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In today’s news from the Capitals:
The Russian ambassador to Belgrade said on Thursday Serbia can count on “any support from Russia” but refused to explicitly confirm or deny whether this could also entail military aid. Read more.
Brussels urged to address EU health workforce ‘ticking bomb’. An increasingly disproportional migration of health workers within the EU has resulted in a workforce crisis as several member states face staff shortages putting health systems’ sustainability at risk. Although the EU’s role is limited, stakeholders say quick solutions can be found. Read more.
EU hopes to clear hurdles for deal to procure ammunition for Ukraine. Talks to reach a political agreement on the joint procurement of ammunition for Ukraine are set to continue on Friday, as EU ambassadors seek to remove the final hurdles ahead of the expected approval next week. Read more.
BRUSSELS | THE HAGUE
Belgium, Netherlands among Western Europe’s main cocaine hubs. Belgium and the Netherlands have become Western Europe’s main import centres for cocaine, a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) presented in Vienna on Thursday reads. Read more.
Scholz chides Israeli government during Netanyahu’s visit. German chancellor Olaf Scholz did not shy away from criticising contentious projects pursued by Israel’s partially far-right government during a visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Berlin. Read more.
French government in danger over disputed pension reform bill. French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne resorted to a special legal procedure to adopt an unpopular pension reform bill without a vote in the National Assembly on Thursday but opened itself up to a potential fall in the face of growing dissent among lawmakers. Read more.
Multi-day terror warning grips Vienna. Security service warnings against attacks on Syrian-linked institutions have kept Viennese wide awake for multiple days in a row, and while the threat appears to have passed, experts have voiced discontent with the police’s communication strategy. Read more.
Dutch minister presents auto plan aimed at giving cars more space. Given their importance in everyday life, cars must be ‘given more space’, particularly as they have become ‘cleaner, quieter and safer’, Infrastructure and Water Management Minister Mark Harbers said as he presented his government’s “Automotive Development Agenda” on Thursday. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
STOCKHOLM | LONDON
Sweden sends Ukraine artillery, helps UK stock back up. Sweden will send eight Archer artillery systems to Ukraine and help the UK build its stock back up by replenishing it with 14 units, the same amount it previously sent Ukraine. Read more.
Finland expects ‘concrete’ NATO progress at Niinistö’s Turkey visit. Finnish politicians and analysts anticipate concrete and positive results from President Sauli Niinistö’s two-day visit to Ankara on Friday, which Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will also attend. Read more.
Italy must decriminalise defamation to better protect journalists – report. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for journalists facing defamation suits to be better protected after police stormed the Domani newsroom after a defamation complaint made by Labour Ministry Undersecretary Claudio Durigon (Lega/ID). Read more.
Ex-communist leader proud to present no-confidence motion against Sanchez. Former Spanish communist leader Ramón Tamames will soon present far-right party VOX’s censure motion against Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, whom he says has transformed the country into an “absorbing autocracy”. Read more.
Portuguese government approves mortgage support scheme. Portugal’s cabinet approved an interest rate subsidy for housing loans that will be in force until the end of the year with the possibility of renewal, Prime Minister António Costa announced on Thursday. Read more.
Czech ambassador: Turkish foreign policy won’t change if opposition wins. Turkey’s foreign policy is not expected to change if the opposition coalition, which has set out its ambition to improve relations with the EU, wins the May elections, the Czech Ambassador to Ankara Pavel Vacek told EURACTIV.cz in an exclusive interview. Read more.
Poland dismantles Russian spy network, ministers say. Polish security services broke up a Russian spy network and detained six people it says were preparing acts of sabotage and monitoring rail routes to Ukraine, according to Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński and Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak. Read more.
Slovak school cafeterias banned from selling soft drinks, fried food. School cafeterias will no longer be allowed to sell energy and sugary drinks or fried foods, while sweets, crisps, and similar products can make up at most half of the range offered, according to a new decree. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
PRISTINA | BELGRADE
Vucic will not sign anything in Ohrid, NATO pushes for progress. The President of Serbia, Aleksandër Vucic, stated on Thursday that he does not plan to sign anything at the March 18 meeting with the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti while NATO calls for both sides to progress. Read more.
SOFIA | SKOPJE
Bulgaria reacts to attack on its cultural centre in Skopje. Bulgaria expressed serious concern over the attack on its cultural and information centre in Skopje, with its Foreign Ministry saying the attack had taken place amid an ongoing ‘anti-Bulgarian campaign’ in North Macedonia. Read more.
Montenegrin president dissolves parliament, snap election expected. Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic dissolved the national parliament by decree on Thursday, paving the way for a snap election meant to put an end to a prolonged government crisis in the EU candidate country. Read more.
- EU: Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, in Zagreb, meets with Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Goran Grlic Radman;
- Commissioner Mariya Gabriel participates, in Izola, Slovenia, in the European Network of Higher Education Institutions (ENIHEI) members meeting and Round table: How can universities support innovative Europe;
- Commissioner Thierry Breton delivers a keynote speech at the first annual conference of the European Commission’s Legal Service on: ‘Internet and platforms regulation under the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act’ in Brussels;
- Germany: Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets European Council President Charles Michel;
- Finland: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets Finnish President Sauli Niinisto to discuss NATO membership bid;
- Spain: S&P Global Ratings updates country rating;
- Russia: Central Bank meeting, with rate decision;
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Daniel Eck, Alice Taylor, Sofia Stuart Leeson, Sofia Mandilara]