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EBU woes deepen as political parties excluded from EU election debate

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EBU woes deepen as political parties excluded from EU election debate

The broadcaster says only parliamentary groups fielding a lead candidate in June’s election can be represented at the televised stand-off.

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The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is under further scrutiny after it was accused by two political parties of excluding them from its Eurovision election debate.

The far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) party and the regionalist, separatist European Free Alliance (EFA) both say they have been intentionally shunned by the organisers of the debate, set to take place at the European Parliament in Brussels on May 23 ahead of June’s European elections.

In correspondence seen by Euronews, the ID Party – which harbours the likes of France’s Rassemblement National, Italy’s Lega and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland and which forms its own group in the European Parliament – was told by the EBU that it could not be represented at the debate because it had not fielded an official lead candidate, known as Spitzenkandidat, for the ballot.

The Spitzenkandidat process requires all major European parties to select a lead candidate to bid for the role of president of the European Commission, the bloc’s powerful executive arm. But the process has been notoriously spurned in the past, with current president Ursula von der Leyen parachuted to the role in 2019 despite not officially running.

In a letter addressed to European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, also seen by Euronews, the ID group’s co-chairs claim the EBU’s rules are inconsistent. Other parties fielding more than one lead candidate, which ID says also “goes against” the principle of the Spitzenkandidat, have been invited to the debate.

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Renew Europe, which is fielding three lead candidates, will be represented by Sandro Gozi, while the Greens, who have two lead candidates, will send Terry Reintke to the televised stand-off.

The EBU says that it sent invitations to parties from the seven political groups in the European Parliament and made clear that the Eurovision debate was a “forum for lead candidates for the position of European Commission President” under the Spitzenkandidat system.

“Two parties, the ECR and ID, declined to nominate a lead candidate and have therefore made themselves ineligible for this particular debate,” the Geneva-based broadcasting union said in a statement shared with Euronews.

ID has urged President Metsola to weigh in and urge the EBU to retract the decision and allow MEP Anders Vistisen of the far-right populist Danish People’s Party to participate on behalf of the group. 

The EBU debate is one of three electoral debates taking place ahead of June’s vote. Vistisen represented the ID group in the Maastricht debate held in April while Maylis Roßberg took part on behalf of the EFA. 

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EFA also criticises its exclusion

The European Free Alliance (EFA), home to Europe’s regionalist and separatist parties, also published a statement on Tuesday alleging it had been deliberately excluded from the debate.

The party sits along with the Greens as part of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament. According to the EBU, its rules mean only one candidate from each of the parliament’s seven political groups can take place in the debate, in this case the Greens’ Terry Reintke.

“In coordination with the European Parliament, the EBU invited political parties in the European Parliament to nominate one Lead Candidate from each of the 7 official political groups represented,” the EBU told Euronews in a statement.

“The parties within those groups made the selection of the lead candidate. For the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, the lead candidate put forward was Terry Reintke, from the party of European Greens,” it adds.

EFA has nominated two lead candidates for June’s election, 23-year-old Roßberg from the Danish-German border region and Catalan independentist Raül Romeva, a former MEP sentenced to a 12-year prison term in 2019 on charges of sedition, but pardoned by Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in 2021.

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In its statement, EFA claims that the parliament’s spokesperson Jaume Duch had asked the party to nominate a responsible contact person for discussions with the EBU in January and that a kick-off meeting was held, but that no communication was then received.

It says that the rules limiting speakers to one lead candidate per political group were communicated to them on 30 April 2024, and denounces the EBU for its “lack of communication and transparency.”

“We want to express our deepest disappointment and unconformity with this decision. European democracy deserves more. By shutting the door on our participation, the EBU is not only silencing the voices of smaller parties but also undermining the principles of democracy and inclusivity,” the party said. 

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The EBU maintains that its rules were made clear to all parties, and that it looks forward to a “successful and meaningful political debate at a crucial time for European politics.”

Both the ID group and the EFA are calling on the EBU to rectify its decision.

Adding fuel to fire

The allegations come just a day after the European Commission censured the EBU’s decision to ban EU flags at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, Sweden over the weekend.

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Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas sent a letter to the broadcaster on Monday asking for the “rationale” behind the ban and for it to attribute “responsibility where it is due”.

The EBU said its decision was linked to “heightened geopolitical tensions” around the song contest, during which pro-Palestinian protesters marched against the participation of Israel due to its ongoing offensive in the Gaza Strip.

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Russia hits Kharkiv supermarket in deadly attack

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Russia hits Kharkiv supermarket in deadly attack

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the airstrike “a manifestation of Russian madness”.

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Scores of people were killed or wounded when an aerial bomb hit a large store in the city of Kharkiv on Saturday afternoon, according to local officials.

The airstrike caused a huge fire to break out, with huge plumes of smoke seen filling the sky in social media footage. 

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said more than 200 people could have been inside the store. 

A second bomb hit the city’s central park, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said.

Zelenskyy called the airstrike “a manifestation of Russian madness”, and appealed to Western countries to provide Ukraine with air defence systems.

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“When we tell world leaders that Ukraine requires adequate air defence protection … we are literally talking about how not to allow such terrorist strikes,” he said in a post on X.

“Only madmen like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin are capable of killing and terrorising people in this way,” Zelenskyy added.

Kharkiv region is situated about 20 kilometres from the Russian border. 

Moscow’s troops have in recent weeks captured villages in the area as part of a broad push, and analysts say they may be trying to get within artillery range of Kharkiv city. 

Ukrainian authorities have evacuated more than 11,000 people from the region since the start of the offensive on 10 May.

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Russia’s Kharkiv push appears to be a coordinated new offensive that includes testing Ukrainian defences in the Donetsk region further south, where Russia’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that its forces had taken over the village of Arkhanhelske. 

They have also launched incursions in the northern Sumy and Chernihiv regions.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has said the Kremlin’s army is attempting to create a “buffer zone” in the Kharkiv region to prevent Ukrainian cross-border attacks.

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Biden Set to Deliver Commencement at West Point on Saturday

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Biden Set to Deliver Commencement at West Point on Saturday
By Jarrett Renshaw WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – U.S. President Biden will deliver the commencement speech on Saturday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, amid conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza. The speech before some 1,000 U.S. Army cadets is part of a push by Biden to highlight the …
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Israel forced to work on Jewish Sabbath as UN court judge calls out colleagues in scathing dissent

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Israel forced to work on Jewish Sabbath as UN court judge calls out colleagues in scathing dissent

A U.N. International Court of Justice (ICJ) chided her colleagues on Friday for requiring Israel to work on the Sabbath when responding to a case brought by South Africa to the ICJ under the Genocide Convention.

The dissenting opinion from ICJ Vice President Julia Sebutinde came in a nine-page document, issued in response to the court’s order for Israel to end its military offensive in the southern city of Rafah in Gaza. That ruling stems from South Africa’s request, which accuses Israel of genocide in its ongoing war with Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Israel has vehemently denied these charges. 

Among her disagreements with her colleagues, Sebutinde, who is Ugandan, objected to the court’s handling of South Africa’s request, and the “incidental oral hearings.” 

Judge Nawaf Salam, president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), speaks next to Judge Julia Sebutinde, vice president of the ICJ, at the start of a hearing in The Hague Netherlands, on May 16. (Reuters/Yves Herman)

“In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s Request and engage counsel,” Sebutinde wrote, noting that the Israel’s preferred Counsel was not available on the dates scheduled by the Court. 

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“It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a Member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath,” Sebutinde said. “The Court’s decision in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the Parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.” 

Sebutinde also argued that the court’s initial ruling “does not entirely prohibit the Israeli military from operating in Rafah.” She also urged the court, to maintain its judicial integrity, to “avoid reacting to every shift in the conflict and refrain from micromanaging the hostilities in the Gaza Strip, including Rafah.” 

LINDSEY GRAHAM TELLS UN INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE TO ‘GO TO HELL’ OVER RULING AGAINST ISRAEL

Sebutinde clarified that the ruling operates to “partially restrict Israel’s offensive in Rafah to the extent it implicates rights under the Genocide Convention.” She warned that the ruling is “susceptible to ambiguity and could be misunderstood or misconstrued as ordering an indefinite, unilateral cease-fire, thereby exemplifying an untenable overreach on the part of the Court.” 

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 19, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP via Getty Images)

The judges’ ruling on Friday stopped short of ordering a full cease-fire across the entire Palestinian territory, and Israel is unlikely to comply with the court’s ruling. Friday’s decision comes just days after Norway, Ireland, and Spain said they would recognize the Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor of a separate international court sought arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as leaders of Hamas.

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Since Oct. 7, Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel launched its war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed about 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

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