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The Maastricht Diplomat

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War, Elections and a little bit of coronavirus

I would love to start this Sunday Summary with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry coming to The Hague for the Invictus Games and not being given an audience with Netherlands King Willem-Alexander. It would be nice to write firstly about the fact that the election campaign in France has ended and Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will fight in the second round today. It would be even better if I wrote that the war between Ukraine and Russia is over, Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity are investigated in the International Criminal Court, and Russia is preparing to pay reparations. Unfortunately, if the first two news stories are true, the last one is just a figment of my imagination. Today, April 24, the war between Ukraine and Russia has been going on for two months.

Just today, April 24, Orthodox Christians are celebrating Easter. Russia, in its turn, rejected the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres' proposal for a four-day "Easter humanitarian pause" in Ukraine. Russia's representative to the United Nations said that the truce will be “an effort to give Kyiv nationalists and radicals a breather so that they can regroup”. Russia has very interesting ideas about how Easter is celebrated in Ukraine, but the fact remains that there will be no truce in this period of time.

Returning to the French elections, we should pay attention to the latest debate between Le Pen and Macron, in which the topic of Ukraine was also touched upon. Le Pen has long been considered one of Putin's main European allies. Before the 2017 elections, she said she did not believe Russia's annexation of Crimea was illegal, arguing that "there was a referendum, the people of Crimea wanted to join Russia." During the current debate, Macron criticized Le Pen for this statement – and recalled a €9 million loan her party received in 2014 from the First Czech-Russian Bank, which, according to Macron, is close to the Russian authorities. Le Pen said that she was forced to take out a loan just like millions of French people trying to survive in difficult economic conditions. Macron countered that the French, unlike her, do not turn to Russia for money. After these debates, a quick poll showed that 59% of viewers found Macron's arguments more convincing; 39% were more convinced by Le Pen's remarks. Well, it remains only to wait for the results of the second ballot.

Continuing the war theme and its consequences, the Dutch government wants to end the Netherlands' reliance on Russian gas by the end of the year, replacing the supply by saving energy, better energy efficiency and imports from other countries, climate minister Rob Jetten said on Friday. ‘We no longer want to put money into Putin’s war chest,’ Jetten said and mentioned that it would be a big challenge to end the Dutch dependence on Russian gas within nine months.

It was also important that Japan announced that the Southern Kuril Islands are a group of islands Japan has sovereignty over and an integral part of Japan's territory, but currently they are illegally occupied by Russia. Such a strong statement was proclaimed for the first time since 2003, because Japan was trying to be more neutral, hoping to reach a compromise with Russia.

Moving on to other news, it is now five weeks since Shanghai's population was ordered to stay at home as part of a strict lockdown because of coronavirus (coronavirus who?). Shanghai’s locals faced lack of food supplies and poor medical conditions and now Chinese internet authorities are trying to block a video where the population of this area are complaining about it. "We haven't eaten for days now," one person said in this video.

A little digression from the sad and disturbing news, back to the topic that was the very first in this Sunday Summary: the Royal Family of Great Britain. On April 21, Elizabeth II turned 96 years old, in honor of which the palace published a new photo of the Queen. In a charming frame, Her Majesty holds two snow-white horses against the backdrop of flowering trees. By the way, if we talk about the Royal Families, then according to an online survey public confidence of Dutch people in King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima has hit an all-time low, with just 54% saying they have faith in the monarch.

Earth Day was celebrated on April 22. This day coincides with various events designed to encourage people to be more attentive to the fragile and vulnerable environment on planet Earth. Celebrating Earth Day on April 22 (or, coincidentally, making a declaration on the same day), Twitter says it will no longer allow advertisers on their platform who deny the scientific consensus on climate change. It can be said that this is also a small victory in the fight against climate change.

All in all, this Sunday Summary may seem rather pessimistic, but it is a harsh reality. But we have an amazing opportunity to live at a time of historical events that our descendants will read about in history textbooks. I would like to believe that no one will skip these history classes so that humanity can finally learn the lesson and never repeat it. Preferably, immediately after history, students should take an introductory course in public international law, human rights law, and international humanitarian law. I hope that a good education will lead to Sunday Summaries 50 years from now being filled exclusively with positive news related to innovations in science, medicine, and technology. And not because they were chosen by the editors, but simply because there is no other news. Have a great Sunday!


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