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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Coups, corona, and tax hikes.

Starting with some fresh news: Jordan's former crown prince, Hamza Bin Hussein, has been placed under house arrest over an alleged coup. After being accused by the army of conspiring against the security of the kingdom, Jordanian authorities raided his palace on Saturday and arrested two senior aides. Jordan’s military leadership denies this arrest, but this information has been contradicted by intelligence officials in the region and in Europe. Prince Hamza posted a video in which he denied taking part in a plot and accused his country's authorities of "corruption" and "incompetence". He also regretted that it was no longer possible to express one's opinion or criticise the authorities "without being intimidated, harassed or threatened". Hamza Bin Hussein is the half-brother of King Abdullah II, who stripped him of his title of crown prince five years after taking power in 1999. Two of Jordan's allies, the US and Saudi Arabia were quick to come out to support King Abdullah II on Saturday.

In Mozambique, the Islamist insurgency in the North of the country is growing. The raid on the port town of Palma last month by the Islamic State-affiliated local al-Shabaab group marked a watershed moment in the escalating four-year conflict. The jihadist attack killed several dozen people in the town and forced thousands to flee the city, which is only a few kilometres away from Total’s gas site. Since then, the French group’s facilities have been completely shut down. According to researcher Joseph Hanlon, al-Shabaab has entered into a rebellion against the Maputo government to denounce the capture of the region's underground wealth. The violence is causing a humanitarian crisis in one of the country’s poorest regions. The military has been trying to recapture Palma, which fell to the rebels on the night of the 26th March, but the country's security response appears insufficient. Private security guards who worked alongside Mozambican forces against the rebels reported seeing decapitated bodies in the streets.

On a somewhat different note, Antwerp’s port is preparing itself for delays after the interruption of traffic on the Suez Canal. The team of eight Dutch salvage experts and naval architects successfully overseed the operation to free the stuck ship but the six-day blockade on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes heavily affected the entire global supply chain. Ports around the globe are now expecting more cargo arrivals than usual. In Antwerp, the authorities of the second largest European ports expect disruptions for many months to come, as containers cannot remain on the docks indefinitely while waiting for a departing cargo ship. This means that if you are waiting for your AliExpress order, you may need to be patient!

This week also marked the launching of President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan. In his speech in Pittsburgh, Biden talked about a “once-in-a-generation investment in America”. The plan would create millions of jobs and jump-start the fight against climate change. It has been designed to rebuild 20,000 miles of roads, expand access to clean water and broadband and invest in care for the elderly. The proposal for the plan includes the payment of the project over 15 years by raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, ending the Trump-era tax cuts. This perspective, and the broad definition of infrastructure adopted by the plan, caused sharp disagreements among Republican representatives, anticipating numerous debates between the two parties until its final adoption. In Europe, the plan also left some governments worried. President Macron has already voiced fears that the EU recovery plan will not be able to match the US ambitions.

Finally, on Thursday, the WHO also warned Europeans about the ‘unacceptably slow’ rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. The world region is the second most affected by the disease and with new variants spreading, the situation is not looking up. Since vaccines present the best way out of this pandemic, according to the organisation, speeding up their roll-out is crucial. New data from England suggest that COVID-19 vaccines have saved at least over 6000 lives among people over 70 since vaccination started in the country in December 2020. In contrast, only 4% of the European continental’s population has completed a full vaccine series, making it impossible to reach similar results. It’s not the time to relax measures, warned the organisation, but some hope is in sight for the month of April with the expected arrival of more than 350 million doses in the EU.

That’s it for now! We hope you are having a lovely Easter weekend and can enjoy some well-deserved rest after the end of the exams.


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