YGA’s international extravaganza: no. 2

EU wages economic warfare on Belarus

by Orestis Sechas

image credit: Kyle Wagaman (Flickr)

Last week, the Council of Europe introduced new restrictive measures against the Belarusian regime. This was in response to the escalation of serious human rights violations, the violent repression of civil society as well as to the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk on 23 May.

Under the recent measures, European businesses are strictly prohibited to “directly or indirectly sell, supply, transfer or export to anyone in Belarus” communication equipment, technology or software that could be used for monitoring or repression. The measures imposed also affect the banking and petroleum industries and ban access to EU capital markets.

The sanctions are far stricter than those imposed in the past and there are concerns that the aforementioned measures could push Belarus closer to its ally, Russia. However, EU foreign ministers had to respond to what they perceived as unacceptable and outrageous behaviour and to stand up for the EU’s liberal and democratic principles.

Drivers to ditch diesel cars in bid for Brussels to burn less fuel 

by Rachael Ward

image credit: Nerivill (Pixabay)

Drivers with a desire to run diesel fuelled cars in Brussels have until 2030 to ditch their vehicles after the promise of new climate-combating measures. Despite several short strips of motorway, diesel powered engines will no longer be permitted in the low-emission zone set to stretch across Brussels. Piloting ahead with plans for petrol cars, these enemies of the environment will also be banned from 2035.

The road to reducing gas powered vehicles is energised by a campaign to encourage electric cars, kicking off with 22,000 new charging points to accelerate their usage. However, Belgians behind the wheel will not be left high and dry as regional governments have pledged financial support for those hardest hit by these ambitious measures. Brussels have set the bar high for fellow European cities, also travelling along the track in the race to reduce emissions. 

Lord Ashcroft’s reputation suffers in Belize

by Joe Mawer

image credit: stevepb (Pixabay)

There is much to admire about the British-Belizean Lord Ashcroft: his rise from buying a business for £1 to become a multi-billionaire, his impressively accurate polling company and the world’s largest collection of the Victoria Cross, which are displayed at the Imperial War Museum. However, it may not all be as rosy as it seems on the surface.

Lord Ashcroft’s son’s ex-partner, the Canadian Jasmine Hartin has been released from jail on bail in Belize, as she awaits the verdict for the killing of Henry Jemmott, a Belizean policeman. After initially claiming that Jemmott was killed by someone shooting from a boat, she then said that she accidently killed him when they were practising self-defence. This unfortunate episode has damaged the Ashcroft reputation as she claims that she has had no support from the family over this issue.

The rising threat of radical Islam in Benin

by Max Bedford & Caitlin Baptista 

image credit: Noemie_gi (Pixabay)

Prior to the G5 summit in February, the French head of Intelligence stated that Islamic terrorists “are already financing men who are spreading out in Côte d’Ivoire or Benin.” The most prominent Islamic Terror groups operating in the Sahel are Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen (JNIM) and the Islamic State of the Greater. The JNIM have presented a significant threat to Benin citizens, recently massacring the village of Solhan, which saw 132 deaths and the use of child soldiers. It is expected that these attacks will become more frequent as Islamic terror groups continue to radicalise local populations.

Benin’s police force recently entered Nigeria to arrest an activist protesting the Benin state’s land encroachment within the Ogun State. Dr Garb was taken back to the Benin republic by the foreign police force where he was allegedly denied legal representation when standing trial, and the public was refused access to the courtroom. It appears that Dr Garb will be imprisoned within Benin and the encroachment of the Ogun state will continue.

EU to save Bhutanese vaccine program 

by Owen Buchan 

image credit: David_Peterson (Pixabay)

The European Union has agreed to supply Bhutan with 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. This support is hoped to ensure that Bhutan meets its deadline to fully vaccinate its population.

Bhutan’s vaccination programme has already administered its first dose to its population but the 16-week gap for the second dose is fast approaching this mid-July. The needed second doses were initially going to be provided by India through their Vaccine Maitri programme before it was suspended. This suspension was caused due to a surge in Covid cases in April. Bhutan’s Health Minister Lyonpo Dechen Wagmo is optimistic that once the second doses are received the Bhutanese health system will ensure an effective rollout, with no chance of a ‘bottleneck’ or any other disruption.

Bolivian government planning on buying gold to stabilise the economy post-Covid

by Adam Spencer

image credit: Jingming Pan (Unsplash)

The Bolivian government has submitted a bill to authorise the Central Bank to purchase around two to four tonnes of locally produced gold a year to strengthen international reserves and stabilise the economy post Covid.

The bill would give the Bolivian Central Bank (BCB) priority over locally produced gold, rather than have it sold overseas. Whilst producers would still be allowed to sell their gold abroad, they would require certification to do so, and would be unable to do so until the BCB’s gold buying target had been hit.

The Bolivian government hopes that a continued rise in gold prices will mean strengthening of international reserves, which will in turn strengthen the Bolivian economy. This, combined with vaccinations and increased fiscal spending, is hoped will recover the economy after the country was hit hard by the Covid Pandemic.

Ex-members of Serbian state security jailed for war crimes against Bosnia and Herzegovina

by Connor Crout

image credit: Mladifilozof (Wikimedia Commons)

Jovica Stanišić, former head of Serbia’s state security service, and his deputy, Franko Simatovic, have both been sentenced to 12 years in prison for training Serbian forces to carry out murders and ethnic cleansing during the Yugoslav Wars.

One case in which they were convicted for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity was in Bosanski Šamac (a town in Bosnia and Herzegovina) in 1992, where the pair trained a special unit of Serbian intelligence and local serbs. The pair were involved in an incident which killed 16 Bosnian Muslim men and 16 Bosnian Croat men.

Stanišić and Simatovic have already served five and eight years in jail respectively. Stanišić’s lawyer has told reporters that Stanišić’s case will be appealed. The inhabitants of Bosanski Šamac, as well as the victims of the other war crimes, will however be hoping for justice.

Methamphetamine crackdown in Botswana

by Gracie Daw

image credit: Michael Mayer (Flickr)

Botswana has been identified as a destination and transit route for methamphetamine. This form of the drug originates in Afghanistan, enters Africa in Namibia and travels across land through Botswana to South Africa. Domestic authorities blame Chinese cartels for the increase in activity in the region.

Authorities are attempting to minimise the presence of methamphetamine before it becomes an overwhelming problem in the country. Whilst use is rising, it is ranked fifth in prevalence in comparison to other drugs, such as cannabis and cocaine. Furthermore there are no significant production facilities or wholesale markets in Botswana. Therefore police are increasing efforts to disrupt the supply chain, specifically at the South African border, to prevent rates of addiction rising. 

Presidential hopeful comes out

by Josh Chapman

image credit: Zamba-bandeiarchive (Wikimedia Commons)

Eduardo Leite, a candidate in Brazil’s presidential elections next year, has come out as gay. Leite is governor of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s most southern state. He is one of four Brazilian Social Democracy Party pre-candidates currently competing in the caucuses to be the party’s presidential candidate.

Leite made his announcement in an interview with TV Globo, Brazil’s biggest broadcaster, on 1 July. Whilst he has received support from both politicians and activists, coming out so publicly will no doubt draw the attention of President Bolsonaro, who Leite voted for in 2018. Bolsonaro has called himself a ‘proud homophobe’ and many blame him for the recent surges in violence towards LGBTQ+ people. Leite’s announcement will not end this violence, but it will prove as a litmus test as to just how salient LGBTQ+ issues are when Brazil goes to the polls.

The convergence of mental health and the economy in Brunei

by Tiffany Choong

image credit: PublicDomainPictures (Pixabay)

Brunei ranks among the top countries for the highest GDP per capita with its leading exports in petroleum and natural gas paired with their low population shy of 500,000.

However, their high standards of living have been endangered by a sharp rise in mental illness. Suicide rates have more than doubled within the past four years. Many observers note that the lack of job opportunities outside of oil and gas has produced unmeaningful employment. As well, the materialistic trends in spending on the latest luxuries have put many into debt and forced others to take loans. The impact of the pandemic on this region has not been widely reported, but it is safe to say that it has weighed down on the mental health and economy of Brunei.

Bulgaria switching to Euro

by Samiha Hamze

image credit: Bericht (Wikimedia Commons)

Since Bulgaria’s admission to the ERM-2 mechanism, a necessary stage to join in using the Euro currency last July, the government has confirmed its plan to begin using the Euro starting 1 January 2024. Although there will be no transitional period and everyone in the country will be obliged to start using the euro the moment it is allowed for usage, Bulgarians will still be able to pay in the national Lev currency a month after the Euro is adopted. It has been planned to apply the current fixed exchange rate between the Euro and Lev, which is BGN 1.9558 per Euro.

This is significant news for Bulgaria as it is one of the EU’s poorest member states, suggesting the continued support and reliance on the EU. However, this is also going against the increase of EU skepticism by other European countries, as we saw with Brexit. 

Burkina Faso to use the Eco

by Sophie Moseley

image credit: GDJ (Pixabay)

A former colony of France, Burkina Faso’s currency the ‘West African CFA franc’ remains tied to its coloniser. The currency was originally created in 1945 and was tied to the previous French currency, the French Franc, and later tied to the Euro when France changed its currency.

Yet the currency has repeatedly come under fire for its dubious links to its colonial past as France requires each country to deposit 50 percent of its GDP in the French treasury. The Eco, a new currency agreed by various African countries, promised to cut out French economic governance. It was scheduled to roll out in 2020, yet this was halted due to the COVID pandemic and the current plan for its distribution is not yet agreed.

Rwanda pledges to restore ties with Burundi

by Frank Roberts

image credit: AudrySIMBA (Pixabay)

Burundi’s President and Rwanda’s Prime Minister have called for a restoration of more cordial relations during an event held on 1 July to mark Burundi’s 1962 independence from Belgium. President Évariste Ndayishimiye  succeeded his controversial predecessor, Pierre Nkurunziza, in 2020. Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term in 2015 severely damaged relations between the two countries, with the Burundian government accusing Rwanda of backing a subsequent coup attempt. 

The attendance of Rwandan Prime Minister Ngirente appears to be indicative of Rwanda’s interest in improving relations between the neighbouring states following Nkurunziza’s death, an impression bolstered by meetings that have already taken place with Rwanda and Burundi’s respective foreign ministers. Additionally, some Burundian refugees have been able to return from Rwanda since last summer.

Renationalisation: An answer to Cape Verde’s economic woes?

by Harry Padoan

image credit: blende12 (Pixabay)

The crushing economic impact of a global pandemic is undoubtedly harsh, but for Cape Verde, a nation that relies so heavily on tourism, the effects have been unprecedented. Prime Minister, Ulisses Correia e Silva, has looked to bolster the future of the nation’s tourism industry with a move to renationalise the country’s airline, Cabo Verde Airlines.

 The decision is likely to guarantee increased sustainability and stability for the airline, which had been struggling under the ownership of Icelandic Airlines. With travel accounting for around 25 percent of the nation’s GDP, the success of such renationalisation could be crucial to the reduction of poverty, public debt reduction and overall economic growth. 

Climate activists arrested on charges of plotting against Cambodian government

by Jessica Pender

image credit: fransteddy (Pixabay)

Three members of Mother Nature, an environmental activism group, were arrested on 16 June on suspicion of plotting against the government. Sun Ratha, Ly Chandaravuth, and Yim Leanghy had been documenting waste disposal from the Royal Palace into the Tonle Sap river. The court charged Sun Ratha and Yim Leanghy with insulting the King, under articles 453 and 437 of the Cambodian Criminal Code, added in 2018. However, while the prosecution stated to Reuters News that police evidence lies in favour of this charge, no explanation was given as to how the law had been violated. 

The activists face up to ten years in prison depending on the court ruling. This is not the first time that Mother Nature has faced criminal charges; founder Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson was deported from Cambodia in 2015 for protesting plans for a dam. In addition, May of 2021 saw  three organisers sentenced for protesting.

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