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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Around the world in one week

Good Sunday everyone! January (finally) winds down and here we are, on February 4th, at the end of another week. As we celebrate the end of January -  and only three more months of bad weather left in Maastricht - we’re also celebrating the end of the project period. If you haven’t had time to keep up with the news during this quite busy week, let’s take a look together at what’s been happening around the world

Let’s dive right into it and start with our first destination: the Middle East. While the humanitarian disaster is unfolding in the Gaza strip, Gaza’s main humanitarian agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), finds itself in the “eye of a storm”. In the wake of allegations that 12 UNRWA’s staff were involved in the October 7 attack,  a dozen Western countries, including the US, have cut off their fundings for the agency. Facing an unprecedented funding crisis, UNRWA announced it will most likely be forced to cease its operations in the Middle East by the end of February. Aid organizations have urged donors to continue supporting UNRWA, alerting on the disastrous consequences defundings will have for the people of Gaza.  

Moving from the Middle East, let’s now turn our attention to Europe, where a pivotal decision unfolded concerning the ongoing war in Ukraine. This Thursday, the 27 members of the European Union unanimously agreed to unlock a new $54 billion support package for Ukraine. The announcement prevailed despite staunch opposition from Hungary, closely tied to Russia, who had previously vetoed the deal in a prior summit. This aid package, comprising 17 billion euros in grant and 33 billion euros in loan, is not intended to help fight off Russia. Besides stabilizing Ukraine’s economy and covering reconstruction costs, the funds are also expected to assist Ukraine in carrying out reforms on its journey towards eventual EU membership.

As we take off from the European continent, we now touch down at our next destination: South America. In Venezuela, the country’s Supreme Court, loyal to President Maduro, decided to uphold a 15- year ban blocking the candidacy of Maduro’s main opponent, María Corina Machado, in the upcoming election later this year. In response, the US has threatened to reimpose sanctions on Venezuela’s oil and gas sector. A move that Venezuela strongly condemned, denouncing it as “rude and improper blackmail”.

Turning our focus Eastward, we now land in the Asia-Pacific region, where Thailand and Sri Lanka have signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on Saturday. Sri Lanka has been dealing with a severe financial crisis since it declared bankruptcy in April 2022, with more than $83 billion in debt. Through this new pact, the Indian Ocean Island nation seeks to boost trade and investment, recovering from its worst financial crisis in decades

Leaving the Asia-Pacific region, we finally end our journey in Africa. On Sunday, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In a joint statement, the three military juntas accused the regional body of imposing “illegal, inhumane and irresponsible” coup-related sanctions, instead of supporting their fight against “terrorism and insecurity”. Their departure also signals the end of negotiations concerning each country’s electoral timetable, on which the military administrations had demonstrated little desire to commit. 

To end on a good note, a revolutionary blood test, named the “TriNetra-Glio blood test”, has been developed to provide an early diagnosis of glial brain tumor, while avoiding patients from undertaking invasive and high-risk surgery. Since brain tumor is the deadliest form of cancer for people under 40, this innovative technology holds the promise to facilitate early diagnosis, accelerate treatment and potentially improve survival rates.

That’s all for this week's Sunday summary! I hope you all had a nice weekend and see you next week for a new summary. 

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