Joanna Kakissis

Each year, the Eurovision Song Contest unites 180 million viewers in more than 40 countries for an electric-falsetto night of glitter, glam and hard-rock hallelujah.

European Parliament lawmakers demanded Thursday that European Union leaders punish Hungary's government for using the COVID-19 pandemic to grab power through a controversial emergency law.

Democracy is weakening across Central and Eastern Europe as well as Eurasia amid the rise of Chinese and Russian influence, according to a new report by Freedom House, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

The annual report — Nations in Transit 2020, Dropping the Democratic Facade — covers 29 countries from Central Europe to Central Asia and says there are now fewer democracies in the area than at any point in the past 25 years.

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(SOUNDBITE OF STELIOS KERASIDIS' "ISOLATION WALTZ")

NOEL KING, HOST:

Federico Manni first noticed something was wrong with his family's olive trees about six years ago.

It was summer, the cicadas were singing, and Manni and his father, Enzo, were weaving through their olive groves in Puglia, the southern region forming the "heel" of Italy's boot.

They noticed some trees looked burnt.

"Dead branches, brown leaves," Manni says. "Terrible, really terrible."

They pruned and washed the trees but it didn't help. Soon more trees shriveled. Today nearly all are dead.

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