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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Record-breaking happiness and sunny days ahead

Local News

This week has been very important for Dutch politics. General national elections were held from 15 to 17 of March. Mark Rutte’s party celebrated an overwhelming victory, with the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy winning 35 out of 150 seats in Dutch parliament. The party, however, has not always been the protagonist of victories; just in January, Rutte was forced to resign after a scandal over child benefits where thousands of families were falsely accused of fraud by Dutch tax authorities. Despite mistakes and scandals, Rutte has been the head of three coalition governments since 2010 and has just succeeded for the fourth time in a row, with 21.9% of the votes. Following, the Democrats 66 (D66) led by Sigrid Kaag has won 14.9% of the votes, to then be followed by the Party for Freedom (PVV), a nationalist right-wing populist party led by Geert Wilders. Overall, Rutte’s party seems to be on the rise, gaining 2 votes more than in the previous elections.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in the Netherlands keep rising, reaching almost 7,400 new cases on Friday. Hospitalizations also keep growing, despite the stricter rules and the continuation of the night curfew. Ministers are supposed to discuss a potential relaxation of the existing measures this weekend, although the increasing number of cases does not seem promising. On the other hand, the covid-19 vaccine campaign started in January 2021 has now reached around 2 million doses of vaccinations, which corresponds to approximately 11% of the Dutch population.

On a final, happier note, the Netherlands have been ranked by the UN annual World Happiness Report as the 5th happiest country in the world. The level of happiness is understood as a measurement of subjective well-being and it is retrieved by the Gallup World Poll through individual interviews on life quality’s evaluations, especially now considering the impact of covid-19 on life satisfaction. First in the ranking is Finland as it was already in the past years, confirming its record of happiest country in the world.

Global News

Now that we looked at Dutch politics and the situation in the Netherlands, especially regarding the coronavirus crisis, let’s shift our attention to global and international events. This week has been marked by a generalised state of fear and uncertainty regarding the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine. The distribution of the vaccine was temporarily suspended earlier this week in many countries mainly in the European Union. The first country to suspend the vaccine was Denmark, followed by Norway, Ireland and later on also Germany, France and Italy as well as other countries outside of Europe. The suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine was considered a precautionary measure against an apparent correlation between the inoculation of the vaccine and blood coagulation disorders. However, no causal relation was found between the vaccine and thromboembolic events, which seem to occur very frequently at a global scale in the absence of the vaccine’s effects. The World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have declared that the vaccine is safe, and that countries should continue the administration. After EMA’s confirmation about the vaccine’s safety on Thursday, many countries will restart using it and administering it to the population. However, these moments of uncertainty and distrust cannot be beneficial and surely cannot help with the growing wave of scepticism regarding coronavirus vaccination in general.

The United States seems to be the protagonist of other international turbulences this week, especially regarding its relationships with Russia and China. First, earlier this week the American President Joe Biden has agreed on defining Russian President Putin as a ‘killer’ after being asked on a television interview. Putin has responded to this verbal confrontation wishing Biden ‘good health’. He has also almost engaged in a psychological analysis explaining how others are mirrors of ourselves, and evaluations or judgements about others always tell something about our identity. Putin has responded ‘it takes one to know one’, which could be a subtle way to directly return the insult received earlier by Biden. Kremlin spokesmen have also declared how this virtual confrontation between the countries shows no intention from the US to improve its relationship with Russia.

On a second note, also the future relationship between the US and China does not seem to be very promising. US and Chinese officials met in Alaska this week for the first time since the Biden administration took office. The meeting has been described as quite undiplomatic and reciprocally critical of the other country’s actions. The Biden administration has further described their relationship with China as a ‘geopolitical competition between democracy and autocracy’. The meeting ended on Friday and produced no sign of improvement in the relation between the two powers.

This is all for this week’s summary! We hope you enjoyed reading this article and we wish you a fresh start next week, hoping for more sun to shine in the future.

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