Daily Briefs

Photo : REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

15 January 2022 Saturday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #99

Abortion Rights in Spain: “A Privilege, not a Right"

Valerie Pecresse urges for stronger EU borders; Poland military data leak not a concern; Brussels to back Lithuania over Chinese pressure;


By Joeana Cera Matthews

Abortion Rights in Spain: “A Privilege, not a Right” 

On 04 January, France24 released a FOCUS on how abortions are regarded in Spain. Interviews conducted included those women who got abortions, members from pro-life groups, medical staff, as well as Cortes Generales (Parliament) members.  


Spain has 50 provinces; 11 from these carry out abortions. In these 11 provinces, only 15 percent of public clinics perform the deed while 200 private clinics have been subsidized to perform 85 percent of the abortions. Sometimes, women have to even travel across islands to find a clinic that would perform abortions for them.  

“Fundamental freedoms at stake” 

If the actual availability of clinics that perform abortions were not enough of an issue, pro-life groups make the lives of these women a living hell. The amount of stigma they are subjected to is traumatizing. Surprisingly, those protesting abortion are primarily constituent of women; even doctors are significant supporters. Critics to abortion argue that fundamental rights are at stake when women choose to kill their foetuses. Activist groups such as ‘40 Dias por la vida’ (40 Days for life), a Catholic entity, claim that they go against the fundamental right of respecting religious belief. 

Some of these groups protest outside clinics that carry out abortions, indirectly harassing women arriving at these clinics. One of such a demonstrator said: “We just come to pray. That’s the most powerful weapon we have.” Another widely used argument is that of a conscience clause which rejects the termination of pregnancies.  

A Stigmatized Health Sector 

Even with the medical community, abortions are stigmatized and the conscience clause is largely used. However, the medical training in Spain lacks the basic education provided in terms of carrying out abortions, which is obligatory elsewhere. Dator Clinic was the first clinic in the country to carry out abortions. The clinic’s Psychologist Sonia Lamas Millan states: “No Spanish region is training health professionals. The new generation isn’t trained to take over duties.”  

Stigmatization, however, is not limited the women undergoing abortions; it extends to those health personnel carrying it out. If a doctor or a resident expects to change their specialization after having worked in an abortion clinic, they would find it a dreadful experience. Once an “accomplice” to abortion, their resumes are tainted and so are they reputations. 

Government Measures 

The ruling Socialist (PSOE) government plans to list out ‘conscientious objectors’ that would ensure enough doctors were available across the country to guarantee the realization of a right. It also plans to ban or put an end to the tactics of those pro-life groups that demonstrate outside clinics. In fact, a bill has been tabled which would consider such acts as harassment. The violation of this would lead to three months to a year in prison. Proposed by PSOE Deputy for Jaen (Andalusia), Laura Berja, the bill led to heated discussions between the left and the right entities in the Parliament.  

Critics, including pro-life demonstrators, state that passing the bill threatens the freedom of assembly, of expression, and for the right to worship. One of the activists claim: “You can’t be sent to prison or fined for praying.” Berja responds to this with her Cortes Generales statement: “Pray as much as you want but let women exercise their rights!” The Socialists intend to pass the bill in 2023, hopefully eradicating one obstacle for those women choosing abortion.  

A Privilege, not a Right 

Those women who do manage to terminate their pregnancies, are essentially shunned from the community. The stigma that exists around the idea, let alone the act of abortion, is huge in Spain. Therefore, those that do get abortions guard this information to great lengths. One woman, who did terminate her pregnancy stated: “If someone finds it difficult to access a right, it’s not a right; it’s a privilege.”  


Sarah Morris, “Abortion in Spain: Women struggle to access treatment despite it being legal - Focus,” France24, 04 January 2022. 


By Padmashree Anandhan and Ashwin Dhanabalan


Presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse urges for stronger EU borders

On 14 January, French Presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse visited Greece. During the visit, she stated that the EU would need stronger borders to deter migration into the bloc. She said: "There is no Europe without borders, and the question of borders is absolutely key today to building European power." Pecresse is the presidential candidate for the conservative Republicans party and has been seen as a challenger to the incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in the elections that are to be held in April. Pecresse has often made her tough stance on migration clear; she stated: "It is not at all fortress Europe, but it is not a supermarket Europe either. When we have required entry points, that means there are doors. There are doors, and you must go through the door, and for me, that is my European model." She further praised Greece for its methods and measures to reduce the number of asylum seekers coming through the Aegean sea. ("French presidential candidate says strong EU borders needed," Euronews, 14 January 2022)


Russia's Federal Security Service arrestshackers of REvil for launching cyber-attack on Colonial Pipline

On 14 January, the US “welcomed” the Russian arrest of Revil from Ransomware group who were responsible for the attack on the colonial pipeline last spring. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) also found that REvil was behind the cyber-attack in Kaseya which affected close to 1,000 businesses including Swedish supermarket chain. The arrest was possible due to FSB’s search raids, where it recovered more than EUR 4.9 million worth cash, cryptocurrency and cars. According to the officials, the operation took place upon the order of US authorities who urged for the arrest of the group’s leader. (“US 'welcomes' Russian arrests of REvil ransomware gang,” Deutsche Welle, 15 January 2022)


Poland: Defense Ministry says military data leak not a concern 

On 14 January, Poland's Defense Ministry stated that the massive military leak was not harmful as the database only contained publicly available information. The Ministry released a statement, saying: "We want to stress that the publication of the data does not mean any danger to the state's security or to the functioning of Poland's Armed Forces." The Ministry also mentioned that there was no IT system security breach and blamed it on the negligence of an employee. However, as cited by Deutsche Welle: "Opposition parties… weren't convinced and demanded Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak's resignation." Furthermore, according to a Polish web portal Onet.pl, the Russians and the Chinese had downloaded the information as the data mentioned details on equipment purchased by Poland from countries like Germany, Israel, and the US. ("Poland: huge military data leak has only public information," The Washington Post, 14 January 2022; "Poland's military not concerned about database leak," Deutsche Welle, 14 January 2022)

Ukraine: The US and NATO accuses Russia on the recent cyber-attack

On 14 January, 70 government websites in Ukraine were hit by a massive cyber-attack with the hacked sites displaying a warning message that read: "Ukrainian! All your personal data has been uploaded onto the public internet… This is for your past, your present and your future…prepare for the worst.” The Ukraine government has suspected Russia to be behind the attack due to two reasons. The Russian media reporting it ahead of Ukraine and the serious errors in the Polish language message as reported by the Poland government. So far, NATO and the US have criticized the attack and offered to support Ukraine in its recovery. Apart from this, NATO has proposed an agreement to augment cyber cooperation with Ukraine, where the latter will get access to NATO’s malware information sharing platform. According to Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby: “It has pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct what we call a false-flag operation, an operation designed to look like an attack on them or Russian speaking people in Ukraine as an excuse to go in.” (“Ukraine cyber-attack: Russia to blame for hack, says Kyiv,” BBC, 14 January 2022)

Meta to face lawsuit in the UK for exploiting personal data of user

On 14 January, Facebook, now known as Meta, faces a EUR 2.7 multi-billion case for imposing terms and conditions which exploit personal data of users, filed by the UK government. According to Competition Expert Dr Liza Lovdahl Gormsen: “Facebook is dominant in the market, the social network, so they have a special responsibility, I don't think exploiting users is having a special responsibility to behave in a way as if you are not dominant. They do it because they can, and somebody's got to stop that.” Meta has responded by saying that the services offered are chosen by people because of the value and meaningful control offered via the platform. (Pascale Davies, “Meta faces €2.7bn civil lawsuit over allegations it exploited UK Facebook users’ data for profit,” Euronews, 14 January 2022)


Lithuania: Brussels to back Vilnius in its trade altercations with Beijing

On 14 January, the EU announced its decision to back Lithuania over its escalating trade clashes with China. EU's High Representative Josep Borrell said: "Notably in the meeting we talked about Chinese activities in Lithuania and the impact of these activities in terms of the EU as a whole. Member states expressed clear solidarity with Lithuania, and we discussed how we can actively press on with de-escalation in terms of this crisis." Lithuanian and Chinese tensions began when Vilnius, in May 2021, left the 17+1 group that China used as a medium to negotiate with the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs). In November 2021, Lithuania approved the opening of a Taiwan representative office that further led to clashes between the two countries. China responded by restricting Lithuanian goods from entering the country and further escalated the trade war between the two. (Christopher Pitchers, "Brussels backs Lithuania in row with China over Taiwan," Euronews, 14 January 2022)

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