The World This Week

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The World This Week
EU's China investment freeze, Arctic Council meeting, Cryptocurrency crash, and a BBC apology

  IPRI Team

The World This Week #120, Vol. 3, No. 21

Dincy Adlakha, Rashmi Ramesh, and Vishnu Prasad

EU-China: European Union Parliament freezes Comprehensive Agreement on Investments with China
What happened?
On 20 May, the European Union Parliament passed a resolution to freeze the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with China. It cites the crackdown on democratic opposition in Hong Kong, forced labour and other conditions of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as major reasons for the freeze. The Parliament halted any discussion or consideration of ratifying the deal because of the sanctions imposed by China. The resolution "demands that China lift the sanctions before the Parliament can deal with the CAI". The Parliament also calls "to use the debate around the CAI as leverage to improve the protection of human rights and support for civil society in China." It has cleared that the Hong Kong situation will be accounted for while considering any discussion on CAI. 

The resolution also called on the EU to "increase coordination and cooperation with the US within the framework of a Transatlantic Dialogue on China" and that "other trade and investment agreements with regional partners, including Taiwan, should not be held hostage to the suspension of the CAI ratification."

What is the background?
First, the EU-China economic dialogue. The economic partnership between the EU and China was established after China entered the World Trade Organization in 2003. Over the years, the dialogue has seen major shifting trends. The High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue, started in 2008, focused on better market access, reduction of trade barriers, and boosting custom policies in sectors like innovation, technology, intellectual property rights, energy and climate change. Launched in 2012, the negotiations on CAI increased the economic ambitions. However, it has seen multiple disagreements arising out of political issues such as the Dalai Lama visit to France and weak dispute management mechanism. The EU and China are their largest trading partners. Nevertheless, the differences in ideological values have led to the freezing of the CAI.

Second, the issue of investment. The Chinese foreign direct investment in the EU has increased exponentially over the years, but the lack of reciprocity plagues the investment ties. The EU firms have been unable to enter the Chinese market due to an unbalanced playing field, domestic security laws, technology protection laws and other discriminatory regulations. The CAI aimed to provide a legal framework to increase the EU investment in China; however, even after seven years of negotiations, the gap between the two entities continues to widen. Recent efforts at inviting foreign firms by the passing of Foreign Investment Law (2019) in China did not appease the EU as they demand free-market conditions that Chinese firms have access to.

Third, points of EU-China contention. In March 2021, the EU imposed sanctions on four top Chinese officials; China retaliated with hefty sanctions on EU representatives. The EU opposes the following Chinese actions: the crackdown of democracy in Hong Kong, human rights violation of ethnic minorities, assertiveness in the South China Sea, and the disinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. China's record of violating the international labour organization's regulations have made the EU apprehensive of ratifying the deal. These contentions are influenced by other global factors to some extent and are deeply rooted in the liberal values that the EU proudly holds.

Fourth, the divergence of opinion within the EU member states. The massive majority of the resolution does not speak for all member states. The CAI was "spearheaded" by Germany and has received ample support from France. Many eastern European countries have been benefitting from Beijing and the potential interconnectedness in the region. However, the persisting issue of technology sharing has left the EU internally divided.

What does it mean?
First, China needs to open its economy, which is mainly restrictive and requires the CAI more than the EU does. The EU has witnessed Chinese discrimination and is apprehensive of investing in a certified complication. 

Second, these gaps in trust are not merely bilateral problems but have global roots lying in other links such as US-China, US-EU, and the Chinese perplexity with western democracies.

The Arctic Council ministerial meeting: Adopting the Strategic Plan 2021-30
What happened?
On 20 May 2021, the Senior Arctic Officials and foreign ministers of eight Arctic countries met in Reykjavík. The meeting marked the conclusion of the Icelandic Chairmanship (2019-21) and the beginning of the Russian (2021-23). 

The Ministerial meeting adopted the "Arctic Council Strategic Plan 2021 to 2030", the first of its kind for the region, which will be the long-term framework guiding the Council's work till 2030. It also approved and adopted the "Reykjavík Declaration 2021". 

What is the background?
First, the international importance of the Arctic. While climate change is a crucial challenge affecting every part of the globe, the Arctic faces a disproportionate impact. The pace of warming in the region is three times faster than the global average. Changes happening in the Arctic do not remain within the confines of the Arctic Circle. Instead, they have significant effects outside. In recent years, the international attention on the Arctic has been increasing due to climate change, the potential resources- both renewable and non-renewable, the presence of Asian countries, particularly China, increased militarization and other security issues. 

Second, the Arctic Council's performance. At the Ministerial meeting, Finland noted that the Council's achievements had exceeded the expectations. After 25 years of its establishment, it remains the primary forum for discussing Arctic issues. While there are significant geopolitical concerns, the Arctic Council has successfully kept the diplomatic channels open, to the extent that the tensions between the US-Western Europe and Russia in 2014 failed to impact the Arctic cooperation negatively. It has successfully brought three legally binding treaties on central themes. The Council has numerous challenges, including the militarization of the region, climate adaptation, connectivity, the growing global attention, food and energy security. 

Third, the Council's success under Iceland's chairmanship. Iceland focused extensively on ocean issues, especially on marine litter. It was successful in continuing the Council's work during the pandemic, holding the joint meeting between the Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council, negotiating and bringing the Arctic Council Strategic Plan, and adopting the Reykjavík Declaration. The Finnish Chairmanship ended without a declaration, mainly due to the Trump administration's stance on climate change and Paris Agreement. The changed stance under Joe Biden has contributed to adopting a stronger language for climate change and environmental protection through the Reykjavík Declaration. The key takeaway from Iceland's chairmanship was the implementation of projects. 

Fourth, the politicization of the Arctic. In recent years, the region is facing increasing militarization and dormant geopolitical concerns. Though the Arctic is practically free of any land/maritime dispute, the chances of new disputes arising cannot be ignored. With China's foray into the North, speculations of more politicization and militarization of the Arctic are rife. 

What does it mean?
First, the necessity for a long-term plan. The Strategic Plan adopted at the Ministerial is a welcome step. A long-term plan ought to be in place to ensure continuity of the work when the chairmanship rotates between the eight countries. The Plan has listed seven goals under three categories- Environmental Protection, Sustainable Development and Strengthening the Arctic Council. It is expected to guide the priorities of the upcoming Chairmanships. 

Second, the need for Russia's balancing act. At the Ministerial, Iceland and the US particularly emphasized that the Arctic is a zone of peace and there are pertinent matters beyond competition and conflict. The views can be attributed to the speculations about Russian chairmanship. Russia prioritizes its economic needs and sovereignty in the North and harbours interests to revive pre-1991 Soviet interests in the region. Balancing between its national interests and regional interests, the Council's larger goals and the perceptions of other countries can be a major challenge for Moscow for the next two years. 

Cryptocurrency: The recent crash indicates a lack of maturity of the crypto market
What happened?
On 18 May, China prohibited its financial institutions from providing cryptocurrency-related services. Earlier this month, on 13 May, Elon Musk stated, that Tesla will stop accepting bitcoin as payment. He tweeted: "We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel. Cryptocurrency is a good idea... but this cannot come at great cost to the environment."

The same day, the US officials revealed that it was investigating Binance, as the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, for tax fraud and money laundering.

What is the background?
First, the remarkable rise of cryptocurrencies. Since the release of bitcoin in 2009, cryptocurrencies have evolved into the market, which is now worth trillions of dollars. The exchange CoinMarketCap estimates the total value of the cryptocurrency market at USD 1.58 trillion. Part of the reason for the rise is the perception that cryptocurrencies are indeed currencies of the future. The blockchain technology on which it is based places emphasis on decentralization and privacy features that appeal to consumers wary of government interference and monitoring of the market.

Second, the lack of maturity of the market. This is evident by the influence that a few individuals have on it. Despite its huge market cap, the fact remains that the cryptocurrency market is only just over a decade old. Unlike conventional stock, the art of investing in the cryptocurrency market is something that most people are still trying to understand, which would explain them relying on what certain influential voices have to say. A case in point is Musk, who managed to single-handedly drive up the value of the crypto DogeCoin by a factor of thousands, relentlessly promoting it on social media. Musk had also contributed to the rapid rise of Bitcoin by revealing that Tesla had bought billions of dollars' worth of the crypto and has now contributed to its crash.

Third, the antagonistic attitude of the State against cryptocurrencies. Chinese and US officials' stances this week are just the latest in a long line of antagonistic measures that world governments have taken against cryptocurrencies. These governments are motivated by multiple factors. Prime among them is that the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies takes control away from their hands. The emphasis on privacy also makes it difficult to monitor, as evidenced by hacker groups these days, demanding their ransom in Bitcoin.

Fourth, the rise of "memecoins" giving cryptocurrencies a bad name. While the lack of regulation adds to the appeal of the cryptocurrency markets for many, the fact that anyone can float and promote their own currencies has led to buyers being victims of scams. Many experts point to the rise of memecoins like Doge as a potential red flag. Unlike before Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Etherium, where the users are either investing in a real-world use or a potential application, memecoins have no intrinsic value apart from the fact that others too are buying it on the hype. Many point out that this is essentially a pyramid scheme — a crash is inevitable the day the hype stops and the early investors will make a profit at the cost of later investors.

What does it mean?
The recent volatility and the rise of coins with virtually no value have led experts to ponder whether a cryptocurrency will ever replace conventional currency. Stability is one of the most important hallmarks of a currency, and cryptocurrencies have so far lacked that. The crash has also raised questions about whether the rapid rise of cryptocurrencies in recent years has been a bubble that has now burst.

UK: The BBC apology for the 1995 Diana interview highlights the good and bad sides of the UK media
What happened?
On 14 May, an inquiry found that the BBC acted in an unethical and deceitful manner to obtain a 1995 interview with Princess Diana. The inquiry, conducted by retired judge Lord Dyson, found that journalist Martin Bashir had "deceived and induced" Diana's brother Earl Spencer to arrange an interview with her by falsifying bank documents. Dyson report said: "Without justification, the BBC fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark by covering up in its press logs such facts as it had been able to establish about how Mr Bashir secured the interview too and failing to mention Mr Bashir's activities or the BBC investigations of them on any news programme." 

The BBC subsequently apologized to both Earl Spencer and Diana's son Prince William, but the latter hit out against the media outlet nevertheless. Prince William said: "The interview was a major contribution to making my parents' relationship worse and has since hurt countless others."

What is the background?
First, the importance of the integrity of big media houses. With terms like alternative truth and fake news dominating the discourse over the last few years, premier news outlets like the BBC must retain their credibility that has been the hallmark for over a century. While the blame, in this case, falls largely on the shoulders of Bashir, the report has blamed BBC for a "woefully ineffective" investigation into the affair in 1996.

Second, the unethical practices of media houses and individual reporters. The scandal once again brings to attention the unethical practices that journalists often resort to for a breaking story or a scoop. Ten years ago, a phone-hacking scandal, where it emerged that reporters had hacked the phones of hundreds of people, including members of the royal family, had caused the closure of the 'News of the World' newspaper. 

Third, the market for tabloid journalism. While the blame does lie solely on Bashir's and BBC's shoulders, the fact remains that such sensationalist content attracts a significant number of viewers. A case in point is the recent interview that Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle had held with Oprah Winfrey, which attracted 17.1 million viewers. It can be argued that ultimately the media is giving the public what they want the most and the unethical practices that go hand-in-hand with the nature of the content.

Fourth, the obsession that UK media have with their royalty. The lengths to which Bashir went to get the interview, and the frenzy with which it was received, exemplifies the hype that surrounds the British royal family, something that often ends up having negative consequences. Two decades later, the sensationalist coverage of Prince Harry's split with the family shows that nothing has changed.

What does it mean?
While the incident and its handling is a blot on BBC's credibility, the fact that they have owned up to their mistakes and apologized for them is a good sign. On 7 May, the Guardian had apologized for the errors in judgment that it had made during its 200 years of existence. These are indeed good precedents for media companies to follow when accountability has been sacrificed for a short-term gain.

Also, in the news …
By Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok

East and Southeast Asia This Week 
China: Global Health Summit, Xi Jinping offers USD 3 billion for COVID response
On 21 May, China announced an additional USD 3 billion for the next three years to the COVID-19 struck developing countries during the Global Health Summit. Global Times reported Xi stating: "China has already supplied 300 million doses to the world and will provide more, implement the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative for Poorest Countries and has so far put off debt repayments exceeding USD 1.3 billion, the highest deferral among G20 members." He also proposed five-point proposals for global solidarity and cooperation and urged the G20 members for global cooperation against the virus.  

South Korea: Moon Jae visits the US, Biden signs COVID-19 Hate Crime Act
On 21 May, President Moon Jae visited the US. Both the leaders discussed issues of denuclearization in the Korean peninsula and rising tension in China and Taiwan. They also agreed to enhance 5G and 6G telecoms networks, increase their global supplies of chips for automobiles, vaccine partnership, and climate change. On North Korea, Biden said: "I would not do what had been done in the recent past; I would not give him all he's looking for - international recognition as legitimate and allow him to move in the direction of appearing to be more ... serious about what he wasn't at all serious about." On the same day, Biden also signed COVID-19 Hate Crime Act. The act aims to fight against the rising crime and racial discrimination faced by Asian Americans since the pandemic. The Act was passed by 364 to 62 votes. According to Stop AAPI Hate, there have been more than 6,600 hate incidents recorded, which included elder abuse, stabbings, shootings, and sexual assaults, with Asian women targeted twice as often as Asian men.

Myanmar: Election commission to dissolve Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy (NLD)
On 21 May, the Election commission announced the dissolution of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy for vote fraud in last year's election. Since the coup on 1 February, more than 800 people have been killed, and 5000 arrested. According to Reuters, Thein Soe, the Chairman of Union Election Commission, said: "NLD had committed fraud so we will have to dissolve the party's registration." He also stated members in election fraud "will be considered as traitors" and further action will be taken against them.

Myanmar: The UN vote to arms embargo postponed
On 18 May, in the UN General Assembly, 193 members voted on a draft resolution "for an immediate suspension of the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of all weapons and munitions to Myanmar" was postponed. Since the crackdown, more than 788 people have been killed. The draft resolution calls "Myanmar armed forces to stop all violence against peaceful demonstrators, members of civil society, women, youth, as well as children and others."

South Asia This Week
Sri Lanka: Port City Economic Commission Bill project passed with a majority
On 20 May, the Sri Lankan Parliament passed the bill with a majority of 149 in 225 members in the House on the Colombo Port city project. The bill was opposed, and several leaders said that it harms the sovereignty of the country. At the same time, the government claimed it as a prospect for investment and job creation. The Hindu reported: "Tamil National Alliance MP stated, the Supreme Court had made merely cosmetic changes to the Bill, while its fundamental character remained unchanged." The Colombo Port city project was initiated in 2014 during the Xi Jinping visit.

India: Ministry of Health declare black fungus epidemic
On 20 May, the Union Health Ministry, in a letter to all states and Union territories, urged to declare 'Mucormycosis', also known as Black Fungus, as an epidemic.  The letter also highlighted such cases to be reported directly to the Health Department and the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP) surveillance system. Under the Epidemic Disease Act 1897, a disease can be declared an epidemic and give power to authorities to implement containment measures to control the spread. The Black fungus has been reported in states like Rajasthan, Haryana Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar amongst COVID patients. 

India: World's highest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases
On 18 May, India recorded the highest single-day spike of 4,529 deaths since the pandemic. India surpassed the US spike of 4,475. The Hindu reported, Maharashtra records the highest cases, with a reduction in the death since mid-April, whereas states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have seen a drastic rise in the death counts.

Nepal: Border pillars with China missing from Daulkha district 
On 19 May, the Nepal border pillar with China was found missing from the Daulkha district. According to the eureporter, "The incursion was further countenanced by erection of 2 Chinese flags near the Chinese Border Pillar." China-Nepal border was established in 1960, which later formed a border treaty with the construction of pillars of demarcation. Recently, a survey by Nepal's Ministry of Agriculture claimed that China has illegally encroached in several districts like Gorkha, Dolakha, Humla, Darchula, Sindhupalchowk, Rasuwa, and Sankhuwasabha. 

Nepal: President announces to dissolve the Parliament 
On 22 May, Nepal's President dissolved the House of Representatives and declared a mid-term poll as of 12-19 November with respect to Article 76 (7) of the Constitution. This is the second time Parliament was being dissolved. As per the press release: President's office said, "Neither K.P. Sharma Oli, the incumbent Prime Minister nor Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nepali Congress president, as claims made by both to form a new government were insufficient."

Pakistan: 70 years of bilateral relations with China 
On 21 May, China-Pakistan marked 70 years of friendship and vowed to strengthen their ties further and achieve high-quality development under CPEC. According to The News International, President Alvi stated: "The mutual trust and friendship between the two countries has gone through the test of 70 years of international changes and remains rock-solid and has become the most valuable strategic asset of the two peoples." The diplomatic relation between the nations enjoys political trust, economic cooperation, and increased people-to-people friendship.

Pakistan: Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa on a visit to Ukraine
On 20 May, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Ukraine. He met the Ukrainian leaders in his official visit. The meet focused on strengthening mutual trust, regional security situation, developments in the Afghan negotiations, and collaboration in defense cooperation. Leaders also agreed to optimize, defense production, training, counterterrorism, and intelligence domains.

Afghanistan: NATO alliance on the future of Afghanistan
On 21 May, NATO Secretary-General met French President Emmanuel Macron. The two leaders discussed the fight against terrorism in Iraq, the Sahel region, and Afghanistan. Stoltenberg highlighted three major pillars, "first, we plan to provide advice and capacity-building support to Afghan security institutions. Second, NATO plans to provide military education and training outside Afghanistan, focusing on Special Operations Forces. Third, to fund the provision of services, including support for the functioning of Kabul airport."  On the same day, The Associated Press reported: "the US Central Command commander said negotiations with Afghanistan's neighbours for overflight rights and troop basing are moving forward but will take time." The withdrawal process, which began on 1 May and scheduled to over by 11 September, has put forward various concerns on women's rights, education, and society, including free media.

Afghanistan: China state councillor reiterates its supports Afghan negotiations 
On 20 May, the Chinese State Councilor held a telephonic conversation with the Afghan foreign minister and expressed its support to Afghan negotiations. He said: "China is willing to work with Afghanistan to take the 15th anniversary as an opportunity to deepen their BRI cooperation." The Express Tribune reported: "China expresses hope that Afghanistan's future leadership will pursue a moderate Muslim policy and a foreign policy of peace to maintain friendly ties with neighboring countries and firmly combat all forms of terrorism."

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Armenia: Russia offers to define borders with Azerbaijan
On 19 May, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a meeting with the foreign minister of Tajikistan at Dushanbe. At the meeting, Lavrov revealed the offer by Russia to define the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. He said: "Russia has offered first of all to provide assistance with the delimitation and demarcation of the border." Establishing an Armenian-Azeri commission with Russia acting as the mediator was also proposed at the meeting. The Tajik and Russian ministers also discussed the donation of Sputnik-V vaccines and migration cooperation. 

Iran: Deputy Foreign Minister comments on progress achieved in Vienna 
On 19 May, the deputy foreign minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi announced that good progress had been achieved in the fourth round of JCPOA talks in Vienna. While addressing the media in Iran, he said: "There are a few key issues that need further review and decision-making in the capitals, and we hope that they will take place in the next few days and that we will be able to conclude on these issues in the next round of talks." According to Araghchi, the talks had succeeded in communicating on key issues of the talk and that the rest of the issues will be discussed after the delegations visit their respective countries. 

Israel: Hamas agrees to a ceasefire mediated by Egypt
On 20 May, Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire which was brokered by Egypt. On 21 May, the truce was observed by both entities. Israel and Hamas warned that the ceasefire would be followed depending on the situation on the ground. On 21 May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the country had achieved all its goals. He referred to the international criticism on the airstrikes in Gaza and said: "We acted with determination, wisdom and with supreme responsibility. I regard it as my responsibility to protect the mothers, the sons, ours soldiers and prevent unnecessary loss of life. Therefore, we caused maximum casualties to Hamas while minimizing Israeli casualties."

Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince announces USD one billion investment in Africa
On 18 May, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia will offer investments and loans worth USD 1 billion to African countries to help the countries recover from the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19. He said, "Saudi Development Fund will carry out future projects, loans and grants worth three billion riyals, or around $1 billion, in developing countries in Africa this year." The country has also invested USD four billion, which will be used in the energy, mining, telecoms and food security in the continent. 

Africa: Paris summit promises relief and financial aid 
On 18 May, leaders from European countries met with African leaders in Paris to decide on a plan to overcome the economic recession faced by African countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The French President said: "We have taken the first step in what we have agreed to call a New Deal with Africa." The countries participating in the summit agreed to allocate over USD 100 billion in the IMF's special drawing rights monetary reserves to African countries by October 2021. On vaccines and the inoculation drive, the participating countries believe that the continent must be made capable of producing its vaccines. France has pledged to vaccine 40 per cent of the African population by the end of the year. The European Union offered to invest USD one billion in the continent to build vaccine manufacturing facilities. 

Namibia: Germany blocks financial reparations in apology for genocide 
On 21 May, Germany announced that it would not use financial reparations in the formal apology to Namibia for the colonial atrocities conducted by the country at the start of the 20th century. The decision was taken by Angela Merkel's government which feared that such payments would lead to a string of demands from other colonized states. The German government has been negotiating with Namibia since 2014 on reparations for brutally killing thousands of indigenous communities between 1904 and 1908. The negotiations are now nearing a finish with the President of Germany planning to apologize in the Namibian Parliament. 

Sierra Leone: China gives USD 55 million for fishing harbour in the undeveloped coastline
On 21 May, CNN reported that China had covertly donated USD 55 million to Sierra Leona to fund a controversial fishing harbour in a protected rainforest. The deal came to light when the locals were barred from exchanging property in the area due to the Chinese deal. Although both countries initially denied the transfer of capital, they eventually agreed to the existence of the deal but no details have been announced yet. On 18 May, the President of Sierra Leone said that the deal was part of the BRI plan and would be helpful for the local fisheries sector. 

Ethiopia: Foreign Ministry prepares to generate power from Blue Nile dam
On 20 May, the Foreign Ministry announced that Ethiopia was prepared to generate electricity from the Blue Nile River dam in the upcoming rainy season. The dam is capable of collecting 13.5 billion cubic meters of water in the rainy season. A 650 kilometer long power line has been connected to the power grid of Ethiopia to draw energy from the hydroelectric power plant. The ministry released a warning which stated: "Ethiopia will not tolerate any move that's aimed at disrupting the water filling process, its operation and water releasing scheme."

Sudan: Removal from the US list of state-sponsored terrorism brings an end to 27 years of sanctions 
On 19 May, the US decision to remove Sudan from the list of state-sponsored terrorism was implemented officially. The removal from the list has ended 27 years of sanctions which caused deep damages to the economy. The US treasury department released a statement on the event and said: "The Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is amending the Terrorism List Governments Sanctions Regulation; to implement the rescission of the designation of Sudan as a State Sponsor of Terrorism."

Europe and The Americas This Week
Russia: The US waives off sanctions from Nord Stream 2
On 20 May, the US lifted all sanctions from the executive in charge of the Nord Stream and the company responsible for the construction of a gas pipeline between Germany and Russia. The pipeline project has completed 95 per cent of the construction. The sanctions had been placed on the company, and the individual, as the Department of State report indicated sanctionable activity but eventually concluded that waiving off sanctions would work in favour of the US. The statement issued by the US Secretary of State read: "I have determined that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, its CEO Matthias Warnig, and Nord Stream 2 AG's corporate officers."

Russia: Foreign Minister meets American counterpart in Iceland
On 19 May, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the international summit in Iceland. The two ministers engaged with each other at the summit. Blinked said: "When it comes to those differences, as President Biden has also shared with President Putin, if Russia acts aggressively against us, our partners, our allies, we'll respond." Lavrov also responded positively to the statements and showed interest in cooperating on issues of mutual interest but also issued a warning against the US.  

Spain: Upsurge in migrants from Morocco in Ceuta
On 18 May, the media channels in Spain reported that over 8000 people had crossed over into Ceuta from Morocco in two days. The government deployed military reinforcements in the Spanish coastal city in North Africa and the Prime Minister also cancelled his visit to Paris and landed in the city to handle the sudden surge in migrants. On 19 May, two Moroccan officials hinted that the medical treatment of Brahim Ghali, leader of a militant group, at a Spanish hospital could be the reason behind relaxation of the border control. 

Chile: Ruling coalition fails to secure one-third of seats in body rewriting the constitution
On 16 May, Chile's ruling coalition party suffered a loss and failed to secure one-third of seats in the body that will be drafting the new constitution in the country. A majority of the seats have been taken over by the Independents. The draft for the new constitution will require a two-thirds approval for passing any changes. With the ruling party lacking adequate seats, it will be difficult for the government to restrict radical changes to the constitution. 
The US: House of Representatives pass a bill to appoint commission into Capitol insurrection
On 19 May, the House of Representatives agreed to pass a bill to establish a commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection of 6 January. The final vote accounted for 252 in favour and 175 against. Over 35 Republicans joined the Democrats to approve the bill for the establishment of the commission. The bill seeks to appoint a 10-person board that will look into "the facts and circumstances of the January 6th attack on the Capitol as well as the influencing factors that may have provoked the attack on US democracy." The bill will now be passed to the House of Senates for voting. 

The US: President Joe Biden comments on the ceasefire in Israel-Palestine
On 20 May, President Joe Biden referred to the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and called it "a genuine opportunity to make progress." He said, "I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy. My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that." Biden said that he communicated with Prime Minister Netanyahu six times in the past 11 days and promised to restock the missile defense system that protected Israel against the missile attacks by Hamas. 

About the Authors
Dincy Adlakha and Vishnu Prasad are interns with the NIAS course on Global Politics. Rashmi Ramesh is a PhD scholar at the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Sukanya Bali and Avishka Ashok are Research Associates at NIAS. 

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