Joanna Kakissis

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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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