Daily Briefs

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NIAS Europe Daily Brief #28, 02 November 2021, Tuesday

North Macedonia: Four reasons why the PM stepped down after a local election

Belarusian officials accused of 'crimes against humanity' by human rights organizations; EU, France, and the UK attempt to reach a compromise on the fishing row; Greece: Migrant ship finally allowed to dock at an Aegean island

By Padmashree Anandhan

North Macedonia: Four reasons why the PM stepped down after a local election
On 31 October, the Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev resigned early after the defeat of his Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) in the local elections. He stated: "I take responsibility for these developments. I resign from the post of prime minister and party president." In the local elections, the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE won 80 municipalities while SDSM got only 20. Many people refrained from voting as there was no confidence in either of the candidates. There are larger factors that went down for the SDSM's leader in the recent elections, as it won the opposition by a huge margin in 2014. 

First, the top officials have been exiting the party since Zaev became the leader in 2013 due to internal clashes. It is said that the intra-party division and the failure of the leader to balance the interests has led to the exit of essential party members.

Second, the EU membership. Since 2017, Zaev's efforts to lead the government towards achieving NATO and EU membership helped resolve Greece's problem and became the 30th member of NATO. However, due to France's and Bulgaria's rejection, the membership of North Macedonia to the EU was denied. At the same time, the French vetoed, highlighting the issues in economic policy, human rights, anti-corruption measures, and the rule of law. The Bulgarians vetoed North Macedonia due to its discrimination against ethnic Bulgarians.

Third, the handling of the economy and COVID. According to the World Bank, the projected growth rate is set to rebound faster than expected but in terms of youth employment and economic transformation, it lags way beyond.

Fourth, the role of SDSM mayors. They did not improve social infrastructure, traffic management, water supplies, and sewage treatment. As a result, the party slowly lost its goodwill from its voters for the above reasons and has risked the region entering a political crisis. 


"North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev resigns," Deutsche Welle, 31 October 2021

"North Macedonia: PM Zoran Zaev, the man who went 'all in' is all out," Deutsche Welle, 1 November 2021

By Joeana Cera Matthews and Vaishnavi Iyer

Belarusian officials accused of 'crimes against humanity' by human rights organizations
On 01 November, six Belarusian security service members saw complaints filed against them accusing them of crimes against humanity. The complaint was filed in Germany by two human rights organizations - The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) in Geneva and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin. Germany's principle of universal jurisdiction led to the complaint of crimes against humanity being filed in the country. The organizations blamed the Belarusian officials for conducting 'mass detentions, torture, disappearances, sexual violence, and political persecution.' The OMCT Secretary-General Gerald Staber stated: "There is clear evidence that torture was used intentionally and that it was widespread and systematic, thus reaching the threshold of crimes against humanity." The joint statement released also commented on the "worldwide phenomena, in which authoritarian states work to restrict the public realm of civic action." (Alex Berry, "Germany: Human rights groups file complaint against Belarusian officials," Deutsche Welle, 01 November 2021)


Anguillara Veneta: Town grants Bolsonaro' honorary citizenship'
On 01 November, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro visited the Italian town of Anguillara Veneta. During a ceremony in the northern Italian town, Bolsonaro was granted honorary citizenship by the town's mayor Alessandra Buoso. Bolsonaro is said to be descended from the town. According to ANSA, the President expressed his gratitude and joy in attending the ceremony hosted by the town. Despite being received by supporters, around 200 protesters also turned up at the event with banners reading 'No citizenship for dictators' and 'Anguillara loves Brazil but not Bolsonaro.' Speaking to AFP, city councilor Antonio Spada said: "It's okay for him to visit the city where his family comes from, but not for him to be presented as a role model, granting him honorary citizenship." Buoso, however, stood by the decision claiming that the recognition was an acknowledgment of the Italians who had emigrated to Brazil and not a vote of confidence on Bolsonaro's political decisions. Bolsonaro had visited the town after participating in the G20 summit hosted by Rome. ("Brazil's Bolsonaro attends honors ceremony in Italy amid protests," Deutsche Welle, 01 November 2021; Angela Giuffrida, "Jair Bolsonaro booed and cheered as he is honoured by Italian town," The Guardian, 01 November 2021)


Yorkshire sees "rare treat" with Northern Lights 
On 30 November, the Yorkshire coast witnessed a rare Aurora Borealis treat in Scarborough. Aurora Borealis, a phenomenon when atoms in Earth's high altitudes collide with energy particles from the sun, is a mix of green and purple haze. The spectacular weather phenomena were recorded in several parts of the US, Canada, and further north in Saltburn and Bamburgh, Northumberland. The geomagnetic storm was strong enough to push the rare phenomenon far into the south. ("Northern Lights: 'Rare treat' as phenomenon seen from Yorkshire coast," BBC, 02 November 2021)


EU, France, and the UK attempt to reach compromise on the fishing row
In an apparent attempt to de-escalate a post-Brexit fight over fishing rights in which the UK and France have made counter threats, Jersey awarded an additional 49 licenses to French vessels. French President Emmanuel Macron first declared at a post-G20 news conference that Britain had to capitulate or face retaliation this week. However, on 01 November, Macron withdrew his threat to block UK exports and ban fisheries. Discussions resumed after he lifted threats and insisted on further communication to resolve the problem. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson indicated that British retaliation would be triggered through a "dispute mechanism." The European Commission held meetings with officials from the UK, Jersey, and France to find a compromise over the issue. The Jersey Fishermen's Association (JFA) called for banning dredging and trawling along with closing off of the whelk and scallop fisheries to French boats. The ban has been requested "with immediate effect for a period of six weeks." UK's Brexit secretary David Frost is expected to meet the French minister for EU affairs Clément Beaune in Paris on 04 November to discuss the resolution of the crisis. (Daniel Boffey, Rowena Mason and Jamie Grierson, "Macron steps back from midnight threat against UK exports in fishing row," The Guardian, 01 November 2021; Jamie Grierson and Rowena Mason, "Jersey issues 49 more fishing licences to French boats amid row," The Guardian, 01 November 2021)


Greece: Migrant ship finally allowed to dock at an Aegean island
On 31 October, the Murat 729, a Turkish ship harboring around 400 passengers - mostly Afghans, was allowed to dock at a Greek island. On 29 October, the ship had sent a distress signal after its engines failed. The Greek and Turkish authorities refused to allow docking of the ship in their territory. Greece appealed to the European Commission, asking them to hold Turkey accountable to the 2016 accord with the bloc. They held negotiations with Turkey regarding the fate of the vessel. Greece eventually budged, and the Aegean port of Kos saw around 375 passengers disembarking the ship in an attempt to apply for asylum. Greece's minister for migration and asylum policy, Notis Mitarachi said: "We have notified the EU that Turkey has refused to take their vessel back. Unlike Turkey and others that ignored the problem, Greece stepped up… But Greece cannot solve the migration crisis alone." Called "an unusual and special case" by Greece's migration ministry, the cargo ship was a Turkish-flagged vessel. (Helena Smith, "Greece lets boat packed with Afghan refugees dock after four days at sea," The Guardian, 31 October 2021; "Turkish ship carrying Afghan migrants towed to Greek port," Deutsche Welle, 31 October 2021)


Tesla announces superchargers for other electric cars
Announcing a pilot programme in the Netherlands, Tesla has opened up superchargers for other electric vehicles. It announced testing stations available at 10 locations around the Netherlands. Non-Tesla electric vehicles would be able to access Tesla stations through the Tesla app. Due to extra site adjustments and accommodation costs, non-Tesla drivers may have to avail the services at an extra price. Tesla uses the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard in Europe, allowing a wide range of cars to charge in stations without an adapter that uses a similar connector. Superchargers can be used by BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, and Ford - all of which use the CCS standard. ("Tesla opens Superchargers to other electric cars for first time," The Guardian, 02 November 2021; Alistair Charlton, "Tesla Superchargers Can Now Be Used By Other Electric Cars: Here Is How It Works," Forbes, 01 November 2021)


Steel dispute resolved over new tariff agreements between EU and US
US President Joe Biden announced a reduction in tariff rates for the EU during the G20 Summit. According to both parties, the US has agreed to lower tariffs on EU steel in exchange for reducing counter-tariffs on US goods. Motorcycles, bourbon, peanut butter, and denim may become more affordable in the European Union at only 25 percent in contrast to the proposed 50 percent. The countries agreed to reverse Trump-era tariffs. The agreement would ensure only EU-made steel entering the US market against Chinese-subsidized steel, which was processed in Europe previously. Chiefs of the EU had temporarily suspended increased taxes on US products in June and now plan on taxes at a 25 percent rate. Under Trump, the EU saw special tariffs on steel and aluminum in 2018, claiming to be a "threat to national security" under Article 232.

Consequently, the cost of steel in the US rose to GBP 1,643. The European Commission retaliated by placing duties on US goods due to rise before the year's end. The most recent agreement prevented the rise. To prevent the tax rises, the two parties had set a December deadline. ("US, EU settle dispute over tariffs on steel, aluminum," Deutsche Welle, 30 October 2021)

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