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In today’s news from the Capitals:
The EU and Greece have been trying to put in place modern safety systems and improve Greek railways’ cross-border interoperability to connect with the rest of Europe for more than twenty years.
But a series of delays, grey contracts and zero accountability have exposed both Greece’s insufficient investment planning as well as the EU’s lax monitoring mechanisms and the train tragedy that cost the lives of 57 people has opened Pandora’s Box. Read more.
Mercosur deal on the agenda as German ministers visit South America. German economy and agriculture ministers embarked on a six-day visit to South America this weekend to advance trade and climate action amid ongoing discussions about the planned EU-Mercosur trade agreement. Read more.
Orbán-Macron dinner in Paris on Russia, rule of law. French President Emmanuel Macron will receive Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for a working dinner at the Elysée on Monday as Hungary blames the EU for its ‘indirect war’ against Russia. Read more.
Austria joins Germany in opposing combustion engine ban. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has promised he will do his utmost to ensure the survival of the combustion engine, joining Germany in opposing the EU’s plan to ban diesel and petrol cars from 2035. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
UK to remain firm contributor to NATO. The UK intends to remain a leading contributor to NATO as it recognises the importance of continuing to invest in collective Euro-Atlantic security, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Finnish PM under fire for offering to donate fighter jets to Ukraine. Prime Minister Sanna Marin suggesting Finland should discuss the possibility of donating fighter jets to Ukraine has caused a stir following her surprise Kyiv visit ahead of the April elections. Read more.
Meloni’s partying sparks criticism amid migrant shipwreck tragedy. Prime Minister Georgia Meloni’s festive mood at Matteo Salvini’s birthday party this weekend sparked criticism among those wondering why she is not paying her respects to those who lost their lives in the migrant shipwreck in Cutro. Read more.
Spain, Commission agree to controversial pension reform. The government and the European Commission reached a last-minute agreement on a controversial pension system reform which paves the way for Madrid to receive the next tranches of the EU’s Next Generation funds. Read more.
Varoufakis attacked outside a bar in Athens. The leader of leftist DiEM25 and controversial former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis was hospitalised over the weekend after he was physically attacked by a group of young people. Read more.
Poland wants to loosen EU methane proposal, fears huge fines. Poland intends to push for the EU proposal to reduce and track methane emissions to allow mines to emit eight rather than five tons of methane per one kilotonne of coal mined, as well as exempt coking coal from new regulations, Poland’s Deputy Minister of State Asset, Marek Wesoły has announced. Read more.
Russian war symbols waved at anti-government protests in Prague. Russian war symbols were seen among the thousands of protestors gathered in Prague to protest war and poverty on Saturday, with some attempting to tear down the Ukrainian flag that has been hanging outside the National Museum over the past year. Read more.
Russian embassy to Slovakia very active on Facebook. The Russian Embassy in Bratislava is the most active on Facebook in comparison to other Russian and even Chinese embassies across the European Union, an analysis conducted by the International Republic Institute reads. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Bulgarian Russophile teams up with Steven Seagal to set up an international movement. An international movement of Russophiles will be established on 14 March in Moscow, following an initiative by Nikolay Malinov, head of the Bulgarian National Movement Russophiles, who is teaming up with US actor Steven Seagal, EURACTIV Bulgaria’s partner Dnevnik reports. Read more.
Romania finds ways to unlock €3 billion recovery plan payment. The government has found ways to address the milestones needed for Romania to get the second payment of the national recovery and resilience plan – funds that the Commission has blocked since January. Read more.
Slovenia to ease rules to recruit foreign staff. The government has put forward legislative changes expected to be rushed through parliament to facilitate the recruitment of foreign workers as the country grapples with staff shortages. Read more.
BELGRADE | PRISTINA
Vucic says Municipalities Association key for Belgrade-Pristinia talks to continue. The Serbian Municipalities Association (SMA) must be established if the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue is to continue, President Aleksandar Vucic said ahead of the upcoming round of negotiations in Ohrid. Read more.
BELGRADE | PRISTINA
Kurti has hope ahead of critical Kosovo-Serbia-EU meeting on 18 March. Ahead of a key EU-backed meeting between Kosovo and Serbia on 18 March in Ohrid, North Macedonia, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti spoke of Serbian President Aleksander Vucic’s reluctance to sign an agreement but expressed hope for the upcoming talks. Read more.
Albanian population fell by 1.3%, mainly youth, in 2022. The population of Albania decreased by 1.3% in 2022, equivalent to some 36,000, mainly young people, due to emigration, signalling the sharpest population decrease since World War II. Read more.
- EU: Eurogroup convenes to discuss inflation developments in the euro area, digital euro, and more; Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis attends;
- Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council takes place on Monday and Tuesday; Agenda highlights include the ILO convention, draft regulation on fees and charges payable to EMA, and more; Commission Vice President Dubravka Šuica attends;
- Commission President Ursula von der Leyen holds a meeting with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola; Hosts Co-Chairs of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament Terry Reintke and Philippe Lamberts; Hosts Chairs of the European People’s Party (EPP), the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the Renew Europe Groups, Manfred Weber, Iratxe García-Pérez and Stéphane Séjourné;
- French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire meets with Commission Vice Presidents Frans Timmermans, and Valdis Dombrovskis;
- The Swedish EU Council presidency organises a conference on preventing violent extremism and terrorism; Agenda highlights include violent right-wing extremism, preventing attacks from lone actors, and more;
- European Parliament holds plenary session; Agenda highlights include binding annual greenhouse gas emission reductions by member states, activities of the European Ombudsman, and more; European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson attend;
- Sweden: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) publishes report on arms exports;
- Switzerland: Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria presents its latest report; 57th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change takes place;
- United States: President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meet for AUKUS summit, submarine deal possible;
- Qatar: Global Security Forum with the theme of ‘reshaping the global order’ takes place;
- UN: Talks with Russian officials on Black Sea Grain Initiative resume;
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Alice Taylor, Sofia Stuart Leeson, Sofia Mandilara]