Photo : Nicole Winfield, Associated Press
28 December 2021, Tuesday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #83
By Ashwin Dhanabalan
Gender: The Pope’s comments on Gender Violence
Pope Francis on domestic violence
On 19 December, Pope Francis commented on the rising violence against women and named those who perpetuated it as "…almost satanic because it is taking advantage of a person who cannot defend herself". The Pope's recent remarks strongly expressed his concerns about the increasing violence against women. He mentioned these statements on an Italian broadcast called Canale 5. The show was called ‘Francis and the Invisibles’, showcasing diverse individuals struggling in life. The Pope engaged with the participants on the show; one of them, named Giovanna, was a survivor of domestic abuse. The Pope encouraged her by saying: "I see dignity in you because if you didn't have dignity, you wouldn't be here." He added: "Look at the Blessed Mother and stay with that image of courage." His meeting with Giovanna was an unexpectedly pleasant experience for her as she mentioned: "I knew he put people at ease, but I wasn't expecting this."
On 01 February, the Pope in his "February prayers", denounced domestic violence and dedicated his devotion to female victims of violence. He further said: "The various forms of ill-treatment that many women suffer are acts of cowardice and degradation of all humanity. Of men and of all humanity." Pope Francis called on the people to support "…women who have suffered domestic violence during these months of lockdown". The Pope further brought attention to the problem, stating that domestic violence had many manifestations such as "psychological violence, verbal violence, physical violence, sexual violence". Pope Francis praised women who broke their silence and sought help; he also said that the Church could not look away and had to play an essential role in dealing with such issues. Pope Francis, in January 2021, had also spoken on femicide and violence against women in St. Peter's square.
Rising issues of gender violence in Europe
According to Reuters: "Police figures released last month showed that there are about 90 episodes of violence against women in Italy every day and that 62 per cent were cases of domestic violence." The European Institute for Gender Equality mentioned in their report that in 2015, 13.6 per cent of women in Italy "have been victims of physical or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime", out of which only 12.3 per cent of the women contacted the police and sought help.
Pandemic restrictions, a cause of increasing gender violence
Since the advent of the pandemic, cases of gender violence have rapidly increased as many women have been stuck at home with their potential abusers due to lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions. The Pope, who has been speaking against gender violence for the last two years, stated: "The number of women who are beaten, abused in their homes, even by their husbands, is very, very high." In addition, UN reports stated that due to the pandemic, domestic violence intensified and, as indicated by The New York Times: " (the pandemic) also made women feel more vulnerable to abuse, sexual harassment and violence, impacting their emotional and mental health.” The Pope has been actively propagating issues of gender violence in his speeches, prayers and video calls as he empathized with many victims like Giovanna. He has been requesting the larger society to safeguard vulnerable women at risk and has raised prayers for victims of violence. Apart from Giovanna, the Pope met Maria, Pedro and Maristella, and talked about their issues.
Elisabetta Povoledo, "Pope Says High Number of Domestic Violence Cases Is 'Almost Satanic'," The New York Times, 20 December 2021.
Philip Pullella, "Domestic violence against women' almost satanic,' Pope Francis says," Reuters, 20 December 2021.
By Joeana Cera Matthews and Padmashree Anandhan
Germany’s new coalition to formulate arms export policy
On 26 December, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that the new coalition government would be introducing laws to constrict the exports of arms. The announcement comes as Germany sees a high record of weapons exports of EUR five billion to Egypt and Singapore. Exports shot up, specifically before former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s exit. Germany was exporting EUR 8.02 billion worth of arms before COVID-19, contributing 5.5 percent to the global arms exports in 2020. It has in 2021, scaled up to exports worth EUR 9.04. Although the existing government has denied claims of outdoing the legal framework, Baerbock stated that they were reviewing the arms export policy. The government is set to formulate a new export control law for regulating clearer criteria for the approval of arms exports. (Nik Martin, “Germany: Baerbock vows new law to curb weapons exports,” Deutsche Welle, 26 December 2021)
Donald Tusk claims government’s use of Pegasus, “crisis for democracy”
On 28 December, Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk stated that the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) spied on its opposition, calling it the latest “crisis for democracy” after communism. The accusations followed a cybersecurity watchdog claiming that the Pegasus spyware had been used to single out opposition leaders, one among which was Civic Platform member Krzysztof Brejza, a scandal which the media has termed “Polish Watergate”. Calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the matter, current head of the Civic Platform party, Tusk added: “This is unprecedented in our history… This is the biggest, deepest crisis for democracy since 1989.” (“Claims Polish government used spyware is 'crisis for democracy', says opposition,” The Guardian 28 December 2021)
NATO: Eighty per cent of NATO’s 2021 fighter jet scrambling was a response to Russia
On 28 December, NATO stated that its fighter jets had been scrambled numerous times in 2021 in order to stop hostile aeroplanes which were mainly Russian-based. ‘Scrambling’ in military terms refers to the act of quickly mobilizing military aircraft in response to an immediate threat, which is usually a hostile aircraft. The alliance said that 290 of almost 370 missions were a response to Russian triggers; most of these interceptions took place in the Baltic region of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania where NATO runs an air-policing mission. A statement released by the alliance read: “Generally, intercepts occurred without incident as NATO planes take off to identify the approaching aircraft and escort it out of the area. Very few intercepted flights entered allied airspace.” However, the number of NATO interceptions that responded to Russia decreased by 60 in 2021 when compared to 2020. NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said: “NATO fighter jets are on duty around the clock, ready to take off in case of unverified flights near the airspace of our allies… NATO is vigilant, and we will always do what it takes to protect and defend all allies.” (“NATO scrambled jets 290 times due to Russian planes in 2021,” Deutsche Welle, 28 December 2021)
More than 400 migrants rescued off the Mediterranean Sea
On 27 December, the German NGO Sea-Watch rescued more than 446 migrants from a recent drowning incident in the Mediterranean Sea. As per the UN data, 1,600 people are said to have died in 2021. The rescue mission by the NGO was the fifth within three days while the Greek and Tunisian coast guards simultaneously carried out rescue missions. So far, migrants from Africa who attempt the crossing have had Italy as their destination. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that the disaster is seen as one of the most fatal events in the Aegean Sea. (“German NGO rescues over 400 migrants over Christmas weekend,” Deutsche Welle, 27 December 2021)
Football players raise concern over FIFA proposal on biennial World Cup
On 27 December, star players of European football, France’s Kylian Mbappe and Poland’s forward Robert Lewandowski expressed concerns over FIFA’s biennial World Cup proposal. The governing body of FIFA in a recent summit announced the idea of holding the World Cup every two years instead of four. Along with the players, many European leagues such as the UEFA, Conmebol and the African governing body Caf have opposed the plan. They reasoned that FIFA, which is the best competition that happens every four years, requires players to be well-prepared both physically and mentally. The parties fear that if the event is conducted every two years, it will adversely impact both the health of the players and the quality of the game. According to Paris St-Germain forward Mbappe: “If people want to see the quality in the game, the emotion, to see what makes the beauty of football, I think we have to respect the health of players.” According to Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski: “We have so many games every year, so many tough weeks, not only the games but preparation for the season, preparation for the big tournaments…If we have a World Cup every two years, the expectation is the time where footballers play at a high level will go down ... It is physically and mentally impossible.” (“Kylian Mbappe & Robert Lewandowski voice concerns over a biennial World Cup,” BBC, 27 December 2021)
Happiness Index 2021: Gallup International poll releases global happiness index
On 28 December, Deutsche Welle interviewed Gallup International President Kancho Stoychev regarding the association’s End of Year survey on global happiness and optimism. Gallup International Association (GIA) has been conducting a global tracking study on hope, happiness and economic expectations around the world for more than 40 years. According to Stoychev, this year’s survey concluded that “global public opinion is seriously concerned about economic prospects and expects a deepening of the crisis”, further adding that Europe led the charts in this regard with Eastern Europe seeing “an average of about two-thirds show a worsening of expectations”. The polls ranked Colombia as the happiest country while the unhappiest was Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Indonesia became the most optimistic country while Turkey became the most pessimistic. Justifying his homeland Bulgaria being ranked the second-most pessimistic country, Stoychev said: “Pessimism in Bulgaria is realism; it is not due to failed public dreams. It is rather a condemnation of the way Bulgarian society functions and, in that regard, it is rather a positive and productive attitude.” Regarding Germany, he stated: “... the Germans' consciousness is somehow irritated, tired and, in a way, not confident in itself. At the bottom of this could be a complex uncertainty — about the lockdowns, the vaccines, the complicated formula of the new government, the weak performance of the EU, the sharp confrontation between the West and Russia or about China.” On being questioned whether happiness could be measured, Stoychev stated: “... we do not look for their individual attitudes or preferences, but try to reflect public perceptions.” The GIA poll for 2022 stated that “38 percent of respondents believe that 2022 will be better than 2021, compared with 28 percent who expect a worse year and 2 percent who believe that 2022 will be no different from 2021”. (Christopher Nehring, “Gallup International: ′We cannot know our future, even though we think we can′,” Deutsche Welle, 28 December 2021)