Photo : AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski/File
12 July 2022, Tuesday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #251
Protests in North Macedonia: Three reasons
By Rishma Banerjee
On 02 July, thousands of people from North Macedonia began protesting in the streets of Skopje. Protestors threw rocks, petrol bombs and other objects at the police, and attacked government buildings like the parliament and the foreign ministry building. On 05 July, nearly 50 police officers were injured in violent clashes and on 06 July, the violence further escalated when Macedonians and ethnic Albanians clashed in Skopje. On the proposal, President Stevo said that it “…will be neither a historic triumph, as one camp would call it, nor a historic failure or debacle, as those in the other camp say.”
Reasons behind the protests
First, the French proposal induced protests. The European Union offered North Macedonia a set of specific terms to kick start the negotiations for accession. The proposal submitted by France envisages concessions for both Bulgaria and North Macedonia, where North Macedonia will be entitled to adopt major changes. It is because, one, they have to recognize Bulgarians as a minority as per the constitution. Two, the proposal contains a unilateral declaration which allows Bulgaria to claim the Macedonian language as a dialect of Bulgarian. Three, to resolve the historic issue, it mandates North Macedonia to recognize a medieval king as “Bulgarian.” Due to the resistance amongst the people to accept the proposed key conditions has resulted in protests.
Second, government stance on the proposal. The government has backed the proposal stating it will serve as base to initiate relations with Bulgaria and the proposal is yet to be passed in the parliament. Whereas, the centre-right main opposition party, the VMRO-DPMNE disagreed stating the deal favours Bulgaria and questions North Macedonia’s history, language, identity, culture and heritage. The differed stance of the government and support from the opposition party has been the trigger to the protests
Third, anti-sentiments against the EU. The public support for North Macedonia joining the EU has been low although the accession process has been slow. In February, the poll conducted by the Institute for Democracy "Societas Civiis" in Skopje showed that only 13 per cent still see the EU as “the biggest ally.” One of the reasons for the poll voting to reduce amongst the public is the Bulgaria problem and persisting fear of threat to North Macedonia’s interests.
“Europe, US urge North Macedonia's parliament to move forward on EU bid,” AP News, 10 July 2022
Fatos Bytyci, “Protests block North Macedonia's capital over Bulgaria, EU compromise,” Reuters, 08 July 2022
“North Macedonia: Thousands protest 'indecent' conditions of EU accession proposal,” Deutsche Welle, 08 July 2022
War in Ukraine: Day 138
By Emmanuel Selva Royan
War on the Ground
On 11 July, the prime minister of Netherlands Mark Rutte visited Kyiv to meet president Volodamyr Zelenskyy. Rutte assured Zelenskyy that his country will continue to support Ukraine politically, increase bilateral and multilateral cooperation and sanction Russia.
The general staff of the armed forces reported that Ukraine army have effectively withstood an enemy assault on Krasnopillia and stopped Russia from trying to launch another onslaught towards Marinka, in the Donetsk Region. Russian soldiers opened fire around settlements like Kharkiv, Bazaliivka, Petrivka, Ruski Tyshky, Slatyne, Prudianka, Rubizhne, and Blahodatne using artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, and tanks.
The Ukrainian commissioner for missing individuals in Special circumstances, Oleh Kotenko stated that up to 7,200 Ukrainian army personnel have been missing since the Russian incursion began. Kotenko added that the Ukrainian military had previously reported 2,000 personnel missing. The National Guard, border guards, and the security service, he claimed, made up the substantially higher number. Kotenko, the commissioner for missing persons in Ukraine, stated: "Our call center registered about 7,200 people." He expressed his hope that they would be returned home and exchanged for Russian POWs "sooner or later."
The ministry of digital transformation of Ukraine reported that the information technology army targeted more than 800 websites. The private data of around 500,000 customers was stolen on Roseltorg, the largest electronic procurement platform in Russia and a joint venture between VTB Bank and the Moscow government.
Ukraine has condemned a recent law that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainians living anywhere in the nation. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry stated that the directive "is another attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, incompatible with the norms and principles of international law."
The Moscow View
Claims by Russia
On 11 July, a decree signed by president Vladimir Putin states that any native of Ukraine may now apply for Russian citizenship under a simplified process. Stateless people who reside permanently in Ukraine are also added by the law, as are residents of the two Donbass republics that Russia formerly recognized as separate states. Ukrainians can now submit the necessary application without having to meet the standard requirements for foreigners applying for Russian citizenship, such as living in Russia for five years, having a source of income, and passing a Russian language test.
On the same day, the State Duma has been presented with a bill that would confer the rank of veteran to Federal Security Service (FSB) agents who participated in repelling armed incursions into Russia during the special military operation in the Ukraine. The proposal in the document also calls for giving FSB personnel who became disabled as a result of wounds, concussions, injuries, or illnesses received while carrying out these missions the status of disabled individuals.
Also on 11 July, president Putin and president Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke over the phone. The two presidents talked on creating secure routes for grain exports by the Black Sea, the situation in Syria, the situation in Ukraine in light of Russian military operations. Erdogan urged Putin to implement the UN’s proposal to establish grain export lanes to address food shortage. In another telephone call with the president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, Putin discussed the possible measures to be taken regarding the restriction of goods to Kaliningrad by Lithuania.
The West View
Responses from the US and Europe
On 11 July, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken announced that the US would allocate an additional USD 368 million to assist Ukrainian refugees. He stated that: “Our commitment to the people of Ukraine is resolute. The US is providing nearly $368 million in additional humanitarian aid to support people inside Ukraine and refugees forced to flee their country to seek safety in the midst of Russia’s brutal war.”
On the same day, the economy minister of Germany Robert Habeck and the Czech Republic’s Industry minister signed a declaration promising to reduce the dependency on Russian fuel and to rush the transition to low carbon energy. The declaration stated: “We are going to finalize the agreement on solidarity measures to safeguard the security of gas supply between our countries prior to the start of the upcoming winter season.”
On 11 July, the Scottish government announced a three-month suspension of services for new visa applications for displaced Ukrainians effective from 13 July 2022. The suspension was required to guarantee safe accommodation to those who have already applied for a visa. Scotland is presently providing hospice for over 7000 people. Of which two-thirds are under the Scottish super sponsor scheme. This exceeds the government's commitment to receive 3000 refugees amid the war in Ukraine.
Lithuania continues to restrict transportation of goods from Russia through its territory to Kaliningrad in spite of warnings from Moscow. Lituania Railways estimates that around 15 per cent of the 3.7 million tonnes of cargo which flowed from Russia to Kaliningrad in the initial months.
The Global Fallouts
Implications of the Ukraine war
On 11 July, the UN’s special representative of the secretary general on sexual violence in conflict, Pamila Patten stated that around 124 cases of sexual assault was reported since the start of Russian invasion in Ukraine. More than 8.72 million border crossings into Europe have been registered from Ukraine, a country with a pre-war population of around 40 million as reported by United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). According to the UNHCR portal, there are currently 5.56 million Ukrainian refugees in Europe.
On the same day, the EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson announced the establishment of a hub in Moldova to combat organized crime, including the smuggling of weapons from the Ukraine. The EU Support Hub for Internal Security and Border Management will concentrate on stopping weapons from leaving Ukraine and finding their way into criminal gangs, the majority of which are provided by NATO allies.
“Ukraine and the Netherlands are willing to work jointly and effectively in the interests of the whole of Europe - President following the meeting with Mark Rutte in Kyiv,” president.gov.ua, 11 July 2022
“Ukraine Army repels enemy assaults on Krasnopillia, Marinka,” Ukrinform, 11 July 2022
“Over 7,000 Ukrainian soldiers missing - commissioner,” Ukrinform, 11 July 2022
“IT army attacks over 800 Russian websites in two weeks - Ministry of Digital Transformation,” Ukrinform, 11 July 2022
“Ukraine Condemns Russian Decree Allowing Ukrainians Expedited Citizenship,” RFE, 11 July 2022
Svitlana Sydorenko, “Ukraine Introduces Commissioner for Internally Displaced Persons,” kyiv Post, 11 July 2022
“Erdogan, Putin discuss Ukrainian crisis, establishment of grain corridors,” TASS, 11 July 2022
“Russia, Belarus discuss 'joint steps' against Lithuania over Kaliningrad,” kyivpost, 11 July 2022
“Telephone conversation with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko,” en.kremlin.ru, 11 July 2022
“Russia offers fast-track citizenship to all Ukrainians,” RT, 11 July 2022
“Bill submitted to State Duma seeks veteran status for FSB servicemen engaged in operation - Russian Politics & Diplomacy,” TASS, 11 July 2022
Jason Jay Smart, “US Sec of State Promises Additional $368m Humanitarian Aid for Ukraine,” kyivpost, 11 July 2022
“Germany, Czech Republic pledge solidarity as Russian gas flows stop,” Reuters, 11 July 2022
Andrius Sytas, “Lithuania widens curbs on Kaliningrad trade despite Russian warning,” Reuters, 11 July 2022
“Super sponsor scheme paused,” govt.scot, 11 July 2022
Jason Jay Smart, “124 cases of sexual violence by Russians reported in Ukraine, says UN Rep,” kyivpost, 11 July 2022
Wester Van Gaal, “EU creates hub to stop arms-smuggling out of Ukraine,” euobserver, 11 July 2022
By Sai Pranav
President Macron linked with Uber lobbying faces parliamentary inquiry
On 11 July, president Emmanuel Macron was revealed to have ties with the Uber lobbying scandal. He was said to have assisted Uber against the taxi industry at the time when he was the economy minister under the presidency of François Hollande. The connection was found after 124000 confidential files of Uber were leaked to the International Consortium of Journalists. Macron, who was interested in making deals with foreign companies, made it possible for Uber to establish itself in the country. Macron will be subject to parliamentary inquiry in the coming weeks. (Jennifer Rankin and Angeline Chrissafis, “'A state scandal': calls for inquiry into Macron's links to Uber lobbying,” the Guardian, 11 July 2022)
People protest against government for sabotaging EU candidature
On 11 July, the people of Georgia were taken to the streets to protest against its government. The Dream Party is the ruling party of the Georgian government. It has been ignoring the wishes of people and is aligning itself with Russia rather than with the EU. Georgia was rejected to join the bloc by the EU. People suspect that the government had thwarted the EU membership talks that led to its rejection in June. They believed that Georgia should have been there with Ukraine and Moldova to be granted EU membership. In protest, people wanted the government to resign. The government aligned with Russia after it started the war with Ukraine instead of signing with the EU and its sanctions. (Dato Parulava, “Georgians fear their government is sabotaging EU hopes,” POLITICO, 11 July 2022)
Ankara to pay EUR 7500 remuneration to Kavala for violating ECHR ruling
On 11 July, Ankara was found guilty of violating the European Court of Human Rights ruling to release the rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala. Kavala was sentenced to life in prison in May, although he was acquitted of charges previously. The court ruled that the government of Turkey should pay Kavala EUR 7500 for violating the 2019 judgment of releasing him. Due to its actions, the Council of Europe has started to think of removing Turkey from the EU. The EU has deemed Turkey to be violating human rights by imprisoning Kavala without conviction. He was accused of having a connection with the 2013 Gezi park protest that was followed by the 2016 coup attempt. But he was exonerated from the charges. He was again put in prison immediately for allegedly trying to topple the government (Osman Kavala: ECHR rules Turkey violated ruling,” Deutsche Welle, 11 July 2022)
Heatwaves across Europe causes distress
On 11 July, climate change led to increased temperatures across western Europe. Spain, Italy, France and recently the southern part of the UK have been facing heat waves since June. The heatwaves have caused a lot of physical and mental health issues to the people of Europe. The UK has been experiencing the hottest period and might surpass its highest record of 38.7 degrees Celsius. The Iberian peninsula consisting of Spain and Portugal has been on alert for wildfires as the temperature has risen above 40 degrees Celsius. Europe has recorded its second warmest June with 1.6 degrees Celsius above average. Extreme temperatures were recorded in Spain, France and Italy. The heatwave has caused fears of getting heatstroke and dehydration that may lead to severe health issues, particularly for children and elderly people. The UK is unprepared for the exponential rise in temperature at present as it is the first time in ages that they have experienced such a heatwave. (Damian Carrington, “Why is it so hot in the UK and elsewhere in Europe and what are the dangers?,” the Guardian, 11 July 2022)
Dolphin hunting on Faroe islands limited after petitions
On 11 July, Faroe island was criticized for its dolphin and whale hunting practices after 1400 dolphins were killed in 2021. They limited this culling to 500 dolphins after hearing the complaints. The tradition known as the Grind has been practiced on the island for hundreds of years to hunt sea animals, especially whales. There was a petition signed by 1.3 million people to ban the island's traditional hunting. The government has limited the number of white-sided dolphins that can be caught to 500, however the limit on Whales was not mentioned. (“Faroe Islands to limit dolphin hunt after outcry,” BBC, 11 July 2022)
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
James Webb Space Telescope brings the first fully coloured images of the universe
On 11 July, NASA revealed the first full-coloured image of the universe through the James Webb Space Telescope. The images released were live-streamed on the European Space Agency webpage that can be viewed by anyone. These were the first deepest images of the universe. The images consist of two nebulas, two galaxy clusters, two vast interstellar clouds that form stars, a gaseous exo-planet revolving around a star outside our solar system and Stephan's Quintet. After the Hubble telescope, James Webb Space Telescope is the second most powerful device used to study cosmology. It uses infrared thermal cameras to sort through space dust clouds to view extraterrestrial objects. The advancement of the telescope will further widen human knowledge and understanding of the universe. (Fred Schwaller, “NASA reveals James Webb Space Telescope's first image of cosmos,” Deutsche Welle, 11 July 2022)