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French President Emmanuel Macron has raised serious concerns about the growing threat of antisemitism in schools after a 12-year-old Jewish girl was raped in what police have classified as a hate crime. According to French media, the girl reported being in a park in Courbevoie, north-west of Paris, with a friend last Saturday when three boys, two aged 13 and one aged 12, approached her. She knew at least one of them. The boys dragged her to an isolated location, where they hurled antisemitic abuse at her and raped her.

The boys were arrested on Monday, and two of them were charged with gang rape, antisemitic insults and violence, and issuing death threats. One of the attackers reportedly threatened to kill the girl if she went to the police. In response to the attack, people took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against antisemitism, carrying banners with messages such as “It could have been your sister.”

Macron addressed the attack during a Council of Ministers meeting on Wednesday. He asked the Minister of Education, Nicole Belloubet, to ensure that schools hold discussions on racism and antisemitism in the coming days to prevent “hateful speech with serious consequences” from “infiltrating” classrooms. Belloubet later condemned the crime on social media, stating that “every part of this crime is revolting.” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal called the attack “absolutely despicable, unbearable, and unspeakable,” noting that antisemitism has been on the rise in France since October 7.

Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia expressed horror at the incident and called for the perpetrators to be firmly punished. He emphasized that no one can be excused from the current surge in antisemitism. A January 2024 report by the Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) highlighted a 284% increase in antisemitic acts between 2022 and 2023, with nearly 13% occurring in schools. The report noted a significant spike in such incidents following the October 7 Hamas attacks against communities in Israel.

The attack and the rise in antisemitism come amid a heated election campaign in France, after President Macron called a snap parliamentary election two weeks ago. Politicians from various parties quickly condemned the incident and vowed to combat antisemitism.

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Two contrasting accommodation options were presented for the G7 summit in Puglia, Italy: the luxurious Borgo Egnazia resort, known for hosting celebrities like Madonna and the Beckhams, and a deteriorating ship moored off Brindisi for the 2,600 police officers, criticized for its appalling conditions. The resort houses world leaders, while the ship, costing the Italian government €6m and now under fraud investigation, exemplifies the disparity in treatment.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, buoyed by her party’s success in the European elections, hosts the summit, highlighting Italy’s newfound political stability compared to other G7 nations facing political turmoil. Meloni’s government is portrayed as the strongest amidst leaders like Biden, Sunak, and Trudeau, who are struggling domestically.

Low expectations surround the summit due to the precarious political climate in many G7 countries. However, a significant plan to loan Ukraine $50bn from frozen Russian assets is anticipated. Additionally, Sunak will announce substantial support for Ukraine’s energy and humanitarian needs.

Sessions will address the climate crisis, investment in Africa, the Middle East ceasefire, and AI regulation, with Pope Francis attending for the first time. Efforts to broaden global consensus include inviting leaders from Brazil, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria. Locals in Puglia, like ice-cream maker Vincenzo Iannacone, express pride and excitement for the summit, hoping it brings positive attention to their region.

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France’s President Emmanuel Macron has called a snap parliamentary election after a significant defeat by the far-right National Rally party, led by Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella, in the European elections. This unexpected move came as exit polls indicated that the National Rally secured over 30% of the vote, double that of Macron’s centrist Renaissance party. While France’s far-right victory was notable, the broader European election narrative saw the centre-right parties strengthening their hold on the EU Parliament, achieving successes in countries like Germany, Greece, Poland, and Spain.

Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission and a prominent figure in the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), highlighted that despite gains by both far-left and far-right factions, the centre-right remained a stabilizing force. Von der Leyen reaffirmed the EPP’s commitment to alliances only with the Socialists & Democrats and the liberal Renew group, excluding any collaboration with far-right groups.

Germany’s elections saw the conservative CDU come out on top, whereas Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD experienced its worst-ever European election result, finishing behind the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). In Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy continued their dominance, while in Austria, the Freedom Party was poised for an unprecedented victory in the European vote.

Elsewhere, Hungary witnessed a new challenge to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s dominance with the rise of Peter Magyar’s centre-right Tisza party. Spain’s centre-right Popular Party narrowly defeated the Socialists, while far-right Vox came in third. In Denmark, the opposition Green-Left party achieved a surprise victory, and in Slovakia, the liberal Progressive Slovakia party triumphed over the ruling Smer party.

Overall, while the far-right made notable gains in specific countries, particularly France, their surge was less pronounced across Europe than anticipated. The centre-right’s consolidation of power, however, underscores a continuing preference for more moderate political forces in the EU.

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Italians have begun voting on the third of four days of European elections taking place across 27 EU nations. Although these votes are for the next European Parliament, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hopes the outcome will strengthen her position in Italian politics. She has even encouraged voters to “just write Giorgia” on their ballots.

Most EU countries are voting on Sunday after several weeks of turmoil during which two European leaders and other politicians were physically attacked. On Friday evening, Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was assaulted in the street in Copenhagen ahead of Sunday’s Danish vote. She sustained minor whiplash, according to her office, and a suspect has been detained.

European leaders have expressed their shock at the latest attack amid elections involving around 373 million European voters. Last month, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico survived an assassination attempt and was only recently discharged from the hospital. Several German politicians have also been targeted.

While these elections are intended to be separate from national politics, the reality is often different, especially in Italy. Meloni, who leads the far-right Brothers of Italy (FdI), was appointed prime minister in 2022. She has taken the unusual step of putting her name at the top of her party’s ballot, despite having no plans to take a seat in the European Parliament.

Since becoming prime minister in 2022, Meloni has enjoyed steady poll ratings, helped by a fragmented centrist and left-wing opposition and the decline of her junior coalition partner, Matteo Salvini’s League party. To counter this trend, Salvini has shifted his party’s rhetoric further to the right. The League’s election posters, which criticize EU-backed initiatives like electric cars and tethered caps on plastic bottles, have drawn both ridicule and attention.

Salvini’s lead candidate, Roberto Vannacci, has also drawn attention. The army general, dismissed after self-publishing a book with homophobic and racist views, has doubled down on these views since becoming a League candidate. His messages are frequently amplified by the media, which could translate into votes for the League. If not, Salvini’s leadership could be in jeopardy.

Similarly, the left-wing Democratic Party (PD) leader Elly Schlein must match the 19% vote share from the 2019 elections to maintain her position. Further to the left, Ilaria Salis, a self-described antifascist activist detained in Hungary since 2023, is running on the Left/Greens platform.

These European elections hold significant importance. While the Netherlands voted on Thursday, with exit polls suggesting a tight race between a left-green alliance and Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, other countries like Ireland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, and Malta are voting across the weekend. Germany is voting on Sunday, with the center-right CDU/CSU expected to surpass Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party is competing for second place with the Socialist party, trailing Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN). Macron, warning of the threat to Europe from the surge of the right, has called for a high turnout. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, recovering from surgery after an assassination attempt, has recently criticized Slovakia’s liberal opposition. Hungary’s Viktor Orban, opposing EU support for Ukraine, warned that Europe is nearing a point of no return in preventing conflict from spreading beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Italy’s polls will be the last to close at 23:00 (21:00 GMT) on Sunday, with initial projections combining provisional results and estimates expected shortly after.

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French intelligence officials believe Russia orchestrated a stunt involving five coffins draped in French flags, labeled “French soldiers of Ukraine,” placed near the Eiffel Tower. Three men, seen arriving in a van on Saturday morning, left the coffins, which contained plaster sacks. Police quickly apprehended the driver, a Bulgarian who claimed he was paid €40 by two others to transport the coffins. These two, a Ukrainian and a German, were later caught at Bercy coach station while attempting to board a bus to Berlin. They admitted to being paid €400 to deposit the coffins. All three were presented before a judge on Sunday as a judicial investigation began for “violence with premeditation.”

This incident is being investigated to determine if it was orchestrated from abroad, recalling two recent events where French police suspect Russian involvement. In October, Stars of David resembling the Israeli flag were stenciled in Paris after a Hamas attack on Israel. A Moldovan couple, believed to have been paid by Russian intelligence, was arrested. Last month, red hands were painted on a Holocaust memorial in Paris, with suspects fleeing abroad. One individual involved in the coffins incident had contact with a Bulgarian suspect linked to the red-hands affair, identified as Georgi F. by Le Monde.

Tensions between France and Russia have risen, partly due to President Emmanuel Macron’s stance on potentially sending French soldiers to Ukraine. Recently, discussions about sending French military instructors to Ukraine have intensified, which investigators think might have prompted Russian intelligence to stage the coffins stunt to demonstrate opposition to deeper French involvement in the Ukraine war. Previous incidents included teams with photographers whose images appeared on Russian propaganda websites.

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In France’s Pacific territory of New Caledonia, a French policeman has killed a protester, marking the seventh death in a week of violence ignited by contentious voting reforms. Prosecutor Yves Dupas in Nouméa, the capital, stated that the officer, currently in custody, fired his weapon after coming under attack from demonstrators on Friday. The deceased was a 48-year-old man. This incident follows a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, who announced efforts to reach a new political agreement on the reforms.

The protests, led by the indigenous Kanak community who constitute 40% of the population, were sparked by planned voting reforms. Currently, only indigenous Kanaks and those who arrived from France before 1998 can vote. The proposed changes would allow more French residents, including those who have lived in New Caledonia for at least ten years, to vote. The Kanaks fear this could dilute their political power and hinder future independence referendums.

A manslaughter inquiry has been initiated, a standard procedure in France when a police officer kills someone. According to Dupas, the officer fired a shot from his service weapon during a physical altercation, with initial findings indicating the officers had facial injuries.

President Macron, during his one-day visit on Thursday, paused the reform but did not completely withdraw it, as demanded by pro-independence groups. He expressed a desire to reach a comprehensive political agreement on the territory’s future. In response to the unrest, thousands of additional police forces have been deployed to restore order.

Economic disparities are significant in New Caledonia, with the poverty rate among the indigenous Kanaks at 32.5%, compared to 9% among non-Kanaks, as per the 2019 census. France colonized New Caledonia in 1853 and made it an overseas territory in 1946, granting political rights to Kanaks under the 1998 Nouméa Accord. This accord also limited voting in provincial and assembly elections to pre-1998 residents. Since then, over 40,000 French nationals have moved to the territory.

Three independence referendums held between 2018 and 2021 showed narrow majorities for remaining part of France, with the third being boycotted by pro-independence groups due to the Covid pandemic. The recent violence has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, leading Macron to state that the state of emergency would be lifted once protesters’ barricades were dismantled. He described the unrest as an “unprecedented insurrection movement.”

Currently, Nouméa airport is closed to commercial flights, with military flights evacuating around 300 Australian and 50 New Zealand tourists who reported arson, looting, and food shortages.

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New Caledonia, a Pacific territory under French governance since the 19th century, is currently gripped by violent unrest stemming from the French parliament’s decision to expand voting rights for French residents there. This move, allowing long-term French citizens in New Caledonia to participate in provincial elections, has sparked outrage among many locals who perceive it as marginalizing the indigenous Kanak people and undermining their political representation.

The escalation of protests into riots has resulted in fatalities, numerous injuries, and widespread property damage, marking the most severe unrest the territory has experienced since the 1980s. In response, French President Emmanuel Macron canceled a planned trip and convened an emergency meeting to address the crisis. The situation prompted authorities to impose a curfew and ban public gatherings in an attempt to restore order.

Despite efforts to quell the violence, tensions remain high, with continued clashes between protesters and law enforcement. The unrest has led to a significant number of arrests and calls from both local and national leaders for calm and de-escalation. The situation underscores the complex political dynamics in New Caledonia, where issues of autonomy, indigenous rights, and French governance intersect, fueling longstanding grievances and tensions within the community.

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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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French President Emmanuel Macron has stated that the Paris Olympics’ opening ceremony might be relocated from the River Seine due to security concerns. He suggested alternative venues such as the Trocadéro or the traditional site, the Stade de France. Originally designed to span a 6km stretch of the Seine with over 10,000 athletes on barges and 600,000 spectators along the riverbanks, the event’s scale has been reduced to accommodate only 300,000 invited guests due to security reasons.

Heightened security threats, particularly from groups like the Islamic State, have prompted the implementation of backup plans for the ceremony. Macron emphasized his commitment to ensuring the safety of the games and mentioned efforts to establish an Olympic truce, reaching out to international partners including Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Paris Olympics are scheduled to take place from July 26 to August 11, followed by the Paralympic Games from August 28 to September 8. Despite security concerns, Macron expressed confidence in the successful execution of the opening ceremony, emphasizing its historic significance as the first to be held outside a stadium.

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Amid concerns over potential Islamic State (IS) threats to European sporting events, including a recent online warning, French authorities have intensified security measures in Paris. This move coincides with worries about the safety of upcoming events such as the Champions League quarter-final match and the impending Olympic Games.

While Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin acknowledged the elevated threat level, he also emphasized France’s experience in countering extremist activities, citing recent foiled attacks. Despite the heightened security, some fans remain undeterred, expressing a determination not to let fear dictate their lives.

Across Europe, governments are grappling with the growing threat posed by IS-K, particularly in light of the upcoming European Football Championship. Germany, in particular, has ramped up security measures, including border checks, amidst concerns over internal security.

Balancing security concerns with maintaining a sense of normalcy presents a challenge for France, especially with the Olympics fast approaching. While some voices caution against overreacting to IS threats, others stress the importance of not yielding to fear and maintaining public confidence.

France’s extensive experience with Islamist incidents has led to the deployment of significant security forces, including Operation Sentinelle and military personnel. Despite assurances from security officials, concerns persist, compounded by tensions with Russia and its alleged efforts to undermine French credibility through cyber campaigns.

President Macron has warned of Russia’s potential to disrupt the Olympics through various means, including cyber operations aimed at spreading misinformation. The French government has publicly denounced attempts to manipulate public opinion, attributing such actions to Kremlin-backed efforts to sow discord.

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