“The risk of WWIII is growing” – Italian Foreign Minister

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Tuesday, 4th June 2024.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has warned of the growing risk of a third world war after the US authorised the use of its weapons to allow the Ukrainian army to attack Russian targets on Russian territory.

“The options and statements of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are not ours. Be careful because the risk of a third world war increases if you are not. A small mistake can have disastrous consequences,” Tajani said at an event organised by Italian employers’ organisation Cofindustria, reported the daily La Repubblica.

The United States, followed by the German Chancellor, announced that it would allow the use of its weapons against targets on Russian territory, responding to one of Ukraine’s demands, which considered that its capacity to respond to Russian attacks was limited. “We are determined to defend Ukraine, but we are also determined to defend peace,” the Italian politician said.

‘I respect Mattarella who repudiates war’ – Salvini

Italy’s La Lega leader, Matteo Salvini, has denied he was critical of Italian President Sergio Mattarfella. “No criticism of the President of the Republic; indeed I respect his role as a guarantor of the Constitution that repudiates war. This yes! If today we had sold our sovereignty to the European Union, for example on the theme of defence, and there was a common European army, the bombarolo* on duty, as Macron who sends our children to massacre abroad, arrives. Fortunately, on the army and defence we have our sovereignty.” Salvini, in Brindisi declared: “I do not put my son in the hands of Macron.”

 (*meaning “bomber” or someone involved in terrorist activities or bombings)

‘We will defend every square inch of NATO’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that the threat from Russia will be long-lasting, hence the importance of Germany playing a leading role in protecting NATO’s eastern flank. “This change in our security policy is necessary to show Russia that we are prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory from attack,” he told an economic forum in Bad Saarow, in eastern Germany. “Because without security, everything else counts for nothing. And diplomacy can only succeed from a position of strength,” he stressed.

This strength consists of economic, technological and social aspects, said the chancellor, who warned that the rapid changes in today’s world are a source of uncertainty and have political consequences. “Extremists today, as in the past, are trying to use these uncertainties to spread fear and unrest,” he stressed. “We will not allow this to happen. Our democracy can defend itself,” Scholz said. “Anyone who threatens our democracy, anyone who wants to harm the European Union, threatens jobs and our well-being. They threaten our security,” he added.

Russian women protest against draft outside Defence Ministry

A group of women knelt outside the Russian Defence Ministry in Moscow on Monday, demanding the return of partners drafted to fight in Ukraine. Around 15 women, some with small children, assembled outside the building holding up hand-written placards saying “Bring my mobilised husband home” and posting images of themselves on social media.

The protest took place after Russia branded the organisation “Put Domoy” (The Way Home) – a movement to bring back men mobilised in the wake of a September 2022 draft – a “foreign agent” last week. The women, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP they were not part of Put Domoy and were relatives of men fighting in Ukraine. They held the protest without inviting the media, after journalists were arrested at previous protests organised by Put Domoy.

Paulina, one of the protesters, said the women were “angered” that Put Domoy and one of its leaders, Maria Andreyeva, were labelled foreign agents. “It was scary (to protest) of course. But when they start calling wives ‘foreign agents’, then there is no other choice,” she told AFP. “The wives and mothers of mobilised (men) are tired,” Paulina said.

A ministry spokesman came out to meet the women, in a highly unusual move as Russian authorities almost never engage with protesters. Paulina posted an audio file of the unnamed spokesman’s conversation with the women. He said he could not bring back their relatives “because the decision of mobilisation was the president’s, the commander-in-chief’s.” “I will give you a military-political piece of information… The state that we are bordering, called Ukraine, has created a security threat to a country called Russia,” he said.

US draft at the UN in support of the Hamas-Israel agreement

The United States has announced a draft UN Security Council resolution supporting the Gaza ceasefire plan. “Numerous leaders and governments, including in the region, have endorsed this plan,” said US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. The draft text, which Agence France Presse has seen, “welcomes the new agreement announced on May 31 and invites Hamas to fully accept it and implement its terms without delay and without conditions”. Hamas is slated to send a delegation to Cairo tomorrow to discuss the latest Israeli hostage deal proposal, two officials familiar with the matter tell The Times of Israel. Last week, the group welcomed President Biden’s speech outlining the Israeli offer, but has yet to formally submit its response.

Over the weekend, Israel asked to make several “minor updates” to the hostage deal proposal it submitted last week, an official familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel. The official does not specify what the updates were, but insists that they are not significant enough to torpedo the proposal. He adds that Hamas leaders’ reactions to the latest Israeli proposal has been “overwhelmingly positive” thus far, though the group has yet to submit an official response, including to the latest Israeli amendments. The official says the mediators have not been this optimistic about the chances for a deal in months.

The Israeli army has made it known that three more hostages, kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, “are no longer alive and their bodies are being held by Hamas in Gaza”. A statement said that “the decision to declare the four dead hostages was based on intelligence sources and had been confirmed by a commission of the Israel Ministry of Health. The circumstances of their death in a Hamas prison, concluded the army, are still under investigation of experts.”

Farmers block Spanish-French border in major rally

Farmers’ protests have yet again caused traffic chaos in the continent, in a message to MEPs just days before the next EU election. In a coordinated effort, around a hundred tractors have been blocking the border between Spain and France. They obstructed seven main crossing points stretching from the Basque region to Catalonia. Authorities have announced major disruptions and encouraged drivers to postpone their trip or use other means of transport.

Farmer protests have been affecting Europe for months. Agriculture workers are rallying against the rising cost of energy as well as calling for greater food safety for products entering Europe. They also asked EU lawmakers to implement a European law favouring local products.

Portugal’s new government tightens immigration rules

Portugal repealed a key migration policy on Monday as it aims to limit the number of new arrivals. The changes put an end to a rule that allowed non-EU migrants to move to Portugal without an employment contract and later request residency after paying social security for a year. Now, migrants will need an employment contract before moving to the country.

Portugal has one of Europe’s most open immigration regimes but the country has witnessed a political shift toward the right wing, with border restrictions being a key issue. Newly-elected Prime Minister Luis Montenegro said he wanted to “put an end to… excessive abuse” of its welcome for migrants.

Portugal’s foreign population has doubled in five years, with many people coming from Asia to work on farms and in restaurants. Overseas arrivals now make up one million people – roughly a tenth of the total population – according to government data. Last year, 180,000 migrants were regularized.

Montenegro said there are currently around 400,000 regularisation applications still pending. “We need people in Portugal willing to help us build a fairer and more prosperous society,” he said. “But we cannot go to the other extreme and have wide-open doors.”

Hunter Biden stands trial, a first for sitting US president’s offspring

Hunter Biden, the long-troubled son of Joe Biden, went on trial on gun charges in a historic first prosecution of a sitting president’s offspring – and potential threat to his father’s reelection. The 54-year-old arrived in court in his hometown of Wilmington on Monday, accompanied by family members, including First Lady Jill Biden, although not the president. Jury selection was completed during the day, allowing for opening arguments today, Tuesday, in a trial expected to last one to two weeks.

The only surviving son of President Biden, Hunter Biden is charged with lying about his illegal drug use when buying a handgun in 2018, a felony. President Biden said in a statement, “I don’t and won’t comment on pending federal cases, but as a Dad, I have boundless love for my son, confidence in him, and respect for his strength.” The trial – along with another in which Hunter Biden faces charges in California on tax evasion – is an embarrassment for Joe Biden as he seeks a second term and hopes to keep the country’s focus on Trump’s behaviour.

The trial comes days after a jury in New York made history by finding Donald Trump guilty of business fraud, the first time a former president has ever been criminally convicted. Trump, who is running as the Republican challenger to Joe Biden in November, faces three other far more serious criminal cases, including his alleged attempt to overthrow the 2020 presidential election.

Donald Trump joins TikTok as Truth Social shares plummet

It might be a very bad sign for Donald Trump’s social media company, Truth Social, that Trump himself has decided to join and start posting on TikTok. According to CNBC, Truth Social shares have lost $314 million in value. In May, daily visits to Truth Social in the United States fell by over 21 per cent compared to April and 35 per cent compared to March, according to data obtained by CNBC from the digital intelligence platform Similarweb.

Since Truth Social just isn’t giving Trump the visibility he needs, on June 1, Donald Trump announced that he joined TikTok. Trump made the announcement via a launch video on the verified account @realDonaldTrump as he waved to supporters while attending an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight in Newark, New Jersey, that he attended on Saturday.

The UFC President announced in the 13-second clip, “The president is now on TikTok”, to which Trump responded, “It’s my honour.” Slightly more than four hours after Trump’s post, the clip had over 2.7 million views and slightly more than 500,000 likes. Apart from gaining more visibility due to the lack of users on Truth Social, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, likely joined TikTok to better compete against President Joe Biden, who created an account and joined the social media platform back in February.

Polls predict far-right majority of Dutch seats in EU Parliament

As the European Union heads to the polls later this week, Dutch candidates hoping to win a seat in the European Parliament have been out on the streets for last-minute campaigning.

Bas Eickhout, lead candidate for the GreenLeft-Labour (GroenLinks-PvdA) alliance says the future of Europe is at stake in the upcoming elections. “On all kinds of themes such as our security and climate, the question is actually whether you want a strong Europe or a weak Europe. That is actually the choice on June 6,” he says. Dirk Goting of the New Social Contract, a centre-right party launched just nine months ago is hopeful ahead of the polls. “We are on the rise. In April we were at zero and now second is achievable.”

This year, Dutch voters will choose 31 Members of the European Parliament, five more than in the 2019 elections. The increase is due to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and population growth in the Netherlands.

For some, the polls are about taking a stand against far-right leader Geert Wilders, whose party came top in the country’s general elections last year. “There is a lot at stake. It seems that Wilders can become the biggest again in these elections. He wants to tear down Europe from within,” says Rob Jetten, leader of the social liberal Democrats 66 party. An IPSOS poll, commissioned by Euronews, predicts the nationalist Identity and Democracy Party could secure 18 of the 31 seats allocated to the Netherlands, while the Greens and Renew are likely to take 7 seats each.

The first tasks of the new EU parliament following the elections

The European Union goes to the polls from Thursday through to Sunday this week in elections in which right and far-right parties are widely expected to make gains. Citizens of its 27 countries will be voting for a new 720-member European Parliament – 15 more than in the previous election.

One of the first decisions of the new assembly will be to elect the president of the parliament, a vote which requires an absolute majority. Following this, the next step is to approve a president for the European Commission. The same applies for aspiring commissioners. They will be interviewed by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), who will decide whether to back or reject them. MEPs will then take part in drafting EU laws. Their role includes debating, amending, and finally negotiating proposals, made by the commission, together with the EU Council.

While neither Parliament nor the Council has the right to initiate a legislative procedure, they can request the Commission to do so and put forward a proposal. Two of Parliament’s other big tasks are adopting the EU budget, and scrutinising foreign policy. It must also greenlight any EU enlargement and all association treaties. Parliament also has the power to force the Commission to resign by adopting a motion of censure.

In 1999, in the light of a fraud and corruption scandal, the entire Commission was forced by Parliament to resign en masse.

The European Parliament knows one thing or two about sordid political scandals, reports Euronews, but it was certainly not ready for the storm that struck in December 2022. Belgian police revealed the existence of a cash-for-favours scheme involving “large” sums of money and “substantial” gifts allegedly paid by Qatar and Morocco to influence the institution’s decision-making. Both countries deny any wrongdoing. The case led to the arrest of Vice President Eva Kaili, a rising star in the Parliament, together with her partner, Francesco Giorgi, a long-time accredited assistant. Kaili was reportedly “caught in the act” trying to get rid of bags filled with cash, prompting the automatic lifting of her immunity. She spent over four months in prison. Unfortunately, the spectre of foreign influence would come back to haunt the institution in the form of Russiagate and Chinagate.

Photo: Russia

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