter (+2.3% for the whole year), certainly excellent compared to European levels, but slightly lower than in the past.

Leonardo Aldeghi


SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

East Africa, plague of locusts brings the population to its knees. It is the worst in 70 years and risks seriously compromising the food security of the people in the Horn of Africa. The plague originated in Ethiopia and is moving to South Sudan and Uganda. It is assumed that some producers have lost up to 90% of their production and that only by raising around €80 million can countermeasures be taken. The new rains will not help to improve the situation and only the arrival of the dry season in June will restore the situation. However, the UN agencies claim that if these measures are taken after April, they will be completely ineffective.

African Development Bank (ADB), optimism about economic growth. Although growth in 2019 was lower than expected due to the global economic slowdown, it reached +3.4%, with the blockade of the big ones - Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa - holding back the continent. The continent is divided by the Institute into East Africa (+5%), North Africa (+4.1%), West Africa (+3.7%), Central Africa (+3.2%) and Southern Africa (+0.7%). According to the bank, estimates for the next two years are +3.9% and +4.1% respectively.

Burkina Faso, work is underway on a new solar-powered power plant. On 1 February last, Burkinabé Prime Minister Christophe Dabiré inaugurated the works for the second solar panel power plant in the country. It will be located in Pâ, in the western region, about 250 km from the capital Ouagadougou. The energy capacity will be 33 Megawatts and will contribute to the greater electrification of the country whose current rate is 45% of the population. The construction is entrusted to Urbasolair, supported by a financial group including Proparco and the West African Development Bank. The investment amounts to 33 million euros.

Coronavirus, still no case established but some preventive measures come into force. To date, there are no cases of coronavirus-infected individuals in African countries. However, some of them have taken preventive measures to prevent this from happening. These include first of all the involvement of Chinese Embassies and Consulates to know and monitor the presence of Chinese nationals in Africa. Some countries, including Nigeria, Mauritania and Equatorial Guinea, have also provided for confinement and quarantine measures for the entire incubation period, as well as the installation of devices in airports to control possible carriers and the suppression of flights to China.

South Africa, nine illegal miners killed. The murder took place in Johannesburg and was committed by a group of miners against nine others from Lesotho. The act took place in a barbaric manner by means of stones and the police were activated for a manhunt. The problem of rival groups carrying out this practice is becoming increasingly complex to deal with in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

Marcello Alberizzi


NORTH AMERICA


United States, the former Advisor Bolton’s disclosures about the impeachment. From what we heard in the New York Times, the former Security Advisor John Bolton – dismissed by the US President himself in September, 2019 – would confirm Donald Trump’s pressure on the Ukrainian President Zelensky, at the center of the debate about the impeachment, in the draft of his book, which will come out in March. One of the President’s lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, affirmed: “Bolton’s declarations – although proved to be true – would not rise to power’s abuse or an illicit which could get involved Trump’s impeachment”. In the meanwhile, the US Democrats have insisted in the willingness to admit new witnesses for the inquiry that is about Trump’s charge of power’s abuse and obstruction to Congress. On Friday, the 31st of January, the Senate voted to get other witnesses involved but, as it seems to be, the process is going to be concluded. And the conclusion is in favour of the current President, who has a strong republican majority in the Senate.

The diplomatic staff in Canada and Coronavirus. Due to the spread of this virus, defined at high risk by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Canada has implemented the evacuation of some “vulnerable” members of the diplomatic staff and has confirmed that a limited departure of employees is authorised. By the way, the full consolar service remains available for the Canadians who live in China. “The health, safety and security of our diplomats serving abroad and their families is a priority” Global Affairs Canada - the Department responsible for Foreign affairs, economy and trade - affirmed. The risk of an outbreak in Canada is low but Canadian officials warned about non essential travels towards China and to avoid the travels in the Hubei province.

Mexico, a narcos’ tunnel and the evacuation of the Hondurans migrants. A tunnel digged at 25 metres under the ground was discovered in Mexico. It was used by the narcos to carry drugs and other contraband goods. The tunnel starts in Tijuana, it is 1 km and 300 metres long and it links Mexico to the USA through California. It seems to be like the longest tunnel until now, after the discovery of 2014 about another gallery of 900 metres. Talking about immigration, we notice that Mexico has recently expelled 240 Hondurans, embarking them on two aircrafts. The caravan from Central America isn’t a news about international dynamics. It is under the spotlights from 2018, due to a violence problem but also unsustainable poverty in the Center of America, a phenomenon which had been worsen during the last years. The exodus, therefore, goes on, not only for the Hondurans but also for the inhabitants of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba and Guatemala.

Marta Annalisa Savino

SOUTH AMERICA

Argentina, launched the new plan to get out of the crisis. The new Minister for the Economy, Martín Guzmán, had two days full of important institutional meetings in New York to discuss the Argentine debt problem. On his first day Guzmán met with some investors and private creditors, interested in helping the Argentine state economically. The following day he was able to discuss the debt problem more directly with the head of the Argentine mission of the International Monetary Fund, Luis Cubeddu, and the Argentine representative for the IMF, Sergio Chodos. The meetings served to review the repayment of the $57 million loan granted by the international body in Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, the agenda of President Fernández's European tour, which will fly first to Rome, then Madrid and finally Paris, previously excluded, has changed. The trip will be an opportunity to explain to Europeans the new debt policy, for which he has already had initial support from Israel, which is willing to invest in Buenos Aires in Washington.

Bolivia, a new twist: Jeanine Añez decides to stand in elections. Acting President Jeanine Añez has decided to stand in the future Bolivian presidential elections. The controversial decision was taken after the assurance given at the time of the oath of oath in which she declared the transitional nature of her government which should have guaranteed peace in the country. The possibility of taking part in the electoral competition from a position of strength, alongside the presentation of various candidates such as Tito Quiroga, former deputy to General Hugo Banzer and later president, seems to have convinced the interim president to try to confirm herself in the next elections on May 3. If, therefore, within the coup forces, Añez's decision caused some confusion, in Mas Morales he managed to prevent his choice of Luis Arce as presidential candidate and former Aymara Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca as deputy from generating a rift within his party. The Mas had initially preferred the vice-president of the cocaleros, Andrónico Rodríguez, to Choquehuanca.

Brazil, a new Nazi storm to face for the Bolsonaro government. The Brazilian government has decided to launch its "cultural war" against Marxism and the hegemony of the left, favouring cultural products focused on nationalism, conservatism and religion. The presentation of the project, which cost 4.9 million dollars, took place through a video in which the Minister of Culture, Roberto Alvim, evoked parts of a speech by Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Nazi propaganda. "The Brazilian art of the next decade will be heroic and national. It will be endowed with great capacity for emotional development and will be imperative and deeply linked to the urgent aspirations of our people, or it will be nothing”, he said in the video released online. Next to Alvim's words flowed the notes of Wagner's opera Lohengrin, beloved by Hitler. As a result of this video and the controversy that arose, the minister was removed from office. Meanwhile a new violent storm hit Minas Gerais, causing floods and landslides for a total of 44 dead and almost 17,000 displaced persons.

Chile, new protests against university entrance exams. High school students, responsible for the start of the Chilean social explosion in October, took control of the subway stations, causing unrest in some of the places where the university entrance exam was held, which they considered an unfair selection system. The crowded Plaza Egaña station was occupied by more than a hundred students who unrolled banners and sang protest songs, forcing public transport to suspend the service. Violent incidents have occurred in several areas of Santiago, from the wealthy neighborhoods of Providencia to Las Condes, as well as in the Valparaiso region and Coronel. The students launched blunt elements, thus facing reinforced police control which in some cases prevented access to those who wanted to take the exam, already boycotted by the students themselves at the beginning of the month.

Cuba, millions of young people marched to commemorate Jose Martí. Thousands of young Cubans participated on the evening of January 28th in the traditional Torchlight March in commemoration of the 167th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle of Independence of Cuba, José Martí. The activity was conducted by the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, Raul Castro, and the President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel. The march began on the historic steps of the University of Havana and ended at the Fragua Martiana, where Martí served a sentence of hard labor in 1869 for his ideas of independence. In the meantime, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez has once again reiterated America's responsibility in the Bolivian coup, linking it in particular to La Paz's decision to break diplomatic relations with the Cuban state. "Cuba rejects the pretexts and unfounded accusations of the authorities of the Bolivian coup to suspend diplomatic relations. Since their violent rise to power, they have developed systematic actions to deteriorate bilateral ties”, the minister himself commented on Twitter.

Uruguay, a new plan to repopulate the country. The new President Luis Lacalle Pou announced in recent days that he wants to repopulate the country through a plan to attract foreigners. "Uruguay has always been a country with open arms for countries that are expelling their people, Venezuelans, Cubans and others”, said the newly elected president, stressing that it is an ideal place for families and where there is clear respect for investment and also legal certainty. However, his statements did not convince the opposition, which through the current Minister of Economy, Danilo Astori, expressed all its perplexity. "The economic manoeuvres proposed by Lacalle Pou could turn the country back, confirming its status as a tax haven for speculators”. The former president Mujica also spoke on the subject and stressed the need to pool the money in the Uruguayan state, "We have about 24 billion dollars scattered around the world, why don't we try to bring some of that money into the country”, he said.

Venezuela, Guaidò did a diplomatic trip to Europe. After having suffered the attempted removal of Maduro, who appointed Luis Parra as the new president of the National Assembly, Guaidò made a European tour of the main European capitals to seek EU support for his possible reconfirmation as interim president of Venezuela. After meeting Boris Johnson in London, Guaidò spoke with representatives of the EU institutions in Brussels where he officially requested that pressure be maintained on Maduro. Guaidò then moved to Davos for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The last two stops on the trip were Paris and Madrid. In the French capital he was able to receive the support of French President Macron, while in Madrid, triumphantly welcomed by Venezuelan exiles in Puerta del Sol, he had a meeting with Arancha Gonzalez who replaced Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez who declined the meeting.

Domenico Barbato


ASIA AND FAR EAST

China, between Coronavirus and Myanmar. On 31 December, with the warning to the WHO by the Chinese Government about several cases of pneumonia in the Hubei region and in particular in the city of Wuhan, the virus called Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) began to spread. To date, there are about 300 deaths out of 14 thousand confirmed infections. Obviously, given the rapid spread of the virus, the WHO, during the meeting of the Emergency Committee held on January 30, declared it as Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Some countries have interrupted direct flights with the country, including Italy (ENAC reported). Meanwhile, on 17 and 18 January Xi Jinping travelled to Myanmar to talk about the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC).

Japan, also here, not only Coronavirus. There are already several cases of Coronavirus in Japan, so that on 28 January the first case of infection was reported on an individual who had not travelled to China. On the same day, a Boeing 767 was sent to Wuhan to collect 200 of the 650 Japanese to be evacuated from the city. Some are concerned about the Olympics at the end of July in the event of an even more global epidemic. In addition, a panel of experts in Japan seems to have opted for the solution of the discharge of Fukushima water into the ocean (the second alternative was evaporation). According to the studies carried out, the planned action is the best and safest. February 1 marks the first anniversary of the Eu-Japan Economic Partnership (EPA). On 2 February the country then sent destroyers to the Gulf of Oman to protect the maritime routes.

Stefano Sartorio


WESTERN EUROPE AND EUROPEAN UNION

Italy, the government resists after the regional elections. On 26 January, a vote was held in Emilia-Romagna and Calabria to elect the new president and the regional council. There was much expectation for the result that could upset the government's plans. In Emilia Stefano Bonaccini, candidate of the centre-left, was re-elected with a large margin of votes. A disappointing result for Lucia Borgonzoni, candidate of the League within the center-right coalition. In Calabria, on the other hand, the centre-left was defeated and the candidate was left out by more than 20 percentage points. To underline the disappearance of the 5 Stars Movement, majority shareholder of the government, but which comes out of the polls with percentages practically close to 0.

France, Macron criticizes Turkey over Libya. The French President, during a visit to Greece, questioned the behaviour of the Turkish leader Erdogan regarding the Libyan situation. Ankara is accused of violating what was agreed at the Berlin Conference last month that it should try to find a political solution to the conflict in the North African country. It is important to remember that France supports General Haftar and Turkey the president recognized by the international community al-Sarraj. Both Macron and the Greek Prime Minister strongly condemned the agreement between Ankara and Tripoli on maritime borders.

(Leonardo Cherici)

Britain’s commercial situation after Brexit. On the23rd of June 2016 the UK’s citizens had decided that the Great Britain should leave the European Union. After almost 4 years from that referendum the Brexit’s situation is still enormously confused, mostly on the commercial issue between the parts. Thanks to the victory of Boris Johnson at the last political elections, the fear of a no deal leave has been averted. Nonetheless, UK and EU must negotiate an agreement for their trade relations. The last news talks about a basic deal with which there will not tariffs in the goods exchange from the EU to UK and vice versa, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. The Union cannot seem too weak in the negotiations with the Great Britain. For the UK there are many threats in this uncertain future, starting from a possible impairment of the pounds, to the increasing of the general inflations on the goods imported from the Union, finally a possible addiction to the U.S like commercial partner.

Climate diplomacy: the European future. The European Commission guided by Ursula von der Leyen has taken the climatic issue very seriously. After the approbation of the new green deal, with 1000 billions of euro invested in the green economy, the Commission has proposed a new fee, for a carbon tax on the extra-European importation of goods derived from the sectors most pollutants. On the 20th of January the EU’s countries Ministers, reunited in the European Council, have declared that climate change will be a crucial point of the European foreign policy and diplomacy for the next decades. In accordance with the Commission’s aim to reach the climatic neutrality in Europe, for the 2050, the Council has spoken about this carbon tax and the benefits that she could bring to the EU’s citizens. Moreover, with this foreign policy’s aim, the EU must sustain third countries to walk on the sustainable path.

(Dario Pone)

European Union, 28 to 27 members. After a journey lasting more than three years, the United Kingdom has left the European Union for good. On 1 February the Union Jack was removed from the seat of the European Council. Most of the national leaders said they were sorry, but still ready to maintain a relationship of cooperation and friendship. The Scottish National Party promised a battle on the referendum for independence, while Boris Johnson gave a speech to the nation in which he declared himself satisfied with the results achieved. The MEPs, meeting in plenary session, sang with their now former British colleagues Auld Lang Syne, an English folk song that is sung to friends at the moment of a farewell.

(Leonardo Cherici)

Leonardo Cherici and Dario Pone

CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA

Russia is suspending the visa-free regime for travel to China. Russia has also taken its own countermeasures to prevent the coronavirus outbreaks in the People's Republic of China. The government announced on Saturday the temporary suspension of entry into Russian territory for tourists and workers from China. The directive concerns in particular the border with Mongolia, the traditional entry passage into Russia for travellers coming from the Asian country. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the respective countries have contacted each other to discuss measures for cooperation aimed at combating the spread of the virus; in Russia, too, people affected by the phenomenon have been registered. Moscow has now made itself available to help Beijing to limit further cases of infection as far as possible after Russian citizens living in China have already been evacuated. (Andrea Vassallo)

Russia's next steps in the Arctic - part 1. Moscow's plans to develop its northernmost territory facing the Arctic are proceeding at a rapid pace. The development of energy infrastructure remains Russia's main objective: Gazprom has announced that it intends to increase natural gas production at the Bovanenkovo hub on the Yamal peninsula, to which will be added a structure for the production of petrochemical materials derived from the use of extracted gas. Moscow has also announced the construction of a research base (Snowflake station) also in the Yamal region; the station will be used for scientific research in the Arctic and for the study of climate change. The station will be powered exclusively by zero impact energy resources, a contradiction when you think that the Arctic attracts Russia for the search of the last reserves of fossil fuels.

Russia's next steps in the Arctic - part 2. Russia will assume leadership of the Arctic Council in 2022. It is therefore likely that over the next two years Moscow will work hard to expand its influence in the Arctic region; although the Arctic Council is a collegial body, Russia's willingness to exert strong pressure for other states to favor the country's policies in the Arctic cannot be ruled out. Russia remains, for the time being, the first country for investments in this region, mainly aimed at building infrastructure for energy production and trade by sea. There is a possibility that in this way Moscow will be able to expand its influence to control the flow of transport and shipping in the territory. Meanwhile, the exercises of the Northern Fleet are also continuing; it will be essential to impose Russian supremacy in the Arctic Sea. (Andrea Vassallo)

Political meeting in Davos between Serbia and Croatia. The relations between Croatia and Serbia are not outspread, due to the complicated past that they shared (Serbo-Croatian war 1991-1995). On the 21st of January the Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Plenkovic has met Vucic Andrej, Croatian President in Davos for the World economic forum. They have talked about the relations of their two countries that, like we said, are not so easy today. Both Plenkovic and Vucic have seemed satisfied about their talks. Furthermore, at this forum, there were Hashim Thaci Kosovo’s President. The relations between Serbia and Kosovo are more difficult than the above mentioned. Originally the discord was created by the foundation of the Kosovar state in 2009, separated by Belgrade. Nowadays, the tariffs imposed by Kosovo to Serbian goods have complicated way more their dealings. Maybe during this forum, it has been possible to find a way to reopen talks between Pristina and Belgrade. (Dario Pone)

75° anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau lager. In few days the world is gonna to celebrate the 75° anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau lager. In prevision of the World Holocaust forum on the 23rd of January, that will be hold in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post has published a report in which shows the knowledge of the Shoah in the U.S, Russia and France. At the same time Haim Ben Yaakov general secretary of the Eurasiatic Jews congress has used strong words in order to underline the critical situation related to the Holocaust issue. The report analyzes how today there is a very little and negative acquaintance of what has been the Shoah and the elements that have brought to the Holocaust. For example, in Russia there are lots of people that accuse Jews to create the Holocaust cult. Equally, in France and the U.S, the largest part of the people interviewed in the report, does not know the most fundamental element of the Shoah. This report wants to indicate that the right knowledge of that historical disaster is necessary for avoid that in future similar tragedies could happen again. (Dario Pone)

A point on the enlargement process. After months of immobilism the EU is trying go ahead with the widening process and to find a solution for the diatribes about the enlargement. The President of the European Parliament on the 28th of January has met in Brussels the leaders of the western Balkans states, Albania, North Macedonia Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. With them there was the rotating President of the European Council, the Croatian Josip Leko. Both Sassoli and Leko agreed that the Balkans countries present at the meeting should, one day, be part of the European Union, not only because there will be mutual advantages, but also because this is the way in which the Union could dissipate the divergences with hers same neighbors. The time for words has gone has added the President of the Parliament, now the EU’s institutions must take concrete actions in order to get this result. (Dario Pone)

Andrea Vassallo and Dario Pone


MIDDLE-EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA)

Iraq, appointed a new Prime Minister among the discontent of the population. On Saturday, February 2, Iraqi President Barham Salih appointed the new Prime Minister of the country, putting up to an institutional vacuum that lasted two months after Mahdi's resignation (at the end of November). The Prime Minister in charge of forming the government is Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi, former Minister of Telecommunications. The anti-government protest movement has already expressed its disappointment with the figure of Allawi, perceived as a man "of the corrupt political system" in Iraq and close to Iran. However, it is precisely to the demonstrators that the new Prime Minister has addressed his first public intervention, ensuring that he will meet the needs and demands of the people in the square.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Libya, the truce doesn't hold. Two weeks after the Berlin Conference, the truce in Libya has already broken. Both factions, Serraj on the one hand and Haftar on the other, have taken advantage of the most relaxing moment to accumulate weapons and mercenaries and to regroup. On the one hand, the strong man from Cyrenaica continues to perpetrate bombardments in southern Tripoli and offensive actions in Misurata. On the other, Serraj continued to make use of the armaments and men sent by Turkey, his main supporter. On January 29, in fact, two Turkish warships would escort a merchant ship bound for Tripoli carrying armored vehicles, tanks and other weapons.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

The announcement of the peace plan for the Middle East. The American administration has presented what it calls an "optimal framework" to ensure peace in the Middle East, after years of substantial stalemate in relations between Israel and Palestine. The document, in its eighty pages long, provides many political theories but few practical instructions. In fact, among the most important turning points is the official recognition of Jerusalem as the united capital of the State of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian State (supported by investments by the USA and their allies to the amount of 50 billion dollars) that will have a capital in the East Jerusalem area. The plan, presented in the presence of a radiant Netanyahu, would provide the Palestinian people with a territorial state (so much coveted) much larger than the territory occupied until now, connected within it by avant-garde infrastructure and where the U.S. promises to inaugurate a diplomatic headquarters. No Palestinian representation was present at the presentation of the document, while the ambassadors of Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain attended, suggesting their possible support for the initiative.

(Federica Sulpizio)

The Palestinian reaction. All this, of course, was conditional on a commitment by the Palestinian authorities to renounce terrorism altogether. In addition, formal restrictions on the creation of a possible Palestinian state relate to the impossibility of having an army to control its borders and airspace. Evidence of a blatant repudiation of the offer has been seen in the Palestinian territories, where the plan has been labelled as overly unbalanced in favour of the Israelis. Furthermore, the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Abu Mazen, during the extraordinary meeting of the Arab League in Cairo following the presentation of the Trump Plan on 28 January, announced the breaking of all relations with Israel and the USA, as well as the suspension of the agreements in force. Mazen reiterated that he continues to believe that an Arab peace is possible, but in a perspective that involves the United Nations and does not have the U.S. as the only mediator. Opposition to the plan was also expressed by Turkey and Iran.

(Federica Sulpizio)

Israel, widespread euphoria for the Trump Plan. One can suppose that Benjamin Netanyahu has placed a lot of emphasis on the image he gives of himself and Israel at the international level; it is no coincidence that, at the presentation of the "peace plan of the century" in Washington, the current premier announced that he would withdraw his request to avail himself of parliamentary immunity against the serious accusations made against him. An abrupt response came from Prosecutor Mandelblit, who immediately filed an indictment against the premier in the Jerusalem court. The Plan presented by Trump, in the presence of both Netanyahu and Gantz, aims to make great concessions to Israel: the recognition of Jerusalem as the unique capital of the State of Israel, Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and the annexation of several settlements in the West Bank. Netanyahu, standing as a champion of the plan, hopes to win back the hearts of the majority of the Israeli population, awakening nationalist sentiment and securing a solid consensus in view of the March elections.

(Federica Sulpizio)

Vincenzo Battaglia and Federica Sulpizio


TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY

Isis, Al Baghdadi's successor has a name. The Guardian has revealed the name of the new leader of the Islamic State, until now known as al-Quraishi (battle name). The successor to Al Baghdadi, according to the British newspaper, would be Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman Al Mawli Al Salbi. In 2004 he was imprisoned in Camp Bucca prison (southern Iraq), and it was here that he met al-Baghdadi. Deeply familiar with the Qur'an, the new leader would oversee operations around the world conducted by IS followers. Furthermore, the Islamist would have led the campaign against the Yazida minority in Iraq. Another element to underline is his origin: he is Turkmen and would therefore be one of the first non-Arabs in the leadership of the Islamic State.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Afghanistan, mystery of the downed American jet. In the past few days, an American plane has crashed in Ghazni province. It would be an aircraft (Bombardier Global Express E-11A) used to coordinate military operations. The Taliban have claimed the shooting down of the jet, which took place in an area controlled by them. However, the causes of the accident are not yet clear and the States deny that they have suffered an offensive action. In fact, the idea that the aircraft was shot down by the Taliban would seem to be incompatible with the technology in their possession. Koranic students do not have access to modern anti-aircraft systems capable of hitting a jet, such as the Bombardier, equipped with effective countermeasures.

(Vincenzo Battaglia)

Laura Vaccaro Senna and Vincenzo Battaglia


INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

NATO-EU cooperation is getting stronger. On January 21, during a meeting with the Foreign Affairs Commission and the Sub-Committee for Security and Defense of the European Parliament, the NATO Secretary General, Jan Stoltenberg, highlighted how the cooperation between NATO and the European Union is getting stronger. According to Stoltenberg, in fact, NATO and the European Union are "two sides of the same coin". Among the shared themes, maritime security, military mobility and the fight against hybrid and cyber attacks certainly emerge.

UN, Guterres calls for the ceasefire in Syria. The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, said he was very worried about the hostilities that are going through the Ibid region, northwest of Syria. In fact, due to the constant attacks on civilians by Assad's forces, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing to the border with Turkey. In this regard, Guterres stressed that "the attacks against civilians and civil infrastructure, such as healthcare facilities, are unacceptable" and urged the Syrian government to cease fire.

UN, the Security Council renews the arms embargo against the Central African Republic. On January 31, 13 out of 15 Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution banning the sale or transfer of weapons, ammunition and military equipment to the Central African Republic - only China and Russia abstained. Despite last February the government signed a peace agreement with 14 armed groups, in fact, the clashes continued. The resolution, sponsored by France, renews the arms embargo until July 2020 - supplies to the UN MINUSCA Peacekeeping Mission are obviously excluded.

UN, the US plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "lopsided". According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the US plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only promotes Israeli interests, without taking the Palestinian interests into consideration. "This agreement violates international law", said United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Palestine, Michael Lynk: "it should be based on respect for human rights and international law, not on the interests of one single country".

WHO, Coronavirus is a "global health emergency". The continued increase in contagions outside China has led WHO to declare coronavirus as a "global health emergency". To this date, there are over 14,600 cases confirmed globally, 14,380 of which in China alone. Of these, 305 died, while 1,795 cases are serious. In the rest of the world, 180 cases have been confirmed in 27 countries - 7 infected persons have not been in China. WHO has issued some guidelines to try to counter the further spread of the virus and help countries containing the epidemy.

Marta Stroppa



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

Andrea Vassallo: Eastern Europe and Russia Federation

Dario Pone: Western Europe and European Union; Eastern Europe

Domenico Barbato: South America

Federica Sulpizio: Middle East and North Africa

Laura Vaccaro Senna: Terrorism and International Security

Leonardo Aldeghi: Economy and International Finance

Leonardo Cherici: Western Europe and European Union

Marcello Alberizzi: Sub-Saharan Africa

Marta Annalisa Savino: North America

Marta Stroppa: Human Rights

Michele Pavan: North America, South America, Oceania and International Organizations

Stefano Sartorio: Asia and Far East

Vincenzo Battaglia: Middle East and North Africa; Terrorism and International Security

Translated by: Andrea Vassallo, Dario Pone, Federica Sulpizio, Laura Vaccaro Senna, Leonardo Aldeghi, Leonardo Chierici, Marcello Alberizzi, Marta Annalisa Savino, Marta Stroppa, Stefano Sartorio, Vincenzo Battaglia


Share the post

  • L'Autore

    Federica Sulpizio

Categories

From the World


Tag

America europe Middle Eastern Africa Economics humanrights InternationalOrganitazions

You might be interested in

Image

FEMALE EMPOWERMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA

Sofia Perinetti
Image

The City of Naples grants the patronage to Expo Africa 2021

Michele Pavan
Image

Framing The World, XXIV edition

Federica Sulpizio
Log in to your Mondo Internazionale account
Forgot Password? Get it back here