COVID-19's Impact on Women and Poverty in CroatiaThe Republic of Croatia is a country located in Central and Southeast Europe, bordering Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Montenegro. Since proclaiming independence in 1991, the country introduced policies, programs and reforms to improve the quality of life of its citizens. But, COVID-19’s impact on women and poverty in Croatia has had serious consequences for the country.

COVID-19 and Unemployment

COVID-19 devastated many countries in a social, political and economic areas. However, Croatia was particularly hit hard. Starting in 2008, the country experienced a global financial crisis that had tremendous consequences. The European Commission Autumn Economic published a report estimating a recession of approximately 9.6% GDP in 2020, nearly 7% worse than the previous year. The main reasons behind the decrease are the fall in the tourism sector, domestic consumption and eradication of exports. In addition, registered unemployment skyrocketed by 21.3% during the first year of the pandemic.

Poverty in Croatia also increased after two earthquakes in 2020 negatively impacted Croatia’s pandemic and health crisis management. In response, the European Union deployed resources for the recovery of all the member countries, especially those who also suffered natural disasters during the pandemic.

Despite this bleak outlook, an analysis by The Ministry of Finance argues for an “optimistic growth of 5%” in 2021, provided Croatia sees an increase in domestic demand and continues receiving recovery funds from the European Union.

Women and Poverty in Croatia

According to a report by the World Bank, COVID-19 is not the only factor pushing women towards poverty. Undoubtedly, women are more likely to be employed in the informal, low-skilled and part-time jobs that were hardest hit by the pandemic. In many cases, these jobs disappeared and women suffered income loss. In addition, women who lost their jobs or work at home are less likely to be guaranteed social security and health coverage by the emergency packages created since the outbreak of COVID-19. For this reason, COVID-19’s impact on women and poverty in Croatia has been severe.

Both the European Union and the World Bank are aware of the many barriers women have to overcome. In response, they created several policies to find a solution. Some of the policies include providing equal access to the labor market for all women and removing any barriers to women’s employability.

The Government Response

Croatian authorities have become aware of the extreme need to reduce poverty in Croatia, especially for women. In 2019, authorities passed a National Action Plan for Women, Peace, and Security (NAP) to be carried out until 2023. This plan aims to prevent, protect and guarantee women’s rights in the country. The policy seeks to ensure that every woman has access to education, public health and active participation in the labor market.

The NAP prioritizes nine objectives to aid in prevention, participation, protection and implementation. Among these objectives are an increase in women’s role in decision-making processes and the promotion of women’s rights in conflict settings. The NAP works on the back of previous legislation that aimed to increase women’s participation in higher education. For example, women represented 59.9% of university graduates from 2015 to 2018. The same period saw a 4% increase in women in human resources and a 2% increase in female professors.

To support women’s employment, authorities introduced legislation to improve family life through maternity and parental benefits.  For example, the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy (MDFYSP) supports projects such as lengthening daycare operations, creating alternative education programs and providing children with meals. By supporting scholarships and child care, parents have more time to dedicate to their professional careers.

Hope for the Future

In conclusion, COVID-19 drastically affected Croatia in many ways. In particular, women suffered heavy damage from the health crisis. But, the international community and the Croatian authorities stepped in to design programs and resources for the eradication of poverty. Which, if the data is any indication, has promising results for the future of poverty in Croatia.

– Cristina Alverez
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in ItalyHuman trafficking is not an issue that occurs in just a single country or region of the world. Rather, it is a global dilemma requiring a global solution. However, human trafficking rates vary per country. Human trafficking in Italy represents an issue affecting other European nations as well.

Human Trafficking in Numbers

As of 2018, Italy ranked in the top five EU Member States with the highest number of registered trafficking victims. Italy also tied fourth for the highest percentage of sexually trafficked people at 82%. The other EU countries with similar statistics include Greece, Czechia and Hungary. In comparison, EU states like Sweden and Croatia have rates of 24% and 28% respectively.

Basics of Human Trafficking in Italy

Unaccompanied, young migrants seeking asylum are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking in Italy. Italy’s government reported at least 1,660 victims of trafficking, with many other victims unaccounted for. Save the Children points out the concerning increase in children and minors affected by trafficking, which increased from 9% to 13% within a single year. Many of these children end up contributing to underground labor, which fuels the Italian economy.

The risk factor for other workers falling victim to forced labor and labor trafficking in Italy feeds to these statistics. The United States Department of State found that, in 2020, roughly 3.7 million irregular workers and 1.5 million unregistered workers were at potential risk of labor-related trafficking.

Preventing Human Trafficking in Italy

The U.S. Department of State classifies Italy as a Tier 2 country. This means that the Italian government has participated in some efforts to combat human trafficking but still has work to do. For example, the country has demonstrated greater cooperation with international policies and laws against human trafficking. It has also prioritized additional fundraising to support victims of trafficking and places more emphasis on training Italian law enforcement to address trafficking.

In addition, many global groups such as the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) have worked hard to hold countries like Italy accountable for strengthening their policies. GRETA has noted decent progress on the issue of human trafficking in Italy. GRETA monitors human trafficking as the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings stipulates.

The Council maintains a human rights treaty among European Nations and the Council of Europe to reach an overarching goal of assisting and protecting trafficked human beings. GRETA thus performs legislative evaluations to ensure countries meet these goals and provides comprehensive reports and guidelines on combatting trafficking and prosecuting identified traffickers.

GRETA has acknowledged the progress in combating human trafficking in Italy as recently as 2019. The Italian government increased its funding for anti-trafficking projects, which has gone toward safeguarding protections for unaccompanied children who have fallen victim to human trafficking in Italy.

Challenges in Combatting Human Trafficking in Italy

The U.S. Department of State has noted that Italy still has not reached the “minimum standards” necessary to adequately and fully combat trafficking. As a result, the U.S. government has kept Italy at a Tier 2 status. Italy is not meeting the standards due to a decrease in trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The Italian Ministry of Interior reported only 135 trafficking investigations, which is a substantial decrease from 314 persons in 2018 and 482 persons in 2017. The government also does not have a consistent database for consolidated information about trafficking investigations, convictions or prosecutions. This adds to the difficulty of monitoring and assessment efforts.

Hope for the Future

Nevertheless, hope still exists in the fight against human trafficking in Italy. The U.S. government noted improvement in Italy’s 2020 trafficking report, acknowledging the measures the country implemented, even though there is still room for improvement. For example, improvements have emerged in victim assistance and increased funding for victims and victim’s rights groups. Funding has also gone toward NGOs advocating for trafficking rights, which GRETA specifically acknowledges as a step toward overall improvement in policies. With these efforts, Italy can reduce incidents of human trafficking in the country,

– Rebecca Fontana
Photo: Flickr

European Social Fund PlusIn June 2021, the European Parliament authorized the new Social Fund Plus program, which will aid youth and those at high risk of living in poverty. The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) combines the former European Social Fund, the Youth Employment Initiative, the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived and the E.U. Program for Employment and Social Innovation.

The ESF+ will be the primary tool to improve the future of Europe. This means addressing all consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, improving employee incomes, strengthening social welfare programs and creating a qualified and adaptable workforce.

Funds and Support

The European Social Fund Plus has a budget of approximately €88 billion to spend between 2021 and 2027. The finances will go to areas of key priority, including:

  • Employment opportunities for youth.
  • Affordable education, healthcare and housing for children.
  • Recovery of socioeconomic consequences caused by COVID-19.
  • Promote social inclusion to marginalized groups.
  • A guarantee that E.U.-funded initiatives will take place.

Empowering Youth and the Most Deprived

The European Parliament increased funds to ensure workforce participation for young people and to provide alleviation of child poverty, targeting two categories of citizens who the COVID-19 pandemic extremely affected. Member states will commit around 12.5% of their ESF+ budgets to assist youth by developing their skills and finding proper employment. Member states will also allocate funds to support children in jeopardy of poverty and social exclusion by ensuring fair access to daycare, schooling, health services and safe housing for all children. Every member state must contribute to the fight against child poverty.

Along with supporting disadvantaged youth, member states will invest a minimum of 25% of their resources to initiatives promoting equal rights for marginalized groups. This will aid in lowering workforce obstacles, combating social injustices and addressing health disparities.

In addition to the quarter of resources spent on fighting discrimination, member states will contribute at least 3% of the finances to necessities including water, food, clothing and shelter. This will counter global poverty that inherently leads to social isolation.

Main Goals of the ESF+

Overall, the European Parliament has created a budget to help the world’s poor, which gives the population a fighting chance to secure proper employment, adequate education and housing and social equality. Outlined are the main goals of the European Social Fund Plus:

  • Safeguard those who are most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
  • Tackle poverty and inequality through youth empowerment.
  • Create policies that invest in individuals and communities through social values.
  • Illustrate to the world how nations can positively impact the lives of their citizens.

The budget that the European Parliament has created will be appropriate for present circumstances and future uncertainties. Through the European Social Fund Plus, citizens will be able to reshape a more diverse, inclusive and resilient European Union.

– Anna Lovelace
Photo: Unsplash 

NextGenerationEU programThe COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light how nations must be prepared for the most unexpected crises. Countries all over the world have conjured up ideas of recovery plans to help restore and improve the world. One country to look at as a model for the rest of the world is Italy. Specifically, the Italian government has formed ENEA Tech as a Foundation that will invest in new technology and generate jobs in order to jumpstart the economy. Through this Foundation, the NextGenerationEU program formed. The NextGenerationEU program has an approximate budget of €800 billion and will be a temporary tool to aid the recovery of economic and social consequences that COVID-19 caused. This will help Italy heal from the pandemic while changing the lives of Italian citizens and providing them with new opportunities.

The Main Elements

The extraordinary effort will contribute to the recovery of socioeconomic losses that the COVID-19 pandemic inflicted. It will also allow for the transition to a more efficient and sustainable Italy. More than 50% of the funding will go toward research and technology innovations, sustainable environmental and cultural reforms while providing planning and protection within the European Union. Additionally, 30% of the budget will address other issues including climate change, environmental conservation and gender equality. Meanwhile, 20% of the financial resources will support the digitalization of the economy and other technological innovations. Finally, between the years 2026 and 2027, 10% of the yearly investment will go toward preventing and repairing biodiversity degradation. The funding will undergo investment and dispersal to Italy and other European Union countries. Recipients will obtain resources in the form of grants and loans.

The Benefits

Through the NextGenerationEU program, Italy and other European countries will become more sustainable, digitized, healthy and diverse. In addition to the previous investments, the many benefits of the program’s efforts include:

  • Investing in “green” technology, which will introduce more environmentally friendly means of transportation and make infrastructures and public areas more energy efficient.
  • Protecting the environment through conserving water, minimizing pollution, using more sources of renewable energy and improving agricultural practices.
  • Making the internet more accessible and affordable, meaning user data and electronic commerce will have more secure protection. The E.U. will also finance online education training to help people improve their digital abilities.
  • Combatting health concerns by creating new vaccines and treatments, increasing access to medical supplies and investing in professional healthcare training.
  • Creating more opportunities for internships and higher education while allocating more funds to loans and scholarships.
  • Increasing job opportunities for people with disabilities and people living in impoverished communities.
  • Fighting racism and xenophobia and supporting gender equality to honor diversity in all of its expressions.

The Next Steps

The European Commission and the European Parliament have made significant measures to ensure that authority leaders prioritize financial support and seek assistance through various NextGenerationEU mechanisms. Although the NextGenerationEU program is coming to fruition, individuals must continue to urge their respective national government leaders to help in developing and enacting recovery programs.

– Anna Lovelace
Photo: Unsplash

Italy's Pandemic Recovery
Italy quickly became a coronavirus hot spot at the pandemic’s onset, and its healthcare system and economy have struggled ever since. In early 2021, the Italian government announced a €235 billion Resilience and Recovery Plan (RRP) that will launch several economic initiatives over the next five years. Prime Minister Mario Draghi seeks to emphasize institutional reform and GDP growth in Italy’s pandemic recovery process.

How Italy Handled the COVID-19 Pandemic

Italy has documented more than 4 million COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. It has confirmed more than 127,000 deaths as of July 6, 2021. The pandemic hit Northern Italy the hardest and fastest, with nearly 80% of COVID-related deaths coming from the northern region in the first four months of the pandemic.

Italy’s unemployment rate rose from 9.2% in 2020 to 10.2% in 2021, with youth disproportionately affected. In the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Campania, youth unemployment climbed to 46%. Additionally, 45% of Italians agreed that the pandemic has impacted their personal income.

A four-level color-coded system sorts locations in Italy by infection risk. White and yellow areas have “total freedom, by day and night,” representing a lower risk of coronavirus infection. Orange represents a higher risk, and red represents an extreme risk. Orange and red regions observe a curfew between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. As of June 28, 2021, all regions are white areas. It is no longer mandatory to wear a mask outdoors, but the country is suggesting that people continue carrying one and observe safe social distancing rules.

Italy’s Plans for Tourism

Tourism is a vital component of the Italian GDP, and in just one year, the country saw a 60% drop in tourists due to COVID-19. Italy estimates a loss of around €120.6 billion in tourism revenue for 2020, and so far, 2021 has also been a lackluster year for tourism.

Italy’s pandemic recovery process includes once again allowing foreign visitors. In June 2021, the country opened to tourism from most European countries and a few others as well. Visitors from the U.S., Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates who arrive on COVID-tested flights can also enter the country. All tourists from outside the European Union, Israel or on COVID-tested flights must quarantine for 14 days and provide a negative COVID-19 test. However, most tourist attractions, including beaches, theaters and museums, are open to the public at limited capacity.

Italy’s Economic Recovery Plan

Draghi continues to work with the E.U. to secure aid for Italian citizens. As a result, Italy will receive the largest share of the E.U.’s €705 billion recovery fund because of the economic strain the pandemic placed on the country. The plan will offer environmentally conscious solutions for economic expansion.

The Italian government will allocate €18.5 billion to hospitals to reduce pressure on the healthcare system. The RRP will help hospitals digitize and will invest in “community hospitals” for patients not needing extensive care. It will also set aside €7 billion to strengthen home care. All these plans are efforts to relieve hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

Forty percent of the RRP is for green-related investments. A study by Scientific Reports found that Italy’s air pollution played a larger role in spreading the pandemic than population density, so Italy plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. The RRP will also fund construction, which will offer many citizens job opportunities. The construction market is estimated to grow 3.5% in the COVID-19 recovery process.

Many Italians are looking forward to life returning to normal. Italy’s pandemic recovery plan offers hope that the country will succeed in its economic expansion and infrastructure development.

Camdyn Knox
Photo: Flickr

Trade Partnership Between The EU And India
The European Union and India have recently agreed to resume trade negotiations since 2013. The European Union has acknowledged that trade leads to the reduction of national poverty, a huge benefit. The trade partnership between the E.U. and India is strategic to the E.U. in terms of India’s geographical location and natural resources.

National Poverty in India

In India, 30% of the population lives under extreme poverty, meaning that individuals earn less than $1.25 per day. India is one of the subcontinents with the highest toll of poverty in the world. The lack of resources creates a chain reaction, leading to unemployment, child labor and lack of education. Similarly, the poverty rate in India is concerning, alarming other nations to develop impactful relations with India. The economy in India bases on exporting spices, coffee, tea, tobacco, iron and steel. The current COVID-19 pandemic struck India with the lowest economic growth in years. It affected rural areas in India the most. People are reducing spending due to the crisis and financial situation. The European Union has agreed to trade with India to pursue common interests.

Trade Agreements Between the EU and India

The European Union agreed on trading with India for better development and strategic commerce. Europe and India froze their relationship in 2013. This decision strongly affected India’s financial situation. Trade partnership between both nations creates impactful relationships and empowers women. Strengthening the relationship between both countries strengthens human rights and reduces the poverty index, helping civil society. The trade deal between nations is 8.5 billion euros. The European Union and India agreed to build infrastructure projects to increase cooperation.

Both nations have compromised to reduce carbon emissions and increase renewable energy. The pledge between both will improve citizens living conditions and minimize national poverty. According to the European Commission, India is amongst one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The trade partnership with the European Union could potentially grow India’s GDP up to 6%. The European Union will exhaust available channels to work with India to ensure a transparent market and respect multilateral obligations.

Trade Drives International Development

Open trade policies enable economic development in countries. The cooperation of international trade will benefit the importer and exporter in numerous ways. For instance, trade is critical when it comes to ending global poverty. Multilateral relationships create a win-win scenario, improving productivity and innovation. Poverty means the concentration of individuals deprived of basic needs, often disconnected from global or even regional markets. Consequently, increasing trade creates jobs and grows the exporting sector.

Improving Living Standards in India

In conclusion, emphasizing trade partnership is a national growth strategy. With the collaboration and agreement, India could increase up to 6% of its annual GDP. According to the World Bank, trade-open markets help create an inclusive and integrated environment. The European Union will help India significantly reduce national poverty levels. All sectors in India benefit from bilateral and multilateral negotiations. Above all, it is essential to have an equitable economy to ensure growth in society. The United Nations has prioritized poverty as a millennium development goal emphasizing MDG 8, which corresponds to international trade as a growth strategy to reduce poverty. Thus, the trade partnership between the E.U. and India is conducive to India’s future economic success.

Ainara Ruano Cervan
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Poland
Poland has been a NATO member since 1999. It was not until five years later in 2004 that Poland became a member of the European Union (E.U.) after signing the Accession Treaty. In addition, Poland has been a member of the Schengen area since 2007. Poland’s cooperation and membership in these intergovernmental organizations continue to benefit its economic condition. E.U. membership, in particular, stimulated Poland’s economy towards sustainable development and helped in the fall of poverty in Poland.

Economic Situation of Poland (After and Before Accession to the European Union)

After Poland’s accession, E.U. regional policy programs guided the country through many beneficial investments over the years. Through these investments, Poland was able to develop and maintain its infrastructure, economy, tourism, education, healthcare and governance. In order to eliminate disparities between its regions, the E.U. fund seeks to build a stronger economy, stable territorial lines and cohesion in the union. During the 2014-2020 programming period, Poland managed to enforce hundreds of projects.

According to data from 2003 until 2018, the economy of Poland is continuously improving. In 2003, a year before E.U. membership, the total value of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Poland was $477.94 billion. After five years of being a member of the E.U., Poland’s economic growth for 2009 was $760.35 billion. In this case, membership in the E.U. benefited the economy of the region. According to the European Commission’s 2012 Aging Report projects during 2010-2060, Poland will be the second-fastest-growing economy in the E.U., following Bulgaria.

The strong economic performance over the years led to the rapid rising of GDP per capita in Poland. Its GDP per capita has risen from $5,693 in 2003 to $15,565 in 2019. In 2004, the annual growth rate of GDP per capita was 17.35% in comparison to 2003. It is also important to mention that, in 2009, the annual growth rate of GDP per capita declined by -17.67% compared to the previous year. The economy of Poland was under tension in 2009 and another sizeable fall in numbers occurred in 2015. In 2014, GDP per capita was $14,348 and in 2015, it decreased to $12,572. However, from 2017 to 2019, the numbers increased. In fact, in 2019, the GDP per capita in Poland reached the highest point ever in the country’s history at $15,565.

Unemployment in Poland

Various indicators estimate a trend of decreasing poverty in Poland. The unemployment rate demonstrates this well. After Poland regained its independence, unemployment was one of the most pressing social and economic issues. E.U. membership contributed to the decline in the unemployment rate. Foreign investments and the funds from the E.U. financing programs decreased the percentage of unemployment and created new jobs. At the same time, the opening of the European labor market created job opportunities outside of Poland for the unemployed, subsequently aiding the fall of poverty in Poland.

From the beginning of 2003 to 2009, the unemployment rate decreased significantly in Poland. The unemployment rate decreased from 19.07% in 2004 to 3.47% in 2019. According to some economists, if Poland never joined as an E.U. member, they would be at the same level as Ukraine, which had a slightly higher GDP than Poland in 1990.

Conclusion

Poland underwent a successful transition from a communist-state background to a stable and competitive European country. One of the main reasons for their success is that Poland joined. In 2007-2013 and 2014-2020, Poland was the largest beneficiary of the E.U. funds. Investments helped Poland improve its transport infrastructure, health, education, environment efficiency, network infrastructure, social cohesion, research and development.

– Tofig Ismayilzada
Photo: Flickr

A New Proposed Bill to End the Gender Pay Gap in the EUIn March 2021, a new law was proposed to end the gender pay gap in the European Union (EU). This bill, written during COVID-19, aims to give more power to job candidates and to employees, especially women. Pushed by the European Commission, this proposed bill is great news for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Gender Pay Gap in the EU

The gender pay gap is the average difference in salaries between men and women. It is a central social and economic issue affecting all EU countries.

The EU consists of 27 member countries. In 2019, all 27 countries showed differences between men’s and women’s hourly incomes with an average of a 14.1% pay gap.

These statistics also highlight gender pay gap differences between EU countries. For instance, Estonia presented a 21.7% gender pay gap — the highest gender pay gap rate in Europe. On the other hand, the top three countries each showed less than 5% pay gap: Italy showed 4.7%, Romania 3.3% and Luxembourg 1.3%.

Making Equality a Priority

These significant differences within the European members underscore the need for the EU to achieve unified and equal salaries between men and women. Although EU countries acknowledge inequalities in salaries, the gender pay gap rate has only minimally improved. The difference between men’s and women’s salaries has decreased by only a point between 2016 and 2019.

Not only will achieving gender wage equality make European societies fairer, but it can also improve their economies. In 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron stated that gender equality makes companies more competitive and productive.

In March 2021, the European Commission proposed a law addressing the gender pay gap issue in Europe. The bill relied on the “equal pay for equal job” principle and would be based on a system of fines for companies that do not respect gender pay equality.

Toward Transparency and Equality

In addition to penalties, the law would require companies to be more transparent about gender pay gaps. Increasing transparency would enable women to acknowledge discrimination and provide them with the information and tools to defend themselves against these inequalities and consequently empower women.

Transparency is a key point of the European bill to end the gender pay gap. It also requires the implementation of strict legal frames. Additionally, the proposed law considers the use of reports and audits, which are both parts of the right to information and can underline potential gender-based discriminations.

Gender Pay Inequality: A Multi-faceted Issue

It remains crucial to tackle invisible facts undermining women’s chances on the job market. For instance, the bill must consider the inequalities in unpaid activities mostly handled by women, like domestic chores or care work. Before COVID-19, women performed on average three times more unpaid work than men. During the pandemic, these numbers increased, especially because more women lost their jobs than men.

The inconsistency of women’s jobs is also crucial. For instance, in 2019, 29% of the gender pay gap in France’s culture-related jobs was due to the gap between full-time and part-time jobs for men and women.

The current pandemic has also underlined significant inequalities in women’s employment situations. During the coronavirus pandemic, a majority of front-line workers were women.

Equal pay between men and women represents a fundamental value of the EU. The “Equal Pay for Equal Work” principle was part of the foundation of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957. However, the gender pay gap remains a complex and systemic problem embedded in European institutions. The law proposed by the European Commission in March 2021 is an essential step toward ending gender-based discrimination on an international level. Closing the gender pay gap in the EU will, in turn, reduce inequalities and increase overall economic productivity.

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

European Union Membership
The European Union, or E.U., stands as a pillar in Europe, promoting economic and political stability. The partner countries of the E.U. make up a thriving economic landscape. The 10 poorest countries in Europe are not members of the European Union. This includes nations such as Ukraine, Moldova and Kosovo, which stand as the three poorest countries in the continent. If these countries were to have European Union membership, would they benefit?

Anatomy of an Impoverished Country

Ukraine, Moldova and Kosovo a history of government corruption in common. In Moldova, the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system in 2014 was due to various politicians. Losses like this, high public debt and detrimental business decisions have allowed corruption to thrive. This severely impacts growth potential.

Similarly, in Ukraine, the elite still controls the economy. The economy never healed from the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Politicians with ulterior motives have quickly hijacked any start of the national budget, such as the military budget. Competition has disappeared in multiple sectors inhibiting growth. For example, politicians frequently make pricing decisions with business in mind rather than individuals.

The preservation of the elite interests blocks agricultural reform, while the monopolization of government funds by private bank owners shuts down bank reform before it can start. As well, the Ukrainian diaspora does little to combat this.

In Kosovo, the political climate remains volatile, with former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj having resigned in July 2019. The E.U. reported that the messy election process that followed in his wake lacked “constructive political dialogue,” in part due to the lack of minimum-member requirements to make forum meetings valid.

Following this, a caretaker government remained in place under the leadership of former Prime Minister Albin Kurti until the election of current Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti. The 2019 election revealed several unsavory truths about the state of politics in Kosovo. Voter intimidation tactics underwent deployment against non-Srpska Lista (the Serb List, a minority political party) candidates and supporters.

Whether the activities of the government include explicitly skimming funds initially for the welfare of the people, or suppressing voices when the nation has the potential to change, corrupt governments are all too common in impoverished countries. The elite seeks to protect specific interests and fund individual exploits at the expense of the people.

European Union Membership

Countries that want to undergo consideration for E.U. membership need to meet three major criteria. The first requires the applying nation to have a stable, democratic government that protects human rights. The second is a competitive economy. The third is that the applicant must be willing to comply with the E.U.’s political, economic and monetary policies.

In joining the E.U., citizens of partnered countries access a market with diverse choices and stable prices, as well as a secure and lucrative economy. Moreover, the nation joins the global economy via the E.U., presenting a cohesive, prominent European identity. All of these factors lend support and power to the people, unlike when support and power are at risk under a corrupt government. However, an obstacle to E.U. membership that remains, is these formerly corrupt governments must meet a certain ethical standard.

The International Committee of the Red Cross

Fixing the main obstacles inhibiting these countries’ growth requires more than one solution.  While European Union membership could be a valuable resource and an incredible step forward for countries like Kosovo and Ukraine, they have to make several strides before they can receive membership. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) can help triage several of these issues, stabilizing the area to help get them closer to European Union membership.

For example, in Ukraine, where infrastructure has taken a hit with government corruption and negligence, the ICRC provided 850,000 people with water, due to trying to fix the sanitation sector and setting up waterboards. Meanwhile, 67 health care facilities received necessary supplies. Moreover, 120,000 obtained food, hygiene, cash aid for agricultural endeavors and grants for business opportunities.

Looking Ahead

Joining the E.U. is not a cure for poverty in Europe. Meeting the baseline criteria concerning human rights and the economy can be challenging for many impoverished countries. Additionally, E.U. membership is a partnership that does not have the intention of being a one-way deployment of aid.

For the E.U., the protection of human rights, a stable economy and a cohesive identity are important factors. The lack of these qualities often allows poverty to thrive. A weak and volatile economy leaves many citizens income-insecure, especially in places where minority groups receive poor treatment. Furthermore, corruption, like siphoning government funds, can prevent an economy from getting on its feet.

Organizations like the ICRC can help stabilize areas as it can help Ukraine and Kosovo obtain their daily needs and start growing their infrastructure. This would help them join the E.U. in which nations agree to make policies that will abide by the E.U.’s goals. This will allow nations like Ukraine and Kosovo to work more easily with other E.U. members and promote regional stability and consistency of policy and cohesion of identity.

Stronger together than apart, the E.U. provides more opportunities for individual nations inside to trade with those that lay outside the immediate vicinity.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid in Nagorno-KarabakhNagorno-Karabakh is a region in the country Azerbaijan and is home to an Armenian majority. While the region is within Azerbaijan’s borders, Armenia has claimed the region for itself. The first intense conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region was in 1988 when the Soviet Union was nearing the end of its existence. Recently, conflict in the region began again in late September 2020 and lasted for about a  month until a ceasefire was brokered by Russia. Additional ceasefires were brought into fruition by France with the help of Russia and the United States. Despite the ceasefires, the conflict in the region is continuing. The fighting in the region has drastically impacted the civilian population of the region. This has in turn created a strong need for humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The European Union Assists

The European Union (EU) is actively providing aid to the civilian populace affected by the conflict and has done so since early October 2020. The initial amount of aid provided by the EU was €900,000. Then, in November, the EU commissioned an additional €3 million to the civilians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. According to the EU, this humanitarian aid will provide the necessary assistance that humanitarian organizations partnered with the EU need to carry out their duties. This includes providing food, winter clothing and medical assistance.

The United States’ Aid

The United States is also providing its share of financial assistance. In total, the United States has provided around $10 million in humanitarian assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 2019 fiscal year. Of the $10 million, $5 million has been allocated to the International Committee of the Red Cross and similar humanitarian organizations to help civilians caught in the crossfire of the conflict. Assistance coming from the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will also be used for humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh. The support these two institutions will be providing will come in the form of food, shelter and medical support for the people impacted by the conflict.

People in Need

There are also NGOs that have provided humanitarian aid in Nagorno-Karabakh as well. One organization, People in Need, has done just this. People in Need is an organization dedicated to providing immediate aid to countries should a natural disaster or war take place.

People in Need has provided support, not to Nagorno-Karabakh, but to the city of Goris in Armenia. People in Need directed its humanitarian aid to this Armenian city because many of the displaced civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh have gone there for refuge. The displaced people either move on or stay in the city. People in Need have been able to provide hygienic supplies to 1,200 displaced families in Goris. Additionally, People in Need have provided 480 children, 600 women and 110 seniors with their own individual hygienic kits. People in Need have also taken into consideration the psychosocial needs of children impacted by the conflict. To help these children, People in Need opened a child-friendly space in the city library where children can engage with other children and partake in other activities.

While the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh continues, international institutions, individual countries and humanitarian organizations are trying to provide all the support possible to help the civilians impacted by the conflict.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr