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Maximilian Krah, a prominent far-right German politician from the Alternative for Germany (AfD), announced he would scale back his campaign efforts for the upcoming EU elections while remaining the party’s lead candidate. This decision followed a controversial interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, where Krah remarked that not all SS members were automatically “criminals” and emphasized assessing individual culpability. He referenced Günter Grass, the German novelist who served in the Waffen SS, to support his point.

The SS, or Schutzstaffel, was a Nazi paramilitary group notorious for its central role in the Holocaust and other war crimes. Krah’s comments provoked a strong reaction, leading France’s far-right National Rally (RN) to sever ties with the AfD in the European Parliament. RN leader Marine Le Pen called for a “cordon sanitaire” to distance her party from the AfD, stating the urgency of this separation due to the extremity of Krah’s views.

The relationship between RN and AfD had already been strained following a secret meeting involving AfD members discussing the mass deportations of non-ethnic Germans. Marine Le Pen had previously condemned such ideas.

Facing mounting pressures ahead of the EU elections in June, Krah declared on social media that he would step back from public campaign appearances and resign from the federal executive board to preserve party unity. This decision comes amid various scandals, including the arrest of one of his staffers for alleged espionage for China and an ongoing investigation into Krah over purported payments from Russia and China, which he denies. Despite these controversies, the AfD remains a significant political force, polling second or third nationally and leading in some states set for local elections later this year.

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Hungary’s ambition in electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing has surged, with plans to become a significant player globally. Despite ranking third behind China and the US, Hungary aims to surpass the US soon, as articulated by Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto during his visit to Beijing. This push aligns with Hungary’s broader strategy of strengthening economic ties with Eastern nations, particularly China and South Korea.

The influx of Chinese investment is evident, with numerous factories, including those of CATL and BYD, dotting the Hungarian landscape. However, this rapid industrial expansion has sparked environmental concerns and local opposition, particularly regarding water scarcity and potential health hazards. Critics worry that Hungary risks becoming overly reliant on foreign companies, potentially leading to stagnant domestic research and development.

The Hungarian government acknowledges these challenges, emphasizing the importance of not just attracting production but also integrating research efforts. Balazs Orban, from the Prime Minister’s Office, highlights the need to merge foreign investors’ research with Hungarian companies to ensure long-term economic sustainability. Despite the economic benefits of foreign investment, concerns persist regarding labor exploitation and Hungary’s evolving role in the global supply chain.

As Hungary’s industrial landscape transforms, balancing economic growth with environmental sustainability and domestic innovation remains a pressing concern. The government faces the delicate task of harnessing foreign investment while safeguarding Hungary’s long-term interests and preserving its environmental and social fabric.

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In a significant speech at Sorbonne University, French President Emmanuel Macron issued a stark warning to Europe, stating that the continent must shed its self-imposed naivety or risk its demise. Macron emphasized the urgent need for Europe to adapt to a rapidly changing global landscape, highlighting challenges such as Russian hostility, diminishing US interest, and Chinese competition that could marginalize the EU.

Macron urged European leaders to make decisive moves toward bolstering defense and the economy, advocating for increased protectionism and the development of an independent defense capability. He stressed the importance of Europe asserting itself in international trade, particularly as major players like China and the US disregard established norms.

Addressing concerns over Russia’s actions, Macron defended his stance of strategic ambiguity regarding potential military involvement in Ukraine, emphasizing the need for Europe to assert its independence from the US and reject a bipolar world order.

Macron also warned against Europe’s internal demoralization, urging a reconnection with the values that distinguish the continent. He highlighted the dangers of online disinformation and advocated for stricter regulations, including imposing a minimum age for social media access.

While Macron’s speech aimed to position France at the forefront of European leadership and boost his party’s electoral prospects, it also underscored concerns about the party’s dependence on Macron’s leadership.

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Prosecutors in Germany have apprehended an individual suspected of spying for China, who was identified as Jian G, 43, allegedly working as an assistant to AfD MEP Maximilian Krah. Jian G is accused of passing information about the European Parliament to Chinese intelligence and monitoring Chinese opposition figures in Germany. The timing of these allegations, just before the European Parliament elections, is sensitive for the AfD.

Maximilian Krah stated that he learned of his aide’s arrest through the media and emphasized that if the accusations were proven, the employment would be terminated immediately. The AfD expressed concern over the reports and awaited further investigations.

German officials, including Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, deemed the allegations gravely serious, emphasizing the necessity of severe consequences if proven true.

China’s foreign affairs ministry dismissed the arrest as unfounded speculation aimed at defaming China. Prosecutors indicated that Jian G was scheduled to appear before an investigating judge soon.

Meanwhile, another separate incident involved the arrest of two men and a woman suspected of spying for China, unrelated to Jian G’s case. This group allegedly obtained military technology information in Germany for China.

These developments occurred shortly after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s recent visit to Beijing, where discussions with President Xi Jinping touched upon various issues, including the conflict in Ukraine.

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The technology behind a flying car, initially developed and successfully tested in Europe, has been acquired by a Chinese company. The AirCar, which ran on a BMW engine and conventional fuel, completed a 35-minute flight between two Slovakian airports in 2021, utilizing runways for takeoff and landing. Its transformation from car to aircraft took just over two minutes.

The Chinese firm, Hebei Jianxin Flying Car Technology Company, based in Cangzhou, has secured exclusive rights to produce and operate AirCar vehicles within a specific region of China. They have established their airport and flight school following a previous acquisition from a Slovak aircraft manufacturer.

China, having been at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution, is now actively pursuing flying transport solutions. Recent developments include a test flight of a passenger-carrying drone by Autoflight between Shenzhen and Zhuhai, completing a three-hour car journey in just 20 minutes. Additionally, eHang, a Chinese firm, received a safety certificate for its electric flying taxi in 2023.

Unlike vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft, AirCar requires a runway for operation. While the exact sale price of the technology remains undisclosed, AirCar obtained a certificate of airworthiness from the Slovak Transport Authority in 2022 and garnered attention after being featured in a video by YouTuber MrBeast.

Despite the advancements, challenges remain in terms of infrastructure, regulation, and public acceptance. Aviation consultant Steve Wright notes that global efforts to regulate the sector are underway, with China potentially seeing an opportunity to lead in this domain.

The sale of AirCar from Slovakia to China raises questions about China’s potential dominance in the flying car market, similar to its leadership in electric cars. Wright suggests that while prototypes like AirCar are exciting, the reality of flying cars may involve mundane aspects like queues and baggage checks.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently enjoyed his inaugural ride in a luxury car gifted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, marking a symbolic moment in the strengthening relationship between Pyongyang and Moscow. This gesture underscores the deepening ties since their summit in September, as Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, highlighted the significance of the occasion as evidence of the robust DPRK-Russia friendship. The vehicle, an Aurus Senat limousine, arrived in Pyongyang in February after Putin’s invitation to Kim during their meeting.

Aurus, touted as Russia’s premier luxury car brand, has been a staple in the motorcades of top Russian officials since Putin’s inauguration in 2018. Notably, Kim Jong Un, known for his collection of foreign luxury cars, has previously utilized vehicles like the Maybach limousine during his travels, including his visit to Russia. However, the gift of the Aurus adds another dimension to his collection.

Despite the diplomatic exchange, concerns have been raised, particularly regarding potential violations of UN sanctions. The Ministry of Unification in South Korea condemned North Korea’s public display of the gift, stressing Russia’s responsibility as a UN Security Council member. Additionally, there are concerns about the close ties between North Korea and Russia amid the latter’s conflict with Ukraine and suspicions of military cooperation between the two nations.

Kim’s use of the luxury vehicle was coupled with overseeing military drills, emphasizing his country’s military capabilities. Furthermore, his daughter accompanied him during this event, indicating a potential succession plan within the leadership.

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At a global summit in Beijing, Russian leader Vladimir Putin received special treatment, alongside China’s President Xi Jinping, as the two countries solidified their alliance amid global geopolitical tensions. The event commemorated a decade of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Despite diplomatic scrutiny and an international arrest warrant issued against him, Putin’s close relationship with Xi was evident throughout the summit. The two leaders were prominent during the opening ceremony and engaged in an extended bilateral meeting.

The summit highlighted China and Russia’s mutual opposition to the Western world order, advocating for a multipolar global system. China, positioning the BRI as a means to establish a more equitable world order, emphasized principles of cooperation, inclusivity, and sustainable development.

While the BRI has stimulated development, it has also faced criticism for fostering debt dependency and environmental degradation. The summit saw participation from various countries, particularly from Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and representatives from the Afghan Taliban government.

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Italy’s Defense Minister, Guido Crosetto, criticized the country’s decision to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), calling it “improvised and atrocious.” Crosetto claimed that the initiative had not effectively boosted Italy’s exports, making China the primary beneficiary.

In 2019, Italy became the first developed economy to join the BRI, a move that was met with criticism from its Western allies. The BRI aims to connect China with Europe and other regions through infrastructure projects, but critics view it as a means for China to expand its influence.

Crosetto expressed the need to find a way to withdraw from the BRI without damaging relations with Beijing. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had previously mentioned the possibility of talks with China about potential withdrawal. The deal is set to be automatically renewed in March 2024 unless Italy formally requests to withdraw by December of this year.

China has been actively campaigning to persuade Italy to renew the agreement, emphasizing the mutually beneficial cooperation and fruitful results achieved through the BRI.

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On Wednesday, Kim Jong Un showcased North Korea’s latest weaponry to Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during a visit to Pyongyang. The Russian delegation, along with Chinese officials, was invited to attend the 70th-anniversary celebrations of the Korean War armistice, which typically includes massive military parades.

Among the weapons displayed was the Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which was successfully tested in April. It is believed to be North Korea’s first ICBM using solid propellants, making it quicker to launch than liquid-fueled ones. Additionally, two new drone designs were shown, with one resembling a primary offensive strike drone used by the US Air Force, according to NK News.

During the visit, discussions between Kim Jong Un and Sergei Shoigu covered matters of mutual concern in the fields of national defense and international security.

This marks the first time Kim Jong Un has welcomed foreign guests since the Covid pandemic began, indicating a possible loosening of Covid restrictions in North Korea. The visit by Chinese and Russian envoys to the Victory Day parade suggests a potential reconnection of diplomatic ties after the country had sealed itself off from trade and diplomatic interactions in early 2020, even with its main economic and political partners, Russia, and China.

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A deadly wave of Mediterranean wildfires has resulted in over 40 deaths and forced thousands to evacuate in Algeria, Italy, and Greece.

The situation remains dire as high temperatures and dry conditions persist, making firefighting efforts challenging. The island of Rhodes has declared a state of emergency, and other regions, including Corfu, Evia, Sicily, and Puglia, have also been severely affected.

Climate scientists warn that human-induced climate change played a significant role in the intensity of this month’s heatwave across Southern Europe, North America, and China. Italy faced contrasting extreme weather events, with deadly storms in the north and wildfires in the south.

Portugal, Croatia, and France also witnessed wildfires and took measures to combat them. The widespread impact of these fires has caused immense human and economic losses across the region.

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