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EU must shore up its defences, von der Leyen tells Euronews

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EU must shore up its defences, von der Leyen tells Euronews

The European Union must strive to keep its democracy “safe and secure,” Ursula von der Leyen told Euronews after announcing her re-election bid.

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The German politician confirmed on Monday afternoon her desire to lead the European Commission for another five years. The news caps off weeks of mounting speculation and heats up the presidential race ahead of the elections to the European Parliament.

If re-elected, von der Leyen is determined to make defence one of the most significant and structural priorities of her second mandate. Defence was for years a low-profile policy area in Brussels until Russia launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and forced Europeans to reckon with their shortcomings and weaknesses.

The online surge of misinformation, deep-fakes and unlawful content has also put the bloc on high alert, particularly in the context of elections, where autocratic foreign governments actively seek to influence voters and shape favourable outcomes.

“The most important part is to make sure that our democracy is safe and secure,” von der Leyen told Euronews.

Although military decisions remain the exclusive prerogative of member states, von der Leyen’s team is moving to centralise more powers in the industrial side of the defence. A soon-to-be-unveiled strategy, first reported by the Financial Times, will propose new tools to ramp up production, organise common procurement and roll out subsidies.

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“Europe has gotten stronger because we all understand how important it is to have sound security spending and be able to provide security and to defend ourselves,” von der Leyen said.

“We have to spend more. We have to spend better. And I think we have to spend more European to consolidate our defence industrial base.”

Europe’s goal to boost its defence capabilities has become even more pressing after the recent remarks of Donald Trump, who said that, if elected US president for a second term, he would “encourage” Russia to attack any NATO state that failed to meet the target of spending 2% of their GDP in defence. Trump’s comments triggered a furious reaction from Western leaders and raised fears about the alliance’s long-term viability.

NATO and the EU have 22 members in common and the fate of one is deeply interlinked with the other’s.

“The alliance of NATO is of utmost importance for the European Union,” von der Leyen said in her interview with Euronews. “But I think it’s important that we do our own homework, that we fulfil our tasks.”

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However, von der Leyen added, security must be seen in an all-encompassing manner. Her presidency has pioneered the concept of “de-risking” to deal with China and introduced far-reaching plans to do away with Russian fossil fuels.

“We’re also working hard to have economic security. We’re working hard to have energy security. We have diversified our energy sources and we have massively invested in homegrown renewable energy because this gives us energy independence,” the president told Euronews.

“So I see the term of security in a much wider sense.”

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Israel indicts sister of Hamas leader Haniyeh on terrorism incitement

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Israel indicts sister of Hamas leader Haniyeh on terrorism incitement
Israel’s State Attorney on Sunday indicted the sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on charges of incitement and showing solidarity with a terror group, after she allegedly praised Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that sparked the six-month old war in Gaza.
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Conservative Brazilians laud Elon Musk at rally in support of Bolsonaro

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Conservative Brazilians laud Elon Musk at rally in support of Bolsonaro

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Conservative Brazilians heaped praise Sunday on Elon Musk at a rally in support of former President Jair Bolsonaro, whose legal troubles are mounting in tandem with the billionaire entrepreneur’s feud with the South American nation’s Supreme Court.

“Brazil Thanks Elon Musk,” read one giant sign in English at the rally alongside Copacabana beach in the seaside city of Rio de Janeiro. Thousands of die-hard supporters of Bolsonaro attended.

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ELON MUSK TO FUND NEW FIRST AMENDMENT CAMPAIGN TO COMBAT ‘RELENTLESS ATTACKS ON FREE SPEECH’

Musk, a self-declared free speech absolutist, is a target in an ongoing investigation over the dissemination of fake news by supporters of Bolsonaro. Musk said the social platform X wouldn’t comply with a high court justice’s order to remove certain accounts accused of spreading disinformation.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX who took over Twitter — now X — in late 2022, accused Justice Alexandre de Moraes of suppressing free speech and violating Brazil’s constitution. He noted on X that users could seek to bypass any shutdown of the social media platform by using VPNs, or virtual private networks.

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That prompted de Moraes to include Musk in an ongoing investigation into so-called digital militias and open a new investigation into obstruction, incitement and criminal conspiracy.

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Alexandre de Moraes, justice of Brazil's Supreme Federal Court

Alexandre de Moraes, justice of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court, left, speaks during a session at the Supreme Court building in Brasilia, Brazil, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. Elon Musk’s X social media platform will comply with all orders from Brazil’s Supreme Court, a week following top Justice Moraes’s decision to open an investigation into Musk and the billionaire saying he would defy the court. (Ton Molina/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Several speakers lauded Musk at Sunday’s rally.

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“What you see here are people who love liberty, who will not give up and will not kneel down to dictators, people who are willing to give their lives for freedom,” said Gustavo Gayer, a pro-Bolsonaro congressman.

Jair Bolsonaro

For his part, the former president lauded Musk for demonstrating “courage” in the face of what he called censorship by de Moraes.

“He is the man who really preserves true freedom for all of us,” said Bolsonaro, who is himself under investigation for a plethora of crimes ranging from aiding an effort to overturn the 2022 election results and plotting a coup against his leftist successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

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Brazil is an important market for social media companies. About 40 million Brazilians, or about 18% of the population, access X at least once per month, according to the market research group Emarketer.

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Biden condemns ‘blatant’ anti-Semitism at Columbia pro-Palestine protests

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Biden condemns ‘blatant’ anti-Semitism at Columbia pro-Palestine protests

Biden’s remarks come after footage emerges appearing to show Jewish students being harassed and intimidated.

United States President Joe Biden has condemned pro-Palestinian activists for acts of “blatant” anti-Semitism during protests at Columbia University.

In a statement to commemorate the Jewish holiday of Passover on Sunday, Biden said it was necessary to speak out against “the alarming surge of antisemitism – in our schools, communities, and online”.

“Silence is complicity. Even in recent days, we’ve seen harassment and calls for violence against Jews,” Biden said.

“This blatant antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous – and it has absolutely no place on college campuses, or anywhere in our country.”

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Biden’s comments came after reports emerged over the weekend of harassment and threats against Jewish students on the campus of Columbia University in New York.

Footage shared on social media appeared to show activists telling students to “go back to Poland” and that October 7 is “going to be every day for you” – referring to Hamas’s attacks on Israel in which 1,139 people were killed.

Chabad at Columbia University, a chapter of an international Orthodox Jewish movement, said in a statement that protesters had also told Jewish students, “You have no culture”, “All you do is colonise” and to “Go back to Europe”.

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In a statement on Sunday, a group of student activists representing the protesters distanced themselves from “inflammatory individuals” and said they reject “any form of hate or bigotry”.

“We are frustrated by media distractions focusing on inflammatory individuals who do not represent us. At universities across the nation, our movement is united in valuing every human life,” the statement said.

“Our members have been misidentified by a politically-motivated mob. We have been doxxed in the press, arrested by the NYPD [New York Police Department], and locked out of our homes by the university. We have knowingly put ourselves in danger because we can no longer be complicit in Columbia funnelling our tuition dollars and grant funding into companies that profit from death.”

Biden made his remarks hours after a statement by the White House calling out “physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community”.

“While every American has the right to peaceful protect, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly antisemitic, unconscionable, and dangerous – they have absolutely no place on any college campus, or anywhere in the United States of America,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said.

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“And echoing the rhetoric of terrorist organisations, especially in the wake of the worst massacre committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, is despicable.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul have also condemned reports of harassment and intimidation at the protests.

Columbia, one of the most prestigious universities in the US, has emerged as a hotbed of student activism since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza following the October 7 attacks.

On Thursday, the New York Police Department arrested more than 100 pro-Palestinian protesters after its officers swarmed the campus and cleared an encampment set up by students.

Some students involved in the protests said they had been suspended from Columbia and its associate institution, Barnard College, including Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

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