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State of the Union: Friends and foes, Varoufakis comeback and Hungary baby boom

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State of the Union: Friends and foes, Varoufakis comeback and Hungary baby boom
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It was a quiet and peaceful week, if you don't count the diplomatic row between France and Italy.

Row is probably the wrong word, it was rather a fight or a clash never seen since 1940. And we all know how that ended.

We had trouble finding voices of reason – even in the European Parliament.

Family affair

Italy's Deputy prime-minister Luigi de Maio gave his backing to the French Yellow Vests in the last week. This led the french government to react in a way not seen since World War II. Paris recalled its ambassador to Rome. Accusations flew. MEPS from both countries say they are like family, but have different interpretations of the crisis.

Italy and France are like two cousins; two sisters... I think that my country did well in saying enough with these provocations"

Nathalie Griesbeck, Democratic Movement/ALDE, France

"Italy and France are like two cousins; two sisters. There are rivalries between the League, former Northern League, and the 5 Stars Movement. So there are several issues at stake, but I think that my country did well in saying enough with these provocations"

The Italian side points out the question of respect among equals.

Ignazio Corrao, Five Star Movement/EFDD, Italy

"I would call it a quarrel between friends; between cousins, actually. We cannot accept an arrogant attitude of the French government, an attitude of considering a partner as a country to bully"

In his speech in the European Parliament, Tuesday, the Italian Prime Minister said that tensions can be cleared up quickly. The two countries say they want to reshape the EU after the coming elections.

Ignazio Corrao, Five Star Movement/EFDD, Italy

"Italy is part of the European project and we want to be protagonists of a better Europe, when the scheme of austerity will be changed, with a Europe that thinks about the European citizens"

Nathalie Griesbeck, Democratic Movement/ALDE, France

"Diplomacy is a tool for dialogue and respect."

Chances are that the back-and-forth between Paris and Rome will continue, at least until the European elections in May.

100 days Election countdown

It's campaign season and politicians have to please a national audience.

Someone who doesn't seem to care about a national audience is Greece's former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

If we want to change Europe, if we need to change Europe it has to start in places like Germany. If you want to reform and transform the Roman Empire you, you start in Rome, you do not start in some village in Greece.
Yanis Varoufakis

He is running for a seat in the European Parliament for the left-leaning Democracy in Europe Movement – in Germany.

Euronews' Efi Koutsokostas talked to him about a 'special place in hell' and changing Europe.

Koutsokostas -Why did you decide to run in Germany? It is the country where you were very much demonized some years ago. One could say that you did it either to provoke or to secure your entrance to the Parliament as the threshold is low?

"The European crisis and the worst aspect of it is that the vested interests are shifting the losses from the financial sector on the shoulders of the weakest taxpayers and voters are very keen to turn the people of Greece against the people of Germany, and the people of Italy against the people of France. And if we shall come to that, then we are going to be responsible for awful developments in Europe and we need to stop that.This is why Diem25 was inaugurated in Berlin in Volksbühne theatre in February 2016, because we wanted to symbolize that we are to all this together and that if we want to change Europe, if we need to change Europe it has to start in places like Germany. If you want to reform and transform the Roman Empire you, you start in Rome, you do not start in some village in Greece.

There is a special place in hell for those who advocated Brexit on the basis of false promises but isn't there a similar place in Hell for the Troika?

Koutsokostas -As we are in Oxford I have to ask you for another European crisis which is Brexit. The EU Council President a few days ago had some strong words for the Brits saying that there is a special place in hell for those who campaigned for Brexit without a plan. Do you agree with him?

I agree with Mr Tusk. There is a special place in hell for those who advocated Brexit on the basis of false promises but isn't there a similar place in Hell for troika and those who are pushing for austerity for the many and socialism for the bankers in the European Union?

Hungary baby boom

In Hungary last week, Prime Minister Orban suggested a baby bonus as part of his government's efforts to increase the birth rate.

That's Orban's response to migration and negative demographics.

But he wants Hungarian children, not kids of refugees.

Measures start with five-figure subsidized loans for the first child and no nore income tax ever for baby number four. We asked women in Brussels what they thought of it.

Look ahead

On Monday, EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels - Venezuela will still top the agenda, followed by Ukraine. Don't expect major conclusions or any sanctions, but a follow-up on the International Contact Group.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump hosts Austria's Sebastian Kurz at the White House. This is the first meeting of an Austrian chancellor and a US President in Washington since 2005.

And on Sunday, the two-day summit between the European Union and the League of Arab States kicks off in Cairo. No word yet whether the UK Prime Minister will be in attendance.