Daily Briefs

Photo : REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

17 February 2022, Thursday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #127

EU to discuss tensions in Ukraine

EU pledges EUR 30 billion for Africa; Mixed responses received for Russian troop withdrawal video


By Padmashree Anandhan and Ashwin Dhanabalan 


UK to revise its golden visa scheme to mitigate corruption

On 17 February, the golden visa scheme offered by the UK government has come under review. The UK government is expected to announce the removal of the scheme despite pressure building over between the UK and Russia. Initially the scheme was introduced in 2008 to draw investments into the UK from people outside the EU. Those who held the tier one visa spent GBp two million, later were offered permanent residency through the scheme. They were also allowed to bring their families along. With the review in process, the Home Office has decided to modify the visa scheme to end corruption. (“UK to scrap golden visa scheme for foreign investors,” BBC, 17 February 2022)


New charges against Alexei Navalny 

On 16 February, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was put under a new trial. He was accused of stealing USD 4.7 million from the donations given to his political organizations. Navalny is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence. The accusations of the new frauds can keep him in jail for an additional ten years. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the charges seemed dubious and called on the Russian government to release Navalny and his associates as they were being, “targeted for their work to shine a light on official corruption.” Navalny said: “You’re going to increase my term indefinitely. What can we do about it?” (“Putin critic Navalny put on trial again in Russia,” BBC, 16 February 2022)


Oscar nominees include classic 1960’s movies for the category of Best Picture

On 16 February, in the Oscar nominees announced on 08 February, amongst the nominees, Stephen Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story,” “Belfast,” and other movie from various categories such as comedies, nostalgia and foreign were presented. The Belfast story brings out the political turmoil of the working class in the Northern Irish capital in the 1960’s. Last date to vote for the nominees have been scheduled as 03 March through Twitter and Oscars are set to be presented by 27 March in Los Angeles. (“2022 Oscars to include top film voted by Twitter users,” Deutsche Welle, 16 February 2022) 


EU to discuss tensions in Ukraine before the Africa summit

On 16 February, EU leaders announced plans to discuss the troop buildup by Russia on the Ukrainian border before the EU-Africa summit. An EU official said: “The leaders are meeting in Brussels for the Africa summit and they wanted to meet and discuss the crisis on the Ukrainian border, get updated, exchange information and views.” The meeting would be an informal discussion without any joint statements. The only worry of the EU leaders is that the discussion could overshadow the meeting with the African leaders. A diplomat mentioned: “The alternative, to cancel the summit with the AU [because of the tensions with Moscow], was worse than going ahead and then risking that the summit could be overshadowed.” (Jacopo Batigazzi, “EU leaders to meet on Thursday to discuss Russia,” POLITICO, 16 February 2022; “EU leaders to meet on Russia on Thursday - EU officials,” Reuters, 16 February 2022)

New French based military alliance to stand permanent for European Security

On 16 February, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg reported that NATO continues to see enlarging military on the borders of Ukraine despite Russia’s attempts to make them believe on the withdrawal of weaponry. Stoltenberg portrayed that NATO will be joining the French forces in Romania to for a permanent European security group. He said: “The new normal is that Russia is willing to contest some fundamental principles of our security.” (“NATO chief says European security faces 'new normal',” Deutsche Welle, 16 February 2022)


France and EU to announce withdrawal from Mali 

On 16 February, speculation arose of France and EU partners in Mali to announce a military withdrawal. France has about 15,000 peacekeeping troops, and the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM) is set up in Mali. The speculations come after French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said continuing in Mali is: “not possible in a very deteriorated context in Mali, with the seizure of power by a junta, the refusal to apply a timetable for the return to democratic order which had been announced and the use of a private Russian militia, Wagner, reputedly close to the Kremlin.” Estonian Defence Minister Kalle Laanet also commented on the issue, saying the conditions were not conducive to continue in the region, and all allies felt the same. (“Mali: France and EU partners expected to announce military withdrawal,” Euronews, 16 February 2022) 

EU pledges EUR 30 billion for Africa

On 16 February, European Banks and EU financial institutions announced to pledge EUR 30 billion for countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The French Development Agency (AFD) said it would extend its support to the private sector and infrastructural development in loans and budget guarantees for the next four years from 2023-to 2027. AFD Director-General Rémy Rioux said: “It is a question of building a new alliance between our two continents, an alliance of all the actors of solidarity and sustainable investment, public and private.” The money is a part of the Global Gateway plan and, as reported by Euronews: “is supposed to mobilize up to €300 billion in public and private funds by 2027 in infrastructure projects around the world, half of which to the African continent.” (“EU financial institutions pledge €30 billion for Africa on eve of summit,” Euronews, 16 February 2022) 

Mixed responses recorded on the military withdrawal video launched by Russia

On 17 February, the US, the UK, Ukraine, NATO responded to the video released by Russia’s Defense Ministry showing the exit of some of its troops from Ukrainian border. Although everyone has responded, all the answers seem to be varied. The US officials has said that the video launch by Russia could be a false, which might be a diversion to lead the invasion into Ukraine. In case of the UK, it stated that it will judge Russia based upon its actions and it was soon to agree on the withdrawal of the troops. The Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky and the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg said that the exit or withdrawal of the military from the border was not visible or evident. The warning for an invasion still stands from the side the US. (“Ukraine crisis: Russian claim of troop withdrawal false, says US,” BBC, 17 January 2022; “Ukraine: UK will judge Russia by its actions, says minister Ben Wallace, BBC, 17 January 2022; “Ukraine: 'We do not see any signs of de-escalation on the ground' – Nato,” BBC, 16 January 2022)

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