⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Biden says US stands with European allies: US President Joe Biden has pledged solidarity with allies against the Kremlin’s „challenges to European security“ ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. „We are standing united to address Russia’s challenges to European security, starting with its aggression in Ukraine,“ Biden wrote in an op-ed for the „Washington Post“ published on Saturday. Biden is scheduled to head to Europe on Wednesday for both the G7 and NATO summits. He is then expected to meet Putin face-to-face in Geneva on 16 June. Biden said his trip to Europe is about realising America’s renewed commitment to allies and to deter the threats of this new age. He added that the United States must lead the world from a position of strength, whether it is ending the Covid pandemic worldwide or addressing climate change.
Germany: Russian spy activity becomes more brutal: Russian intelligence is as active in Germany as it was „during the Cold War era,“ the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said in comments published by the German „Welt am Sonntag“ newspaper. Thomas Haldenwang said the Kremlin has a „very complex intelligence interest in Germany in almost all policy areas.“ He added that Russia was using agents to try establish contact in the environment of political decision-makers and that Moscow’s methods are becoming rougher and the means more brutal. The intelligence expert cited the murder of a Georgian man in Berlin in 2019, which the agency has blamed on the Russian government. However, right-wing extremism is Germany’s „greatest threat to security and democracy,“ Haldenwang said, citing terrorist networks as well as groups and political parties in the country’s growing far-right scene.
Merkel urges ambitious Glasgow climate summit: The United Nation’s COP26 climate summit in November must provide further impetus for concrete measures to cut global warming to a tolerable level, German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on Saturday. In her weekly video podcast, coinciding with World Environment Day, Merkel said the climate goals set in Paris in 2015 and to be finessed in Glasgow, Scotland, later this year, will make 2021 a significant year in the transition from fossil fuels. „These [Paris] goals are ambitious, but we can achieve them,“ said Merkel. Europe has „already come a long way“ toward becoming what the EU terms a climate-neutral economy by 2050.
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France marks 77-years since D-Day landings in Normandy: A memorial honouring soldiers who died under British command on D-Day – and in the fighting that followed – has been unveiled in France on the 77th anniversary of the Normandy landings. Several ceremonies were scheduled Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of the decisive assault that led to the liberation of France and western Europe from Nazi control and honour those who fell. On D-Day, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches codenamed Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. The D-Day landings on five Normandy beaches still ranks as one of the world’s biggest ever naval operations.
bbc.com, npr.org, dw.com
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„Doing without them will be easy and will greatly relieve the environment.“
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has highlighted the need to cut plastic waste.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
German health minister under fire for unfit Covid mask plan: German Health Minister Jens Spahn is facing fierce cross-party criticism after a report emerged about his ministry’s plans to dispose of unusable face masks by handing them out to vulnerable groups amid the coronavirus pandemic. The health ministry on Saturday hit back at the claims made in the German magazine „Spiegel“, saying all its masks had been tested to a high standard and that protection of the wearer was its top priority. The magazine on Friday reported that the ministry had ordered face masks from China in Spring 2020 for an estimated €1 billion. The order was placed amid a global mask shortage and had not been tested to meet EU standards. The health ministry hit back at the accusations on Saturday, saying that strict attention had been paid to quality during the procurement of medical goods, including face masks, during what it described as an emergency situation.
Crowds in Budapest rally against Chinese university campus plan: Protesters were out on the streets of Budapest in the thousands on Saturday to demonstrate against plans by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to build a campus of a top Chinese university. China is expected to loan €1.3 billion to build the Fudan University campus, but it’s causing unease about Hungary’s diplomatic pivot from west to east. Many Hungarians are also concerned about the amount of money their country now owes to China. One local official described the campus project as a Chinese Trojan horse built with help of Hungarian money — because the Hungarian government is a partner for it. Opinion polls suggest most people in Hungary’s capital oppose the campus.
CDU fends off far-right AfD in German state election: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives handily batted away a challenge from the far right in a state election Sunday that was seen as the last big test for Germany’s political parties before a national vote in September. Projections by public broadcaster ARD put Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union at 36.9%, a gain of around 7 percentage points compared to the last election five years ago in the sparsely populated state of 2.2 million inhabitants. The far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, was projected to get 21.1% of the vote, a slight drop compared to 2016. The party has moved steadily further to the right in recent years and its chapter in Saxony-Anhalt has come under increased scrutiny from Germany’s domestic intelligence service for its ties to extremist groups. The results are a major relief for Saxony-Anhalt’s CDU state premier, Reiner Haseloff. He had refused to form a governing coalition with the AfD.
Cruise ships restart in Venice; protesters decry their risks: The first cruise ship leaving Venice since the pandemic departed Saturday amid protests by activists demanding that the enormous ships be permanently rerouted out the fragile lagoon, especially Giudecca Canal through the city’s historic centre, due to environmental and safety risks. Italian Premier Mario Draghi’s government pledged this winter to get cruise ships out of the Venice lagoon, but reaching that goal will take time. Even an interim solution is not likely before next year and getting ships out of the lagoon could take years.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Illegal Bosnia church is torn down after decades-long legal battle euronews.com
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
El Salvador to become the world’s first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender: El Salvador is looking to introduce legislation that will make it the world’s first sovereign nation to adopt bitcoin as legal tender. In a video broadcast to Bitcoin 2021, a multiday conference in Miami being billed as the biggest bitcoin event in history, President Nayib Bukele announced El Salvador’s partnership with digital wallet company, Strike, to build the country’s modern financial infrastructure using bitcoin technology.