Nothing has been a more central topic of conversation to the people of Maastricht than the snow we have seen the last few days. You open Instagram and everyone you know has posted a story showing snow in some corner of the city. As someone who likes snow, I must admit that I get the hype. After all, it is a nice change from the constant rain that the Netherlands is getting. Be careful though, as snow in Maastricht means that walking – or cycling, if you feel very courageous – becomes a pretty slippery matter!
While people in Maastricht have been busy with snowball fights and the like, other kinds of fights have been going on across the world. France has seen large protests due to the proposed pension reform which aims at pushing back the age of retirement in France from 62 to 64 years. More than 1 million people have been striking over the past days, with around 80.000 participants in Paris alone and estimated 30-40% of teachers joining the rallies, disrupting transport and causing school closures all over the country. While many have been protesting against government proposals in the past, the difference now is that Macron has lost majority in parliament, unions are presenting themselves united for the first time and around two third of the population are estimated to oppose the reform.
In Peru, thousands continue the wave of protests that has been going on since early December, after former president Pedro Castillo was removed because he wanted to temporarily suspend the congress. Demonstrations were started by supporters of Castillo in the rural and poorer areas of the country, regions similar to those where Castillo himself grew up in. Recently, demonstrators began demanding the resignation of the new President Dina Boluarte, who was Vice-President under Castillo, and calling for new elections. The deaths of dozens of protestors over the past month is only further intensifying the unrest in Peru.
Following Ukraine’s pleas for more tanks and military resources in a moment of urgency with a new Russian offensive taking place in the east of the country, 50 countries have agreed on Friday to provide further military resources to Ukraine. Kyiv wants to push through the front and force Russian forces back and is thus calling for more modern tanks. Germany, who is the main manufacturer of “Leopard” tanks, has been heavily criticised for its reluctance to send this kind of tanks to Ukraine. Two reasons for why Germany’s chancellor Scholz might be holding back are first, the fear of a Russian escalation, and more importantly, the meaning of sending German tanks to the Russian border when looking back in history to the Second World War. In a later call with US President Biden, Scholz then spoke in favour of sending German tanks, but only if the US were sending their “Abrams” tanks too. Whether Germany will end up sending tanks or not remains to be seen.
Amidst all of this talk over war and protests, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by everything that is going on. There is little we can do, but at least the snow of the last few days might be able to help you find some joy and get your mind off things. So go outside, take a walk, build a snowman, make a snow angel... whatever brings out the inner child in you!