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In today’s news from the Capitals:
Przemyśl has seen hundreds of refugees cross over since the war began here. For many of them, the train they take from Kyiv or Lviv is a train of hope to escape the horrors of war.
Most of those arriving are families or mothers with small children or babies while their fathers and brothers have stayed behind to fight. Many of them are grateful to have reached the border.
UNHCR estimates four million people may flee Ukraine in the coming weeks if the situation escalates. Roughly half of them are expected to come to Poland. Arriving here, they are greeted by a host of Polish and international aid workers, people offering transport, food, and accommodation around the country. Watch the reportage here.
Germany comes down on Putin-friendly ex-chancellor. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder could face being stripped of privileges, titles and suspended by his party after refusing to end his business relations with Russian state-owned companies. Read more.
Macron formalises his presidential candidacy, finally. President Emmanuel Macron has officially announced his candidacy in the French elections due on 4 April to “invent with you [the French people], in the face of the challenges of the century, a unique French and European response”. Read more.
Austria burns another health minister, Mückstein steps down. The Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein has announced his resignation less than a year after taking office, citing exhaustion due to managing the pandemic and death threats. Read more.
UK AND IRELAND
British minister to attend EU ministers meeting over Russia. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will on Friday become the first UK Minister to attend the EU’s Foreign Affairs ministers meeting since the UK’s exit from the EU, as part of a day of heavy diplomacy in Brussels that will also include meetings of NATO and G7 foreign ministers.
The move is a sign of the European unity that has emerged since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last week.
However, it is unclear whether the UK will propose any new sanctions against Russia.
In a statement on Thursday, Truss said that the UK wanted to “work with fellow freedom-loving democracies to tighten the vice around Putin’s war machine and signal our strong support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”
(Benjamin Fox | EURACTIV.com)
Irish government considers measures to offset war-fuelled rise in energy costs. Ireland’s government met on Thursday to consider potential measures to offset increases in the cost of fuel and energy caused by the war in Ukraine. Read more.
NORDICS AND BALTICS
Street with Russian Embassy in Vilnius to be renamed ‘Ukraine’s Heroes Street’. The street where the Russian embassy is located in Vilnius will be renamed Ukraine’s Heroes street, the city’s mayor, Remigijus Šimašius, announced on Thursday. Read more.
Growing calls for Finland to withdraw from Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty. The war in Ukraine is making politicians and citizens think again about Finland’s signing of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty of 1997 to eliminate anti-personnel landmines by November 2011. Read more.
Former Russian oligarch warns of Russia’s intentions in Finnish TV interview. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch, jailed and later released by Russian President Vladimir Putin and now living in London in exile, delivered a stark warning about Russia’s intentions in an interview with the MTV3 channel on Wednesday. Read more.
One in three Swedes worried country will be attacked. One in three Swedes is fairly or very worried their country will be targeted by a military attack, according to a new survey by Novus published on Thursday. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency is now beefing up its staff. Read more.
Danish government ready to relieve Poland and Romania of Ukrainian refugees. Denmark is ready to help countries that took in the bulk of the Ukrainian refugees and, if necessary, take some in themselves, the Danish government, which has a strict immigration policy, announced on Thursday. Read more.
Italy ready for refugee emergency, says interior minister. Italy is prepared to do its best to take in refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, said Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese during a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers on Thursday. Read more.
Spanish defence minister: We can’t turn a blind eye to war. Defence Minister Margarita Robles on Thursday justified the government’s change of heart on sending lethal weapons to Ukraine because neither Spain nor the EU “can turn a blind eye” to the conflict. Read more.
Portuguese civil society mobilised in Ukraine humanitarian crisis. From Portugal to Eastern Europe, civil society has mobilised to take humanitarian aid to Ukraine and the borders, with improvised locations filling up daily with boxes and bags waiting to travel. Read more.
Polish parliament adopts resolution backing Ukraine’s EU candidacy. Ukraine should be admitted to the European Union as per a resolution passed by the lower chamber of the Polish parliament known as the Sejm on Thursday. Read more.
Babis without parliamentary immunity, again. MPs in the lower house of the Czech Parliament voted on Thursday to strip ANO leader and former prime minister Andrej Babiš of his parliamentary immunity, opening the way for prosecution on charges of EU subsidy fraud. Read more.
Hungary stands by Russian ‘spy bank’. Hungary would prefer to continue to be part of the Russia-led International Investment Bank (IIB) but said on Thursday it is yet unclear whether it will be financially able to do so. Read more.
Number of passport requests hits record as Slovaks fear the worst. More than 10,000 Slovaks issued a request for a new passport on Wednesday, which is an all-time record, police informed on Facebook, while telling people not to panic. Read more.
NEWS FROM THE BALKANS
Pro-Russian nationalists throw snowballs at Bulgarian PM. Supporters of the far-right pro-Russian Vazrazhdane party silenced the official ceremony celebrating Bulgaria’s national holiday on Shipka Peak by chanting “Russia”, “resignation” and “NATO out” as they waved Russian flags. As Prime Minister Kiril Petkov spoke during the ceremony, members of Vazrazhdane shouted “traitor” and aimed snowballs at him. Read more.
Romania to set up civil protection hub for Ukraine. Romania will host an international hub for humanitarian aid, which will collect and transport all donations for Ukraine. Read more.
Croatian parliament to examine government’s euro launch bill. The government has sent parliament a bill on introducing the euro as legal tender in Croatia, which includes the basic principles of introducing the common currency, possibilities of exchanging kuna for euros and the period during which both currencies will still be in use. Read more.
ZAGREB | BUDAPEST
Croatia set to send up to 70 troops to NATO battlegroups in Hungary. The Croatian government has sent its decisions to deploy troops outside the country, including in Hungary as part of NATO’s presence, to parliament. Read more.
Idea for LNG terminal in Slovenia meets major pushback. The idea that Slovenia should diversify its energy supplies by a regasification terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the coast, pushed by senior officials like Prime Minister Janez Janša, has been met with stiff resistance from local communities and environmentalists. Read more.
Air Serbia increases flights to Moscow. As Europe and Western Balkan countries like Albania and North Macedonia close their airspace to Russian aircraft following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Serbia has decided to increase flights instead. Read more.
SARAJEVO | ZAGREB
Croatian president calls on Dodik to cease boycott of state institutions. Croatian President Zoran Milanović has urged the Serb member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency, Milorad Dodik to ensure the return of Republika Srpska representatives to state institutions. Read more.
Dodik attempts to block UN vote with Russian help. The Serb member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Presidency, Milorad Dodik, in cahoots with Russian diplomats, tried to prevent BiH’s ambassador to the UN from voting in favour of a General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Read more.
Two Sberbank subsidiaries taken over by local BiH banks. The Banja Luka-based subsidiary of Sberbank has been bought by the local Nova Banka, and the subsidiary in the Federation of BiH has been taken over by the ASA bank. Read more.
North Macedonia to complete first large-scale PV plant. Oslomej, North Macedonia’s first large-scale photovoltaic plant located in Kičevo will soon be completed. Read more.
Montenegro’s Abazović nominated PM-designate. Montenegrin President Milo Đukanović has proposed the leader of the Civic Movement (GP) URA, Dritan Abazović, to take on the prime minister-designate position. Read more.
Kosovo parliament passes resolution on Ukraine, will accept 5000 refugees. The parliament of Kosovo has approved a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and expressing its willingness to host 5,000 Ukrainian refugees. Read more.
PM: Albania far from war, Serbia has united Western Balkans with the west. Prime Minister Edi Rama has called for calm over the situation in Ukraine, reassuring Albanians that we are far from war or conflict. Read more.
Moldova applies for fast-track EU membership, joining Ukraine and Georgia. Moldova officially applied for fast-track EU membership on Thursday, joining Ukraine and Georgia, its partners from the so-called Associated Trio, a week after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. Read more.
- EU: EU foreign ministers meet on Ukraine with US, British and Canadian counterparts and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg / EU justice ministers meet on electronic evidence, fight against hate speech and hate crime /
- NATO Foreign Ministers hold emergency meeting on Ukraine in Brussels, with Finland, Sweden and EU counterparts participating.
- France: European Affairs ministers meet in Arles.
- Belgium: Government press conference on COVID-19 measures.
- Spain: Capacity limits imposed to fight Covid-19 at sports events dropped.
- Lithuania: Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton continues his trip to the Baltics in Vilnius.
- Poland: Mayors from Warsaw, Paris, Vilnius, Budapest, Prague and Bratislava meet over Ukraine crisis.
- Hungary: European Commission VP Margaritis Schinas is visiting the Hungarian-Ukrainian border.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Alexandra Brzozowski, Daniel Eck, Benjamin Fox, Zoran Radosavljevic, Alice Taylor]