Global Review – 23rd April

Recession risk for France, Germany, the UK and ItalyIMF

The International Monetary Fund predicts “very weak or negative quarterly growth in mid-2022” for “some of the largest European economies such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy”. It said this “setback in the recovery is hidden in the annual growth forecasts” which are affected by the rebound of 2021. The head of IMF’s EU Department, Alfred Kammer, specified that economies such as “France, Germany, Italy and the GB are expected to barely grow or even contract for two quarters consecutive this year”, thus triggering the so-called ‘technical recession’.

EU agreement on new rules for Big Tech on content

The European Union has reached a political agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA), the bill that imposes on Big Tech greater responsibility for illegal or harmful content circulating on their platforms. “Today’s agreement on the DSA is historic. Our new rules will protect online users, guarantee freedom of expression and opportunities for businesses”, underlines EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, in a tweet.

UN chief to meet Putin in Moscow next Tuesday

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Moscow next Tuesday, and will meet with President Putin following its February invasion of Ukraine. Guterres will also have a working meeting and lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Guterres hopes to talk about what can be done “to bring peace to Ukraine urgently”. The secretary-general’s office is also working with Ukraine’s government on scheduling a visit to Russia’s southern neighbour.

‘Avoiding NATO-Russia confrontation top priority’ – Scholz

NATO must avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia that could lead to a third World War, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview with Der Spiegel when asked about Germany’s failure to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine. Scholz is facing growing criticism at home and abroad for his government’s apparent reluctance to deliver heavy battlefield weapons, such as tanks and howitzers, to Ukraine to help it fend off Russian attacks, even as other Western allies step up shipments. Asked why he thought delivering tanks could lead to nuclear war, he said that there was no rule book that stated when Germany could be considered a party to the war in Ukraine.

In other developments…

  • Moldova summoned the Russian ambassador in protest at a Russian general’s comments that Moscow wants to capture southern Ukraine to gain access to a breakaway Moldovan region. Russia aims to ‘establish full control over Donbas’, the Russian general said.
  • The UN has accused Russia of actions that ‘could amount to war crimes’, claiming its armed forces have ‘indiscriminately bombarded and shelled populated areas’.
  • No evacuation of Mariopul was planned on Friday, with Zelensky saying some 120,000 civilians are still trapped in the city. The future of the war depends on Mariupol, claimed the regional govenor on Friday.
  • Ukrainian official says fighting has not stopped at the besieged Azovstal steal mill where the country’s fighters are holding out. Putin previously told Russian forces not to storm the industrial site and instead seal it off.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blames Ukraine for halted peace talks, saying ‘they have put up with their destiny’.
  • Satellite images show what appeared to be mass graves near Mariupol, with local officials accusing Russia of burying up to 9,000 Ukrainian civilians in an bid to conceal the slaughter in the besieged port city.
  • At least 594 children have been killed or injured due to war in Ukraine, country’s parliament says.
  • In Ukraine, more than 7,500 war crimes committed by the Russians are being investigated, Kyiv Independent reports, citing the Attorney General’s office. In addition, there are also investigations into 3,652 Russian crimes against Ukraine’s national security.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes the war in Ukraine could last until the end of 2023, while an EU officials says Russia will now step up attacks in Ukraine.
  • EU Council President calls Putin and urges the creation of a humanitarian corridor out of Mariupol.
  • Russian authorities have opened a criminal case against prominent opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza for allegedly spreading “false information” about the country’s military. Kara-Murza has repeatedly denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

French issue arrest warrant for Ghosn

French authorities have issued an international arrest warrant for disgraced former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn. The warrant relates to suspect payments of some €15 million between the Renault-Nissan alliance that Ghosn once headed and its dealer in Oman, Suhail Bahwan Automobiles (SBA), prosecutors said. The allegations against Ghosn, 68, include misuse of company assets, money laundering and corruption. The auto tycoon – who holds French, Lebanese and Brazilian passports – was initially due to stand trial in Japan, following his detention there in 2018, but he jumped bail and made a sensational getaway to Lebanon, where he now lives. Ghosn has told the BBC he wants to stand trial on charges of financial wrongdoing in order to clear his name.

Macron and Le Pen close presidential campaign

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen closed the electoral campaign for the second round of the French presidential elections on Sunday. Polls carried out in the last 24 hours give the outgoing president the winner. But the victory is not in his pocket, Macron warned several times, and returned to attack Le Pen saying: “She is the candidate of a clan, not of the people.”. Le Pen returned to attack Macron: “He is arrogant,” she repeated, launching a new appeal “to the French people to stand up and dismiss him”.

‘Sunken oil tanker is empty, disaster averted’ – Tunisia

The Tunisian authorities have announced that the Xelo, the tanker that sank last Saturday off Gabes was empty, excluding any risk of pollution, after initially indicating that the ship was carrying 750 tons of diesel. But if an environmental disaster has been averted, gray areas remain on the oil tanker’s route and the nature of its operations. The Xelo, en route to Malta according to the Tunisian authorities, sank on April 16 in Tunisian waters where she had sheltered the day before due to bad weather conditions. According to Tunis, she had left the Egyptian port of Damietta, a fact that the Egyptian port authorities have denied.

Pope suspends appointments for medical check-ups

Pope Francis, who in recent months has been sidelined by severe knee pain, suspended his appointments on Friday, for a medical check-up. During his travels to and from Malta, Francis was boarded into the plane via a lift, marking the first time in his 36 trips outside of Italy that he has been unable to use the stairs to board the aircraft. Pope Francis, 85, is slated to have a busy summer of travel, with likely trips to Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Canada.

Guns the leading cause of death among US children and teenagers

Weapons became the leading cause of death of American children and teenagers in 2020, surpassing car accidents, according to a research based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Cdc), the federal health agency. Two years ago, over 4,300 young Americans died of gunshot wounds. The data shows that suicides contribute to the toll but that homicides make up the majority of deaths.

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