European Parliament blocks Orbán’s big Presidency speech

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Wednesday, 10th July 2024.

Attempts by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to address MEPs at the inaugural plenary sitting of the newly-elected European Parliament assembly in Strasbourg have been rebuffed by parliamentary chiefs “unable to find room to accommodate him in the agenda”, two sources familiar with the issue have told Euronews.

By long-standing convention, heads of government are given the opportunity to address the Parliament when they take over the rotating presidency of the EU Council, presenting the agenda for their six-month turn at the helm of inter-governmental policy negotiations and answering questions from MEPs.

The sources said Orbán had indicated to Parliament that he could appear before the plenary on Tuesday or Wednesday next week (July 16-17) to present the agenda of the Hungarian presidency, which Budapest has given the slogan ‘Make Europe Great Again’.

However the Conference of the Presidents – the heads of the political groups who determine the agenda – said Parliament did not have space in the schedule at that time, both sources agreed.

The first source told Euronews that the Parliament’s business is more than usually busy, blaming the Council for not heeding the advice of the Parliament on the timing of the European elections. The source added that the new parliament needed to constitute itself by voting in the president and fourteen vice-presidents, for which Tuesday and Wednesday need to be kept available. Thursday is being held open for the confirmatory vote on Ursula von der Leyen’s reappointment as European Commission president. Friday – while theoretically available – was not possible for Orban, according to the first source.

The agenda for next week’s plenary will be finalised tomorrow, Thursday, during a conference of the presidents of the parliamentary groups. “It is possible that there could be a last-minute accommodation,” the first source added.
But a spokesperson confirmed that the July plenary sessions was being reserved for “the Parliament’s constitution and election of the European Commission President (pending confirmation by the Conference of Presidents on Thursday)”. The Hungarian presidency was therefore unlikely to present its programme to MEPs before September, the spokesperson told Euronews.

Orbán has proclaimed himself the one EU leader on friendly terms with the world’s two pre-eminent authoritarian governments, and paid unexpected visits to Russia and China in recent days to discuss a peace settlement for Ukraine, after meeting the Ukrainian president in Kyiv.

Orbán’s visit to Moscow triggered condemnation from Ukraine and other European leaders, but the Hungarian premier justified the trip as an outreach effort. “The number of countries that can talk to both warring sides is diminishing,” he said. “Hungary is slowly becoming the only country in Europe that can speak to everyone.”
He is expected in the US for the 75th anniversary summit of NATO.

NATO: dozens of air defence systems for Ukraine

In the coming months, the United States and its partners intend to supply Ukraine with dozens of tactical air defence systems, including Patriot, Samp-T, Nasams, Hawk, Irisi T-Slm, Iris T-Sls and Gepard. This was announced in a joint statement from the NATO summit.

The White House confirmed that Italy will supply Ukraine with another Samp-T weapons system.
The US will reschedule deliveries of foreign military sales of critical air defence interceptors in coordination with partners so that they are delivered to Ukraine.

Biden pledges more air defence for Ukraine during NATO summit

US President Joe Biden stressed the importance of transatlantic defence cooperation through NATO during a meeting of the military alliance’s leaders in Washington.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans understand that NATO makes us all safer,” he said, calling support for the alliance a “sacred obligation”. Biden said that the world was facing a “pivotal moment” for European and transatlantic security.

The US president urged NATO allies to maintain support for Ukraine, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to wipe Ukraine off the map. “We know Putin will not stop at Ukraine,” he said.

Biden went on to say that Ukraine can defeat Putin with the “full and collective support” of NATO allies.

The US president concluded his speech by awarding NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for “guiding the alliance through one of the most consequential periods in its history”. The medal is the US highest civilian honour.

Biden is seeking re-election in November, when he is likely to face off against former President Donald Trump.

During his term in office, Trump criticised NATO, saying that the US was paying to much to the alliance relative to other members. During his 2024 campaign he suggested that Russia could “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO members that don’t meet defence spending targets.

Security Council meets over Russia’s Ukraine hospital strike

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss a wave of Russian airstrikes on several Ukrainian cities. Among the sites hit was the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

During the emergency meeting, France’s representative, Nicolas de Riviere, called it a “further entry in a list of war crimes” committed by Russia in Ukraine. China also expressed concern over the strikes, but did not directly denounce Moscow.

Fighting in Ukraine “intensified and there have been brutal attacks from time to time that have claimed many victims. China is deeply concerned about this,” said China’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Geng Shuang.

Joyce Msuya, the acting head of the UN Emergency Relief and Works Agency (OCHA), said that the strike that hit the Okhmatdyt hospital was part of “a deeply concerning pattern of systemic attacks, harming healthcare and other civilian infrastructure across Ukraine. Intentionally directing attacks against a protected hospital is a war crime and perpetrators must be held to account,” she said.

Russia issues arrest warrant for Yulia Navalnaya

A court in Moscow has issued an arrest warrant for the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on charges of extremism, according to state media.

The charges brought against Yulia Navalnaya, who lives outside Russia, in absentia are to do with her alleged “participation in an extremist society”, Tass news agency said.

The opposition leader – Russia’s most significant for the past decade – died in an Arctic Circle jail of natural causes, according to Russian authorities. Navalny had been serving 19 years on extremism charges that were widely seen as politically motivated.

But his widow accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of killing him. According to the BBC, in response to the arrest warrant, she posted on X: “When you write about this, please do not forget to write the main thing: Vladimir Putin is a murderer and a war criminal. His place is in prison, and not somewhere in The Hague, in a cosy cell with a TV, but in Russia – in the same colony and the same two-by-three-metre cell in which he killed Alexei.”

The Moscow court ruled that Ms Navalnaya, who has vowed to continue the work of her husband, should be remanded in custody and she was declared ‘wanted’. The decision means she would face arrest if she set foot in Russia.

The charges may be linked to a Moscow court ruling in June 2021 which outlawed three organisations linked to Navalny, labelling them “extremists”. Ms Navalnaya was unable to attend his funeral in March.

This month, she was elected to chair the US-based Human Rights Foundation, a non-profit organisation working to promote and protect human rights across the world.

Le Pen’s financing for presidential campaign under investigation

The Paris prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday it had launched a preliminary probe into allegations of illegal financing of far right National Rally (RN) leader Marine Le Pen’s campaign for the 2022 presidential race, which she lost to Emmanuel Macron.

The investigation, which was opened on July 2, follows a 2023 report by the National Commission on Campaign Accounts and Political Financing, which scrutinises candidates’ election expenses and funding, the prosecutor’s office said. It will look into allegations of embezzlement, forgery, fraud, and that a candidate on an electoral campaign accepted a loan.

Reuters notes Le Pen and her party have previously denied wrongdoing in connection with campaign financing. Separately Le Pen is to stand trial later this year alongside 27 others over alleged misuse of European Union funds, charges that Le Pen’s party has said it contested.

That investigation, opened in 2016, aimed to ascertain whether the then National Front had used money destined for EU parliamentary assistants to pay staff who were working for the party.

At the head of RN until 2021, Marine Le Pen ran against Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 and 2022 presidential elections, and could again run in 2027.

Modi tells Putin ‘war cannot solve problems’

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in Moscow that peace was “of utmost importance” and that “war cannot solve problems”.

“As a friend, I have also said that for the brighter future of our next generation, peace is of utmost importance,” Modi said in a speech in Hindi, sitting alongside Putin. “When innocent children are murdered, one sees them die, the heart pains and that pain is unbearable.”

Modi said he and Putin had discussed Russia’s campaign in Ukraine during his visit to Moscow.

“As a true friend, we were together and chatted on a range of issues,” Modi said. “And I was happy that on Ukraine, we could both express our views openly and in detail.”

Modi landed in Moscow on Monday, hours after Russia launched a massive barrage targeting cities across Ukraine that killed more than three dozen people and heavily damaged a children’s hospital in Kyiv.

Meloni insists French legislative elections results not defeat for far right

Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni said no party in France emerged victorious in the just-concluded legislative elections, in which the far-right National Rally (RN) was beaten into third by a leftist coalition and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist bloc.

The Italian leader’s comments were part of reactions pouring from across Europe over the legislative election results, which saw Marine Le Pen’s RN dramatically halted in what was thought could be a rise to power.

Speaking in Washington, where she is attending the NATO summit, Meloni said that interpreting the results as a defeat for Le Pen’s party was simplistic.

“I think that because, if we want to look at what happened in France, the truth is that no one can sing victory,” she said. “There were three coalitions: none of the three prevailed, none of the three is able to govern alone. I can say from personal experience that it is easier to govern when you are together because you share ideas than when you are together because you share an enemy.” French left and centrist parties united to block far-right National Rally
For Elly Schlein, leader of Italy’s main opposition party, the Democratic Party, the results show that “the far right can be beaten”.

But while some parts of Europe breathe a sigh of relief that the extreme right was unable to secure a majority despite their growing popularity, France now begins a difficult process: forming a new government in a fractured parliament.

Gaza children dying in Israel’s ‘starvation campaign’

UN rights experts on Tuesday accused Israel of carrying out a “targeted starvation campaign” that has resulted in the deaths of children in Gaza.

“We declare that Israel’s intentional and targeted starvation campaign against the Palestinian people is a form of genocidal violence and has resulted in famine across all of Gaza,” 10 independent United Nations experts said in a statement.

The UN has not officially declared a famine in the Gaza Strip. But the experts, including the UN special rapporteur on the right to food Michael Fakhri, insisted there was no denying famine was under way. “Thirty-four Palestinians have died from malnutrition since October 7, the majority being children,” said the experts, who are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, but who do not speak on behalf of the United Nations.

Their statement was immediately slammed by Israel’s mission to the UN in Geneva, which charged that “Mr Fakhri, and many so-called ‘experts’ who joined his statement, are as much accustomed to spreading misinformation, as they are to supporting Hamas propaganda and shielding the terrorist organisation from scrutiny”.

EURO2024: Spain stun France in four-minutes to reach final

Spain have reached the Euro 2024 final after beating France 2-1 to remain on course for a record fourth European title. La Roja went down after just nine minutes but quickly overturned the score with two stunners by Lamine Yamal and Dani Olmo in the space of four minutes only to send La Roja to the Berlin final and stay on course for a record fourth European title.

They will face England or the Netherlands in the Berlin June 14 final act. They will know their opponents this evening after the match that starts at 9pm.

According Opta’s Supercomputer England have a 51.51 per cent chance of qualifying for the final as opposed to 48.49 per cent for the Netherlands. England have been given just a 22.58 per cent chance of winning Euro 2024, while Spain have a 30.3 per cent chance of success in Germany.

Copa America: Semi-final: Arġentina v. Canada: 2-0; tomorrow: Uruguay v Columbia.
Champions League qualification: Ħamrun Spantans v Lincoln Red Imps FC (Gibraltar) 0-1.

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