Berlusconi urges EPP to ally with right-wing populists against Left

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ROME

The European’s people party (EPP) should discard the alliance with the socialists and create a new one with those parties coming from “a new democratic right”, ranging from conservatives to populists, Silvio Berlusconi has said.

“We must ensure that there will be a new centre-right in Europe with the EPP and other parties that do not belong to the left,” the 82-years-old politician said at his party’s (Forza Italia) convention on Saturday. For Berlusconi, who will run in the EU elections, the EPP can “educate and convince populists” to join those forces that wanted to change Europe for the better.

Forza Italia has seen its popularity fall also because of the rise of Salvini’s Lega, which is still bound to Berlusconi’s party at the local and regional level, but now it is governing the country together with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. (Gerardo Fortuna, EURACTIV.com).

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BRATISLAVA

Zuzana Čaputová Slovakia’s first female President: She won 58.4 % of votes in the second round of the election on Saturday against EU Commission’s VP Maroš Šefčovič, candidate of the ruling socialist party Smer-SD (41.6%). The turnout was the lowest on record for the second round of presidential election, reaching only 41,8 %.

Čaputová, a pro-EU liberal, made headlines in a number of foreign media, mostly highlighting the sharp contrast between her positions and narrative and those of other leaders in the Visegrad region such as Czech Miloš Zeman or Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.

Maroš Šefčovič, who will return to his duties in Brussels on Monday, said he would be interested in a nomination to the next EU Commission. Meanwhile, Andrej Kiska, the outgoing president of Slovakia and most popular politician in Slovakia, is rumoured to be preparing a centre-right political party, potentially scoring as high as 40% support a newly released poll has shown. (Zuzana Gabrižová, EURACTIV.sk) [More]

>>Read more

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BERLIN

UN Security Council: For the first time in seven years, Germany will preside the UN Security Council for a month as of 1 April. German FM Heiko Maas takes over the presidency in New York from his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian and they agreed that their successive leadership periods should be understood as a joint “double presidency”.

CSU votes pro-EU campaign: Conservative CSU leader Markus Söder and EPP’s top candidate Manfred Weber set the Bavarian party on a pro-European course, showing a clear commitment to Europe and challenging nationalists and populists at a congress in Nuremberg on 30 March where delegates unanimously approved the electoral program. (Claire Stam, EURACTIV.de)

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PARIS

1st En Marche meeting: the EU campaign for Emmanuel Macron’s LREM party was officially kicked off this weekend, in a meeting near Paris which 3,000 attended. Led by former EU Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau, the LREM list includes several known ecologists such as Pascal Canfin (WWF) or Pascal Durand (Green MEP), which could be seen as an effort to “greenwash” the party image.  Read more on EURACTIV.fr.

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MADRID

Spanish economy still growing: Despite a global slowdown, the Spanish GDP is projected to grow at a gradually slower rate of 2.2% this year, 1.9% in 2020 and 1.7% in 2021, according to a forecast released last week by the Bank of Spain, EFE reported.

The Bank also forecasts small reductions in the Spanish public deficit, expected to drop from 2.7% to 2.5% of GDP this year. However, the Bank also said any government after the 28 April election should prepare the public accounts for a potential recession due to “a high degree of uncertainty regarding the future orientation of economic policy”. (EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

BRUSSELS

Around 8,000 people marched in the streets of Brussels in the third ‘Rise for Climate’ protest on Sunday, only a few days after the Belgian Parliament had rejected the revision of Article 7bis of the constitution that would allow for ambitious climate goals. Several dozens of yellow vests also answered the call to protest and interrupted the march. (Alexandra Brzozowski, EURACTIV.com)

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LONDON

May’s ‘time may come’: Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said on Sunday “the time may come” for another attempt at ousting Prime Minister May with a no-confidence vote in the government. If the House of Commons passed a majority in a no-confidence vote, a general election could follow.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary David Gauke said on Sunday that he did not believe a general election would solve the impasse of ministers finding common ground over Brexit. A second round of indicative votes is set to take place on Monday, in order to try and narrow down the UK’s options. A ‘conclusive’ set of votes could also take place on Wednesday.

An emergency EU leaders summit has been scheduled for April 10, with the UK almost certain to seek an extension on the April 12 withdrawal date.  (Samuel Stolton, EURACTIV.com)

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WARSAW

Government hits at opposition over EU copyright law: The ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS/ECR) party launched a new video campaign accusing opposition Civic Platform (PO/EPP) of betraying the country over the EU copyright directive. The video displays PO MEPs that voted for the directive last week in the EU parliament and then quotes Polish media claiming that Germans reached a deal with French: the directive for consent to Nord Stream 2. “Whose interest does the PO represent?”, the ruling party wondered. (EURACTIV.pl)

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PRAGUE

Czech President’s ‘kind reminder’ to the EC: The European Commission should not pretend to be an EU government and only stick to its task of providing clerical services, Czech president Miloš Zeman said in an interview with Czech TV. At the same time, though, he backed the idea of EU ministers of finance and defence.

Protect the market: Future Czech MEPs should fight protectionist tendencies of some EU member states and support the EU’s open market, Czech business organisations say. According to them, adequate trade protection tools need to be used to defend the EU market from unfair trade practices and maintain a competitive environment. (Ondřej Plevák, EURACTIV.cz)

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BUCHAREST

Dragnea vs EU Commission: The leader of the ruling socialist party PSD, Liviu Dragnea, has attacked the European Commission claiming that an OLAF investigation has violated his rights of defence. OLAF has found that road construction projects in Romania led to €21 million fraudulent payments. OLAF passed the information to the Romanian Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), which then accused Liviu Dragnea of fraud with EU funds, of creating an organised criminal group, and of misusing his position for personal gain. (EURACTIV.ro)

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ATHENS

Opposition leads polls: The main opposition New Democracy (ND-EPP) leads two new polls against ruling leftist Syriza party. In a poll for Open TV, ND scored 26.6% and Syriza 19.7%, while in another survey for Skai TV, ND gets 32.5% of the vote and Syriza 22.5%. However, in both cases, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn comes third.

Timmermans meets Tsipras: Frans Timmermans, the EU socialists’ Spitzenkandidat, said in an interview, “I don’t see why I can’t have constructive cooperation with the United Left”. Speaking at the Greek socialist sister party (Pasok) conference, he commented, “Any differences are not compared with the consequences of a victory of the Right”. While Timmermans is looking for “progressive” votes ahead of the EU election, Pasok refuses to collaborate with ruling Syriza (European Left) despite EU socialists’ repeated calls for a progressive alliance in the country.  (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)

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SOFIA

Gabriel to lead Bulgarian EPP election list: The Bulgarian Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel will be the lead EU elections candidate for the ruling party GERB and the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), the two EPP-affiliated parties that will run together. At the second place is current MEP Andrey Kovatchev, followed by three other current MEPs – Andrey Novakov, Eva Maydell and Asim Ademov. (Dnevnik.bg) [More]

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LJUBLJANA

Austrian will lead list for EU elections: For the first time in Slovenian politics, liberal SAB (ALDE) will have Angelika Rosa Mlinar, an Austrian politician with Slovenian roots, as a leading candidate for the EU elections. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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ZAGREB

More money for farmers after Brexit: Tomislav Tolušić, Croatian Minister of Agriculture, believes that reduction of the EU budget after Brexit will not affect subsidies of Croatian farmers. “Our farmers can expect a lot more money for primary production, for boosting competitiveness and further development,” he said. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr).

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BELGRADE

Deadlock and EU integration: EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn said it was unfortunate that the Belgrade-Priština dialogue reached a deadlock. However, this should not be a reason to stop Serbia’s EU integration process. “That is not good. There is no reason, and it would be a mistake to stop everything only because the dialogue reached a deadlock”, Hahn said in Belgrade. (EURACTIV.rs)

 

[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos and Samuel Stolton]

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