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Bulgarian pro-Putin party joins EU far right group after Moscow visit

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The Capitals brings you the latest news from across Europe, through on-the-ground reporting by Euractiv’s media network. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

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A message from European Round Table for Industry (ERT): Following yesterday’s joint ERT & EMI event on the Single Market, ERT is now preparing to launch its Competitiveness and Industry Benchmarking Report near Rondpoint Schumann on Monday, 18 March at 14:00 CET. Mark your diary and register here.

In today’s news from The Capitals:

SOFIA

Far-right pro-Russian party Vazrazhdane has joined the far-right Identity and Democracy group in the European Parliament, deputies from the Eurosceptic Bulgarian party announced on Wednesday after visiting Moscow at the invitation of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. Read more.

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BERLIN

Germany’s Scholz pressed by own coalition to provide long-range missiles for Ukraine. Pressure mounted on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to send Taurus missiles to Ukraine as lawmakers from his governing coalition voted on Thursday for a resolution to deliver “long-range weapon systems” to Ukraine. Read more.

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PARIS

French Communists and Greens slam EU plans to introduce ‘tractor permits’. French Communist and Green lawmakers have called on EU lawmakers to oppose in next week’s vote the introduction of new permits for driving tractors as part of the revised EU driving licence directive. Read more.

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THE HAGUE

Dutch PM Rutte in strong position to lead NATO with US, UK, French and German backing. The United States, Britain, France and Germany on Thursday all backed outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as the head of NATO, putting him in a strong position to win the leadership of the transatlantic alliance. Read more.

NORDICS & BALTICS

RIGA

Latvia approves ban on Russian agricultural products. In a historic move, Latvia’s parliament approved a ban on agricultural imports from Russia and Belarus on Thursday until at least 2025, making it the first EU country to do so. Read more.

EUROPE’S SOUTH

ATHENS

Alexis Tsipras steps in to prevent Greek left collapse – asks for new elections. Following months of silence since his resignation from the leadership of the Greek leftist opposition Syriza party, its former leader and prime minister Alexis Tsipras called for new elections for the party’s leadership as ongoing divisions have escalated. Read more.

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ROME

Meloni-Salvini power game within coalition escalates. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia and Forza Italia voted against a proposal tabled by government partner Matteo Salvini’s Lega to have three instead of the current maximum two terms for regional governors and mayors of certain municipalities, with Lega already asking parliament to deliver an opinion on the matter. Read more.

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MADRID

Spanish judges strongly divided over putting Puigdemont on trial for terrorism.  There is currently no solid evidence to bring former Catalan president and separatist leader Carles Puigdemont to trial for terrorist crimes allegedly committed during the height of the separatist movement in Catalonia, the Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Spain’s Supreme Court, María Ángeles Sánchez, said on Thursday, contradicting the opinion of Spain’s main advisory body of judges. Read more.

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LISBON

Portuguese hospital performs Europe’s first robotic liver transplant. Portugal’s Curry Cabral Hospital performed the first robotic liver transplant in Europe on a patient with cirrhosis who is now at home and “recovering well”, the institution said on Thursday. Read more.

EASTERN EUROPE

BRATISLAVA

Slovakia’s Fico backtracks on criminal law reform after EU, domestic pressure. The government of Prime Minister Robert Fico has reinstated the statute of limitations for violent crimes and withdrawn a bill that would have weakened whistleblower protection, effectively backtracking on its initial controversial proposals to reform the penal code following criticism from the European Commission and nationwide protests. Read more.

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WARSAW

Brussels to approve recovery funds for Poland, media say. The European Commission is ready to approve the first payment for Poland from the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, which could happen as soon as this week. Read more.

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PRAGUE

Czech farmers continue to protest, remaining peaceful. Czech farmers drove 3,000 pieces of machinery to the country’s borders with Slovakia, Poland and Germany, while other farmers staged protests in major towns on Thursday, which the government said remained peaceful. Read more.

NEWS FROM THE BALKANS

ZAGREB

Croatia to build motorway to Dubrovnik bypassing Bosnia, using existing EU-funded bridge. Croatia is starting construction of the final section of the motorway from Zagreb to Dubrovnik, and it appears the motorway route will bypass the territory of neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and use the EU-funded Pelješac Bridge, which will connect the far south of Croatia to the rest of the country and the EU from 2022. Read more.

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TIRANA

Migrants yes, criminals not yet: Albanian parliament splits on Italy deal, criminal amnesty. Albanian parliament voted to ratify a controversial agreement with Italy to process migrants in a northern seaside town while being forced to drop a criminal amnesty, described as ‘an act of mercy’ pushed for by the ruling party due to significant overcrowding in the country’s prisons. Read more.

AGENDA:

EU: Eurogroup convenes to discuss European capital and financial markets’ future, recent budgetary developments in Slovakia, and more;
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, together with Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander de Croo, meet Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk;
Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič chairs clean transition dialogue on critical raw materials;
Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis participates in the Eurofi (financial regulation) Forum in Ghent, Belgium;
Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit participates at “Meet the Skills Champions” event, co-organised by the Commission and EESC;

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Alice Taylor, Sofia Stuart Leeson, Sofia Mandilara] 

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