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This week we focus on the results of the Slovak parliamentary election. In other news, the White House warns of “unprecedented” Serbian troop buildup on the Kosovo border and the Nagorno-Karabakh government says it will disband. All this and much, much more in our newest issue. Have a read to start your week well informed!

Spotlight: Cracks in the Western wall.

Robert Fico, leader of the populist left-wing party SMER (Social Democracy), has won the most votes in the parliamentary election held in Slovakia on Saturday. The election results mark him as the clear favorite to lead the country’s next coalition – for the fourth time. Fico, in fact, already served as prime minister of Slovakia for three terms between 2006 and 2010, and from 2012 to 2018. However, in 2018, during his third term, he was forced to resign in disgrace following weeks of political turmoil and public protests sparked by the murder of the investigative journalist Ján Kuciak, whose killing had been most likely related to his probing into the ties between Slovakia’s top politicians and Italy’s ’Ndrangheta mafia. Kuciak’s murder and what it uncovered resulted in a wave of public anti-government sentiment and an extensive lack of faith over the prime minister’s actual “open and objective” investigation of the murder case; in response to claims about the investigation, Fico broadcasted a picture where he was posing with €1m in cash apparently implying that this way he had taken personal control of the inquiry. The unrest in 2018 essentially meant that Fico had the option to either resign or face a no-confidence vote, he chose the former. Now, in his forthcoming return to power, Robert Fico has another point of focus: the war in Ukraine. 

“People in Slovakia have bigger problems than Ukraine.” This has been the core messaging of Fico’s successful campaign. It should be noted that his stance has evidently proven to have some pull with voters. This may be partly thanks to a relentless pro-Moscow propaganda and disinformation operation from which has emerged that more than half of the country’s population believes the West is singularly responsible for the war in Ukraine, as claimed by a think-tank study. Still, the Slovak election has indeed demonstrated how vulnerable European elections are to the “multimillion-euro weapon of mass manipulation”, according to European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová. Fico, a vocal admirer of Hungary’s autocratic leader Viktor Orbán, may follow the same path to speaking out strongly against helping Ukraine while being a leader inside the European Union, as we forewarned in last week’s issue of the Monday Briefing. Nonetheless, what strictly distances Fico from Orbán is the presence of an absolute majority in parliament, which Orbán’s party in Turkey has, but Fico lacks in Slovakia. This round Fico’s party obtained only 23% of the vote, meaning that his pledge to “not send a single round” of ammunition to Ukraine if elected could be somewhat constrained by the other parties joining his coalition. Ideologically, Fico’s emergence gives way to new fissures across the united European wall of support for Ukraine. We will find out in the next months what this will imply in reality.  

Related:  Tra i Leoni n. 103, May 2023

Around the World 

White House warns of ‘unprecedented’ Serbian troop buildup on Kosovo border.  US officials have warned of “unprecedented” Serbian military forces build-up at the border with Kosovo this week. Serbia’s president responded to the claims that he has no intention of ordering his country’s forces to cross the border into Kosovo. On Friday, John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, described the presence of advanced Serbian artillery, tanks, and mechanised infantry forces at the border with Kosovo. International efforts to defuse the tensions have powered up, after a bloody standoff near a monastery in the Serb-majority north of Kosovo left at least four people dead, including a Kosovo police officer.

Nagorno-Karabakh Government Says It Will Disband. After nine months of blockade of the Lachin corridor, which isolated the separatist ethnic-Armenian enclave from its motherland (Armenia), and after being betrayed by its former ally-Russia-, Nagorno-Karabakh capitulated after Azerbaijan’s attack on the 19th of September. The one-day war caused 65,000 (out of 120,000 inhabitants) to leave the region. In 2018 a protest in Armenia had overthrown the Kremlin-backed corrupt regime and elected a prime minister that unsuccessfully tried to stay close to Russia. Putin’s lack of explicit support was demonstrated in 2020 when the Turkish-backed Azerbaijan’s leader launched a military attack against Nagorno-Karabakh that ended without a clear winner. 

Talking Peace in Sudan, the U.A.E. Secretly Fuels the Fight.  Evidence suggests that the United Arab Emirates are backing the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan, according to a dozen current and former officials from the United States, Europe, and several African countries. The RSF, a powerful paramilitary group that has been linked to the Russian mercenary group Wagner and accused of atrocities, has been battling the Sudanes military in a spiraling civil war that has overrun the country since April. The U.A.E. is accused of supplying powerful weapons and drones to the RSF, and treating injured fighters, under the guise of humanitarian aid. 

Maldives vote: runoff for presidency begins in shadow of India-China tussle for influence. The Maldives, positioned in the middle of one of the most strategic shipping lanes between the east and the west, started voting on Saturday to choose their next president. Its strategic position has attracted the appetite of two big powers of the Indian Ocean: China and India. The two candidates, in fact, promise respectively to stick to traditional India’s support or to move towards Beijing. It is not the first time that the campaign debate orbits around the issue, in 2018, the former president and current candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was elected to manifest discontent against Abdulla Yameen (the Chinese-backed candidate’s mentor) who had been accused of borrowing heavily from the Chinese with the risk of falling into a debt trap. Nevertheless, Indian political and economic influence is not less controversial.

Related:  Monday Briefing 16/10/2023

Rotterdam shootings: three killed, with man arrested. On Thursday, a 32-year-old man opened fire in a school and an apartment building in the Dutch city, according to the Erasmus medical center. Authorities claim the shooting’s motives have not yet been established but believe that the incident was probably “targeted”. Prime Minister Mark Rutte, as well as the Dutch Royal Family have sent their condolences to the grieving families.

US senator Dianne Feinstein dies, aged 90. The long-serving California Democrat Dianne Feinstein was a pioneer for women in American politics. United States President Joe Biden, and long-time collogue of Feinstein, said: “Dianne made her mark on everything, from national security to the environment to protecting civil liberties.” Feinstein’s passing will narrow the Democrat party’s governing majority to just one senator by bringing the number of senators who side with Democrats to 50 in the upper chamber of Congress. 

France ambassador leaves Niger after withdrawal announcement. Before the military coup in July, Niger was considered one of the last allies of the West to contrast jihadism in West Africa. In fact, French, American and German troops are in the country while the governments are trying to negotiate the release of the ousted President. Nevertheless, on Wednesday, Macron announced the withdrawal of the former colonizer’s troops by the end of the year and the arrive in France of its ambassador and his staff who “were literally being held hostages” after the coup’s leader blocked food deliveries and cancelled their diplomatic immunity. 

UK PM Rishi Sunak announces shift on climate policies, waters down targets. On Wednesday, the UK PM Rishi Sunak held a speech announcing his long-term decisions over the following months. Starting with a “new approach to one of the biggest challenges we face, climate change, the PM announced that the country needs more time to make the transition towards green energy and announced delays on existing targets banning fossil fuels. He justified this policy shift claiming that it would not be fair to put the cost of climate policies on the shoulders of workers who have financial struggles. Lisa Brankin, chair of Ford UK-interviewed by the BBC- expressed her concerns on the consequences of the relaxation of targets on companies’ commitments into a cleaner future: “Our business needs three things from the UK government: ambition, commitment and consistency.  A relaxation of 2030 would undermine all three.”

Related:  Monday Briefing 13/03/2023

Italian News 

Khaled El Qaisi, cittadino italo-palestinese, in carcere in Israele senza accuse. Khaled El Quaisi, cittadino italo-palestinese e studente di Lingue e Civiltà Orientali all’Università La Sapienza di Roma, è stato arrestato il 31 agosto al valico Allenby, tra Palestina e Giordania. Le accuse che hanno portato alla detenzione di Khaled non sono state esplicitate né ai familiari né al difensore dello studente. Secondo le norme palestinesi, le autorità hanno da i 30 ai 45 giorni per individuare un’ipotesi di accusa o liberare lo studente. Tuttavia, se la detenzione venisse tramutata da penale in amministrativa, la carcerazione senza moventi né processo potrebbe essere protratta da 6 mesi in 6 mesi.

Morto Matteo Messina Denaro. L’ultimo boss dell’era stragista di Cosa Nostra, Matteo Messina Denaro, è morto; ora ci si chiede chi sarà a sostituirlo. Fra i papabili candidati Giovanni Motisi, latitante dal 1998, Stefano Fidanzati, esponente storico della famiglia mafiosa Arenella, Michele Greco, Settimo Mineo, ora in carcere, Sandro Capizzi e Giuseppe Auteri, anche lui latitante da un anno. “Cosa nostra non è finita con la morte di Riina, né con quella di Provenzano, e non finisce oggi” afferma Pietro Grassi, procuratore nazionale antimafia.

Carne, il 57% di italiani riduce i consumi per motivi ambientali (ma per 52% è necessaria). Il Centro alimenti e Nutrizione del Crea, rilascia un’indagine sul consumo di carne in Italia. Il 57% della popolazione ne fa a meno per motivi ambientali, mentre il 52% è convinto sia un alimento necessario per una dieta bilanciata. Le alternative più popolari al giorno d’oggi sono legumi, uova, pesce, formaggi e frutta secca, mentre il 67% della popolazione rifiuta una dieta a base di insetti come fonte proteica. È infatti necessario proseguire gli studi sulle preferenze delle persone verso alimenti sostenibili, in quanto, nei prossimi anni, ci saranno grandi costi ambientali e sociali dati dall’incremento della produzione alimentare, dovuta all’aumento della popolazione.

Bocconi news

Tuesday 3rd October at 2:30 PM – Water as an Energy Source. Geothermics in Smart Cities. Organized by Green Research Center and Angelo Sraffa Department of Legal Studies. 

Tuesday 3rd October at 3:00 PM – Deferred Prosecution Agreements. International Experience and Italian Perspectives. 

Tuesday 3rd October at 5:00 PM – Financial and Sustainability Reporting. KPMG Chair in Accounting. The New Challenge of Connectivity. (Online event). 

Thursday 5th October at 3:00 PM – Antin IP Associate Professorship: Infrastructure Investing. Looking Beyond the Current Inflationary Environment. (Online event). 

Author profile

Every week, your TiL Monday Briefing 🗞: you better read it with a cup of coffee! ☕️

Current members of the team are Elisa Latora, Dragos-Ioan Ile, Chiara Todesco, Polina Mednikova, Theo Di Martino Taulois, Zoe Di Lieto, and Bojan Zeric.

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