Joanna Kakissis | WOSU Radio

Joanna Kakissis

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited the White House on Monday, his first formal meeting with a U.S. president in more than 20 years.

Then-President Bill Clinton received Orban, now one of Europe's most prominent nationalists, in 1998, back when the Hungarian leader was a 35-year-old reformist who had earned his pro-democracy street cred as an anti-Soviet activist. Orban had helped his country transition out of communism.

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Just three years ago, the daily Dunantuli Naplo was considered a reliable source of news in southern Hungary wine country.

Its name means Trans-Danube Journal. Based in Pecs, a cobblestoned university city that once thrived on coal mining, the newspaper's journalists were known for digging into important local issues and holding politicians accountable.

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The race to build the next generation of super-fast mobile-data networks has begun in Germany, which started auctioning off its spectrum licenses for 5G on Tuesday.

But this highly technical event has become the center of a geopolitical storm between the U.S. and China, with Europe caught in the middle.

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Tomorrow, Germany begins auctioning frequencies to build 5G mobile networks. It is both a highly technical event and the center of a geopolitical storm. Like much of Europe, Germany is squeezed between its economic ties to China and its longtime alliance with the U.S. NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports from Berlin.

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The European Union has largely tolerated Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, despite his government's crackdown on civil society and virulently anti-migrant rhetoric.

Then came the billboards depicting two elderly men who appear to be cackling. One is the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. The other is Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, who Orban loyalists falsely claim is plotting to flood Europe with Muslim migrants.

"You have the right to know what Brussels is planning," the billboard reads.

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Nearly 75 years ago, Hungarian police forced Rozsa Heisler onto a train, along with thousands of other Hungarian Jews.

"We were crammed together for five days without food or water," she recalls. "We didn't know where we were going. Then we reached Auschwitz."

Heisler's mother and grandfather were murdered at the concentration camp. She and her sister, sent on to a labor camp, survived on leftover potato peels.

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Andrassy Avenue in the Hungarian capital of Budapest is lined with neo-Renaissance mansions and luxury boutiques representing the finest names in Europe.

One name stands out: Ghraoui. It's the name of a premier chocolatier from Syria.

Inside, there are hand-engraved orange trees on the walls and frescoes of apricot trees on the ceiling. There are glass cases, as if you're in a gallery or a jewelry store.

The new year has barely begun but it's already been deadly for migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

On Friday, a raft reportedly carrying 120 migrants, many from West Africa, sank in the rough, wintry sea.

The Italian Navy spotted bodies floating near three survivors, two Sudanese and a Gambian, who are being treated for severe hypothermia and trauma at a hospital on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

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Updated at 7:33 p.m. ET

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a darling of Europe's far right, has tightened his grip on power in ways that have shocked the European Union.

His ultranationalist Fidesz party has gamed the electoral system, shut down most independent media, forced out an American university and even created new administrative courts that will be directly controlled by the government.

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