Orbán ally-turned-rival joins EP’s EPP Group

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Wednesday, 19th June 2024.

Viktor Orbán’s fiercest political challenger Péter Magyar has joined the European parliamentary group that previously counted the Hungarian prime minister as one of their own.

Euronews reports that the centre-right group of the European People’s Party (EPP) – which harboured Orbán’s Fidesz party until 2021 – opened its doors to Magyar’s Respect and Freedom (TISZA) party in a vote in Brussels on Tuesday, meaning the seven TISZA MEPs elected in June’s European elections will sit with the parliament’s biggest faction.

Magyar, a former insider within Orbán’s hard-right government, shocked the Hungarian nation earlier this year by blowing the whistle on what he described as a “mafia state” – unveiling his personal experience of the government’s corruption and propaganda machine.

He fronted TISZA’s campaign in the run-up to June’s ballot, securing an unprecedented 30 per cent of the Hungarian vote and dealing a blow to Orbán’s Fidesz which, despite remaining the biggest party, scored less than half of the vote (44.8 per cent) for the first time in an EU ballot since Orbán returned to power in 2010.

Magyar had previously said he would not take up his seat as Member of the European Parliament but rowed back on Monday when he put the decision to a public vote on his Facebook profile. According to Magyar, a majority of 100,000 voters said he should switch Budapest for Brussels, prompting him to take up his seat in the hemicycle.
Magyar nonetheless vowed to continue to challenge Orbán’s grip on power back home: “I will work for change in Hungary,” he said.

Kim tells Putin: “Our countries have withstood the tests of history”
Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in North Korea early today, Wednesday, kicking off a visit set to boost defence ties between the two nuclear-armed countries as Moscow pursues its war in Ukraine. Just after the pre-dawn touchdown, Russian TV showed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un greeting Putin in the dark, on a red carpet at Pyongyang’s airport, with the pair shaking hands and embracing before a motorcade took Putin along streets lined with Russian flags.

The trip is Putin’s first to Pyongyang’s in 24 years, with a recent confrontation between North and South Korean troops on the countries’ shared border highlighting regional security tensions.
“Our two countries have withstood the tests of history, generation after generation and century after century,” the respected marshal said in the KCNA report, speaking about relations between North Korea and Russia after Putin stepped off his plane.

Kim “shock Putin’s hand and hugged him warmly, expressing his joy and happiness to meet him again” after the summit at the Vostochny spaceport last September, the KCNA added.

The two leaders went together in the same car to the Kumsusan State Guesthouse, crossing the streets of Pyongyang full of Russian and North Korean flags, welcome banners and giant posters of Putin. During the short trip “they exchanged their views and opened their minds to more confidently develop North Korea-Russia relations. Putin’s visit to the DPRK falls at an extraordinary time, when traditional relations of friendship and bilateral cooperation have certainly entered a path of new global development”. Surprisingly, the state network Kctv has already shown images of the first greeting between leaders.

Moscow and Pyongyang have been allies since North Korea’s founding after World War II and have drawn even closer since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 led to the West isolating Putin internationally.

The Tsar’s delay reduced his visit to the North to just one day. Putin was initially scheduled to arrive on Tuesday evening, but the Kremlin announced the landing in Pyongyang only in the middle of the night, delayed due to the previous stop in Yakutsk, a city in eastern Siberia. Putin is expected to attend an official banquet at midday and then hold a summit with Kim, before leaving for Hanoi, Vietnam, in the evening.

Putin has a consolidated reputation as a latecomer: in 2014, for example, he made German Chancellor Angela Merkel wait 4 hours and 15 minutes, while in 2018 it was the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s turn to wait 2 hours and 30 minutes. The tsar, however, was punctual nine months ago in his meeting with Kim in the Russian Far East.

The United States voiced “concern” about Putin’s trip because of the security implications for South Korea as well as Ukraine. The two Koreas have remained technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict and the border dividing them is one of the most heavily fortified in the world.

Blinken calls for an end to China’s support for Russia
“China’s support of Russia in the war against Ukraine must end,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a newsconference in Washington with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “If China really cares about ending the war, as it claims, it must stop fuelling the Russian war machine,” Blinken stressed. “Beijing cannot on the one hand say that it wants better relations with Europe and on the other continue to support Moscow,” he said.
Israel says Lebanon offensive plan ‘approved’

The Israeli army on Tuesday said plans for an offensive in Lebanon were “approved and validated” amid escalating cross-border clashes with Hezbollah and a relative lull in Gaza fighting. The war in Gaza has heightened tensions across the region, with Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, exchanging fire on a near-daily basis.

“Operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated” as commanders met for a situational assessment, the army said in a statement. It came after Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz threatened Hezbollah’s destruction in a “total war”.

The latest warnings came after Israel announced at the weekend a daily “pause” of military activity in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah to facilitate aid flows, coinciding with the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday. In central Gaza, witnesses reported gunfire and artillery shelling near the Nuseirat refugee camp, where the civil defence agency said at least 13 people were killed in two separate strikes on a family home and a commercial building. In a statement, the Israeli army said its operations continued Tuesday in central and southern Gaza including Rafah city on the border with Egypt.

‘Thousands of children in Gaza suffering malnutrition’ – WHO
More than 8,000 children under five in Gaza have been diagnosed and treated for acute malnutrition. As well as not having enough food, aid agencies say children lack access to sufficient healthcare and are living in a constant state of fear.

In a stark assessment of the dire situation after more than eight months of war, the head of the UN World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Tuesday that “a significant proportion of Gaza’s population is now facing catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions”.

To date, more than 8,000 youngsters have been diagnosed and treated for acute malnutrition, including 1,600 children with the most dangerous form of the condition, the WHO Director-General said. “Despite reports of increased delivery of food, there is currently no evidence that those who need it most are receiving sufficient quantity and quality of food,” Tedros maintained.

Lifesaving treatment for dangerously malnourished children is dwindling in the war-shattered enclave, with only two of three specialised nutrition stabilisation centres for seriously under-nourished youngsters in Gaza still open, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In an update on Tuesday, the UN agency warned that malnourished children were “dying before their families’ eyes”, while the UN aid coordination office, OCHA, reported that escalating hostilities across Gaza continue to significantly hinder access to health care.

Experts predict a long hot summer for Europe
Heatwaves have hit Europe earlier than ever this year, with Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Italy already hit by extreme heat, with some places seeing temperatures 10OC above the seasonal average. The risk of heatwaves at the Paris Olympic Games (329 medal events from July 24 to August 28) has left organisers sweating about the safety of athletes.

Spain is bracing itself for another blistering summer, releasing a new map to help with more accurate heatwave predictions. Cities across the continent are preparing with adaptations for extreme heat.

We’ve now had 11 record-breaking months of heat in a row and sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic have soared to their highest in at least 40 years, analysts say. So one can see why forecasters have warned that the continent could be in for another unusually long hot summer – possibly even the hottest on record.

When it comes to heatwaves or individual weather extremes, no one has a crystal ball. But past weather can give forecasters some clues.

“It’s incredibly difficult to accurately predict how the weather is going to be months ahead, let alone even weeks and sometimes days,” says Tamsin Green, a meteorologist from forecasting service Weather & Radar. This is because the weather across Europe is extremely changeable with countless different influencing factors.

Meteorologists can, however, look at weather models and data for general trends – including monthly temperature averages. Currently, it looks like June, July and August are all trending above average in terms of temperature, according to Green.

Weather across the continent varies too making it difficult to predict where a ‘hot summer’ might hit. Green says there are likely to be hotspots in Southern and Eastern Europe.

Western Europe could see average rainfall in June, then above average rainfall for southern Europe in July but drier conditions in the east. August, she adds, is likely to be drier and more settled for much of the continent.

Green reminds us, however, that these are just averages. This means there could be major fluctuations or extremes that happen within these conditions. Lots of different factors influence Europe’s changeable weather.

“The last 10 years have been the ten warmest on record, with most of the Earth warming occurring in the last 40 years. We’ve seen April 2024 coming in as the eleventh month in a row with the hottest on record.” Spain has suffered 22,000 heat-related deaths in the last eight years. How will a new map help?

‘Unprecedented’: CO2 in the atmosphere is rising 10 times faster than at any point over 50,000 years. Europe has been warming at twice the global average since 1991, according to recent data from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and EU climate agency Copernicus (C3S). The continent is “no exception” when it comes to the consequences of climate change with both agencies warning that Europe needs to do more to cut its emissions and transition away from fossil fuels. It’s a fact that 23 of the continent’s 30 most severe heatwaves have happened since 2000 – five were in the last three years. The latest five-year average shows that temperatures in Europe are now running 2.3 OC above pre-industrial levels compared to 1.3 OC higher globally.

Because of this, Green believes “with a pretty good degree of certainty” that 2024 will probably be yet another record-breaking year.

“Despite how the forecasts might be shaping up, the trends of the rising global temperatures are undeniable.”

US heat wave sets records in central, northeast states
US cities are breaking decades-old temperature records this week as a heat wave stretches from central to eastern portions of the country, the National Weather Service said on Tuesday, in what officials are warning could become a deadly weather event.

Reuters reports that with some 80 million people from Indiana to New England under a heat advisory or excessive heat warning, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has activated the state’s Emergency Operations Centre in response to high temperatures expected to last until the weekend.

“This is a deadly event,” she said, a day after the city of Syracuse hit 94OF (34.4OC), topping a record from 1994. “We have seen blizzards, we have seen flooding, we had hurricanes, we had tornadoes. But this heat event is most likely to cause more deaths.” The state’s beaches and public pools will open early, in time for people to enjoy them over the Juneteenth holiday roday, Wednesday, she said.

Tropical Storm Warnings Issued for Texas, Mexico coasts
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for parts of the western Gulf Coast ahead of a tropical system that’s expected to track into Mexico, while also lashing Texas. Flooding rain, coastal flooding, rip currents and high surf will affect parts of Texas and eastern Mexico into Thursday.

This system has been dubbed ‘Potential Tropical Cyclone One’ by the National Hurricane Centre (NHC). This naming procedure allows the NHC to issue advisories, watches and warnings and a forecast path for a system that hasn’t yet developed but poses a threat of tropical-storm-force winds to land areas within 48 hours. The disturbance is centred several hundred ilometres southeast of Brownsville, Texas, and is moving to the north. The NHC predicts the system will organise into a tropical storm sometime today.

Two New Mexico wildfires force evacuations
Two wildfires that began Monday in Southern New Mexico and forced the evacuations of thousands of people were still burning out of control on Tuesday with fire-fighters struggling to contain blazes that had consumed over 18,000 acres, the authorities said. The larger fire, known as the South Fork fire, was discovered Monday morning in the Mescalero Apache tribal area and grew rapidly, showing “extreme fire behaviour”, fire officials said. People were being evacuated from the village of Ruidoso and the surrounding area on Tuesday. “Please do not try to gather belongings or protect your home – go now!” the village of Ruidoso advised its residents.

UEFA Euro2024 – Tuesday’s results: Group F: Turkey v Georgia 3-1 and Portugal v Czech Republic 2-1. Today’s programme: Group B: Crotaia v Albania (3pm); Group A: Germany v Hungary (6pm) and Scotlamd v Switzerland (9pm).

Photo: Teknős Miklós

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