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The Economist: Europe

The Economist: Europe

With a growing global circulation (now more than 1.5 million including both print* and digital) and a reputation for insightful analysis and perspective on every aspect of world events, The Economist is one of the most widely recognized and well-read current affairs publications. The paper covers politics, business, science and technology, and books and arts, concluding each week with the obituary.

Articles by The Economist: Europe

Covid masks give the French a new way to be chic

2 days ago

May 30th 2020PARISA WOMAN CYCLES by in a pistachio-green mask that matches the colour of her bicycle. Masks in black, the perennial fall-back for the stylish, are the new staple in the fashionable quarters of the French capital. Since the government made mask-wearing compulsory on public transport on May 11th, elegant Parisians have ditched the mass-market pale-blue surgical ones for a dash of coronavirus chic.Erik Schaix, a designer, sells couture models in charcoal-grey denim and batik print at his Paris boutique. They meet a demand “to get away from the pharmacy utility version”, says a sales assistant, and “add a bit of fantasy.” When Emmanuel Macron dropped in on a school wearing a navy-blue mask with a small French flag on the trim, its manufacturer was “flooded with calls” the next

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The EU’s recovery fund is a benefit of Brexit

2 days ago

May 30th 2020CONSIDER A COUNTERFACTUAL. A few years after the referendum in which Britain narrowly voted to stay in the EU, David Cameron hands power to a loyal chancellor, George Osborne. Upon taking office, Mr Osborne faces a global pandemic and Britain’s deepest recession since 1706. To cap it all, an unwelcome proposal from Brussels arrives: a €750bn ($825bn) recovery fund earmarked for the struggling economies of southern Europe, paid for with debt issued by the bloc. Britain is on the hook for about €90bn. “I did warn you, George,” writes Boris Johnson, now editor of the Evening Standard, London’s local newspaper, in a gleeful column.Had history taken that route, Britain would have vetoed the scheme that EU officials hope will dig the bloc out of its economic hole, points out Sir

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Germany’s contact tracers try to block a second covid-19 wave

2 days ago

May 30th 2020BERLINIF YOU HAD fallen asleep three months ago in Germany and woken up today you might not immediately notice much amiss. In much of the country shops are bustling, museums have reopened, and any bar that can pass for a restaurant is pulling in custom. If the shuttered theatres and conference halls dampen the spirits, consolation may be found in the beer gardens, in full swing under the spring sun.New covid-19 infections in Germany are now consistently below 500 a day. But as German states lift restrictions they must try to prevent a second wave. Masks are compulsory on public transport and in shops, and social-distancing rules remain in place (if often ignored). Borders and schools are partially shut. But perhaps most important in fighting contagion are Germany’s phalanx of

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Europe’s habit of propping up firms may outlast the pandemic

2 days ago

May 30th 2020Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our coronavirus hubIT NORMALLY TAKES the European Commission about six months to review an EU member state’s request to derogate from the rules against subsidising domestic industry. Not these days. Since the outbreak of covid-19 roiled economies everywhere, requests to circumvent “state-aid” rules are often approved in under 24 hours, even on weekends. A trickle of demands from all over the bloc has turned into a flood. Nearly 200 subsidy schemes and bail-outs worth over €2trn ($2.2trn), equivalent to Italy’s GDP, have been cleared by eurocrats.The single market at the heart of the European economy is built partly on the

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Eastern Europe’s covid-19 recession could match its post-communist one

2 days ago

May 28th 2020BERLINEditor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our coronavirus hubEUROPE HAS so far been hit the hardest of any continent by covid-19, but the pandemic has been more tornado than hurricane, ravaging some areas while leaving others nearly unscathed. Eastern Europe has been less affected than the west, and even eastern Germany less than western Germany. Southern Europe has suffered more than the north. Gaps between neighbours can be striking: Spain’s excess mortality per person is more than triple that in Portugal, and France’s quadruple that in Germany. Economically, too, the impact is uneven. As forecasts of the pandemic’s economic damage emerge, central and

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A beery European spy club is revealed

3 days ago

May 28th 2020A DANE, A Swede, a German and a Dutchman walk into a bar. It is 1979 and spooks from the four countries are conferring in a Munich suburb over dark and malty lagers. For years they had co-operated in the business of signals intelligence, or SIGINT—intercepting messages and cracking codes—and wanted a name for their budding spy pact. “They looked at their glasses, filled with Doppelbock beer of the local brand Maximator,” writes Bart Jacobs, a Dutch computer-science professor, “and reached a decision.”In a paper published last month, Mr Jacobs revealed the existence of the Maximator alliance for the first time. It was formed in 1976, when Denmark joined forces with Germany and Sweden to intercept and decipher messages sent by satellites. The Netherlands joined two years later,

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Sweden’s reindeer-herding Sami take back control

9 days ago

May 21st 2020TO MOST PEOPLE, one reindeer looks much like another. But for Anders-Erling Fjallas, one of the Sami people indigenous to northern Sweden, it is easy to tell which reindeer belongs to whom. “We carve our brand in their ears with a knife when the calves are a few months old,” says Mr Fjallas, who owns about 700 of the animals. Once hunter-gatherers, the Sami switched to herding reindeer (caribou) in the Middle Ages. Nowadays they move with their herds between the lowlands and the mountains. But their lifestyle is threatened by development.Until recently there was little they could do about this. But in 2009 Girjas, a Sami community, sued the government for control of hunting and fishing permits in their territory. On January 23rd Sweden’s supreme court ruled for the Sami,

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Will tourists come to sunny Spain this year?

9 days ago

May 23rd 2020MADRIDON MAY 18TH for the first time in nine weeks the idyllic beaches of Formentera, the smallest of the Balearics, were open for bathing. The same went for three of the eight Canary Islands. The coronavirus lockdown means that all of Spain’s other beaches will remain closed for at least another week. But even when they open, how many holidaymakers will be able or willing to laze on them?For Spain much hangs on whether at least some of the summer season can be rescued from the virus. The tourist industry is 12% of the country’s economy and provides 13% of jobs. In the Balearics and the Canaries, the respective figures rise to over a third. And they are especially dependent on northern European sunseekers: between July and September 91% of tourists to the Balearics are

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The wizards of Luxembourg

9 days ago

May 21st 2020IN THE ATTENTION-STARVED world of EU politics, officials and politicians like to vaunt themselves. Folks in the European Commission refer to themselves as the “guardians of the treaties”, which sounds like a tagline from a superhero movie starring polyglot bureaucrats. More enthusiastic MEPs label the European Parliament “the heart of European democracy”. The woeful turnout at European elections—51% in 2019—suggests otherwise.Only the inhabitants of the European Court of Justice, the EU’s top court, play down their importance. The court is a mere “umpire”, says its president, Koen Lenaerts, a Belgian jurist who has sat on it for three decades. It simply clears up any confusions left over in the bloc’s treaties, steering clear of politics. The Luxembourg-based court often

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The Merkel-Macron plan to bail out Europe is surprisingly ambitious

9 days ago

May 21st 2020BERLIN AND PARIS“IN EVERY BEGINNING dwells a certain magic,” beamed Angela Merkel, cribbing from Herman Hesse, when a freshly inaugurated Emmanuel Macron visited Berlin three years ago. But Germany’s chancellor added an earthy caveat: “The magic lasts only when there are results.” And there have been precious few to speak of. A plan to reboot the euro area was ground down to a budget of homeopathic insignificance. A revised Franco-German treaty substituted symbols for substance. Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron fell out on everything from Brexit to the Balkans. Europe’s “locomotive” was left idle in the sidings.So the ambition of the two leaders’ proposal for a post-covid EU recovery plan, unveiled on May 18th, came as a genuine surprise. The plan, mainly thrashed out in three

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Russia’s covid-19 outbreak is far worse than the Kremlin admits

10 days ago

May 21st 2020Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our hubRUSSIA IS MORE successful in fighting covid-19 than the West, thanks to its superior health-care system and excellent leadership. Though faced with one of the highest rates of infection, its fatality rate is a seventh of that in most countries. That is, if you believe Russian statistics.Few independent experts do. Russia has officially recorded just over 300,000 cases of covid-19 and 2,900 deaths, which makes its fatality rate less than 1%, compared with 4.5% in Germany and 14% in Britain. Yet the fatality rate among Russia’s front-line health professionals, who keep their own records, is about 16 times as high as

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NATO is facing up to Russia in the Arctic Circle

16 days ago

May 16th 2020THE BARENTS SEA is not a hospitable place for visitors. “Frequent snow storms…blotted out the land for hours on end,” wrote an unlucky British submariner sent there to snoop around during the cold war. “We faced the beastliness of spray which turned to ice even before it struck our faces.” American and British warships have not exercised there since the 1980s—until they returned last week.On May 1st a flotilla of two American destroyers, a nuclear submarine, a support ship and a long-range maritime-patrol aircraft, plus a British frigate, practised their sub-hunting skills in the Norwegian Sea. That is not out of the ordinary; NATO has been rediscovering its cold-war interest in the Arctic in recent years. In 2018, for instance, an American aircraft-carrier sallied into the

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No one knows how many people live in North Macedonia

16 days ago

May 16th 2020IT IS AN odd admission for the boss of a national statistical agency. Not only are many of his numbers wrong, says Apostol Simovski, head of North Macedonia’s statistical office, but he has no idea what the right ones might be. Officially, there are 2.08m people in his country. In fact, he says: “I am afraid there are no more than 1.5m, but I cannot prove it.”Countless calculations—income per head, number of bathtubs per head—depend on knowing how many heads there are. If Mr Simovski is right and there are 27.5% fewer people in North Macedonia than officially estimated, then GDP per head, among other things, will be much higher. However, the true population may be between 1.6m and 1.8m, says Izet Zeqiri, an economist. Until there is a census, no one will know.The last count

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The enduring influence of Kraftwerk

16 days ago

May 16th 2020WHO SPEAKS for Europe? Henry Kissinger’s question has never found a satisfactory answer, but a literalist might turn to the press room of the Berlaymont building in Brussels. Here, day after day, well-groomed spokespeople for the European Commission calmly field questions from a potpourri of journalists in antiseptic surroundings, slipping smoothly from one language to another as they address the finer points of telecoms regulation, border irregularities or fisheries law. (At least they did, before covid-19 struck.)It is hard for such a bloodless organisation to find appropriate cultural expression. The EU’s anthem, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, satisfies its leaders’ self-regard but is an ill fit for a club with little hold on public affection. Better, surely, to turn to

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Is Sweden’s approach to covid-19 wise or reckless?

16 days ago

May 16th 2020Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hubAS BLEARY-EYED Europeans squint in the sun, freshly released from coronavirus lockdowns, worries about a second wave of infections are on everybody’s mind. Life cannot return completely to normal until a vaccine is available. What sort of semi-normal life might work in the meantime is the big question. Sweden may hold the answer.In March, when governments across Europe seemed to be competing to impose the toughest anti-viral measures—from closing borders to forbidding people from venturing out even for a walk—Sweden

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France is leaving lockdown. Now the trouble begins

16 days ago

May 14th 2020PARISEditor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hubON THE ESTUARY of the river Seine in Normandy, the Renault factory at Sandouville lies silent and empty. Usually, the 1,900 workers at this plant turn out 132,000 vehicles a year, mostly delivery vans. But on May 7th a court in Le Havre ordered Renault not to reopen fully as planned on May 11th, when France began its déconfinement, or emergence from lockdown. It upheld a complaint brought by the Confédération Générale du Travail, a union with historical links to the Communist Party, that the firm had not followed

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Turkey investigates those who object to homophobia

23 days ago

May 9th 2020ISTANBULSTUCK AT HOME during Ramadan because of covid-19, Turks at least have something new to argue about. In a sermon marking the start of the holy month on April 24th, Ali Erbas, the country’s top religious official, proclaimed that Islam condemned homosexuality “because it brought illnesses and generational decay”.After human-rights groups, some opposition politicians and the Ankara Bar Association accused Mr Erbas of inciting hatred, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters rushed to the cleric’s defence. One of his flacks said Mr Erbas could not be faulted for voicing “divine judgment”. Another accused his critics of Islamophobia. “An attack against the head of the Diyanet is an attack on the state,” Mr Erdogan himself warned, referring to the

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Italy, the first country in Europe to enter lockdown, starts to emerge

23 days ago

May 9th 2020FLORENCEEditor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hubMAGDA VERGARI, co-owner of the Bar La Lastra in the hills above Florence, used to sell 80 to 100 pastries a day. “Now, I’m ordering 20,” she says gloomily. Despite an easing of Italy’s strict covid-19 lockdown on May 4th, her sales of coffee are also running at a quarter of the normal level. The problem is that customers are not allowed to enjoy their breakfast cappuccino and brioche at the counter. The new rules preserve social distancing, and only allow bars and restaurants to offer takeaways. Ms Vergari’s

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European leaders are appealing directly to voters in other countries

23 days ago

May 9th 2020IN THE NASTY, brutish and short life of an Italian prime minister, an interview with a mid-market Dutch newspaper is not usually a high priority. Yet when faced with the worst health crisis in a century and the prospect of economic meltdown, Giuseppe Conte took time to speak to De Telegraaf about the crisis. In it, Mr Conte addressed the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, in front of his voters: “Mark, help us now.”European leaders are attempting to burst out of the corset of national politics. Increasingly, politicians across the EU are going over the heads of their peers and speaking to each other’s voters directly instead. A group of Italian mayors recently bought an advert in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, calling for debt relief, with a punchy reference to Germany

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Russia’s leading business paper is being gagged

23 days ago

May 9th 2020THEY ARRIVED together. The first issue of Vedomosti, Russia’s leading business newspaper, appeared in September 1999, a month after Vladimir Putin was appointed prime minister and anointed as future president. It was half pink and half white, a tribute to its foreign co-founders and shareholders: the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.The timing of the new venture was brave. Russia was reeling from its financial crisis of 1998 and heading into a brutal war in Chechnya. But the economy started to grow, private businesses sprang up and Vedomosti was there to write about them. Its journalists and editors, most of them in their 20s, embodied the aspiration to integrate with the world and prove that business in Russia need not be the exclusive domain of the mafia and

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Many covid deaths in care homes are unrecorded

23 days ago

May 9th 2020PARISEditor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hubAT A CARE home high in the hills above Cannes, on the French Riviera, the first report at the end of March was of 12 deaths. A week later, the toll had surged to 24. The town’s undertaker was overwhelmed. Families began to panic. By April 30th, 38 of the original 109 residents at the care home were dead, from confirmed or suspected covid-19. In care homes across France 9,471 deaths had been recorded by May 5th—nearly two-fifths of the country’s official covid-19 death toll.This grim situation became apparent in

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Germany’s highest court takes issue with the European Central Bank

23 days ago

May 7th 2020BERLINTHE MAGNIFICENT scarlet robes that adorn the judges of Germany’s constitutional court trace their origins to a spot of judicial attention-seeking. Soon after the court was established in 1951, its judges decided they needed to distinguish themselves from their peers on the Federal Court of Justice, and recruited a theatrical costumier to update their look. Yet, as the judges showed on May 5th, their rulings can be even more eye-catching than their attire.This week’s ruling took aim at the Public Sector Purchase Programme (PSPP), a quantitative-easing scheme established by the European Central Bank in 2015. Over the years a gaggle of conservative German academics, lawyers and hangers-on have regularly visited Karlsruhe, where the court sits, to challenge the legality of

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A former president of Georgia tries to shake up Ukraine

April 30, 2020

May 2nd 2020THE LAST time Mikheil Saakashvili grabbed the headlines in Ukraine was when he was filmed climbing onto the roof of an apartment block in Kyiv, the capital, as he was being chased by security men. That was in December 2017, when the former president of Georgia, who had bizarrely become a prominent politician in Ukraine, was being hounded by Ukraine’s then president, Petro Poroshenko, a one-time friend who had invited him to Ukraine and then turned against him.Now the tables have turned against Mr Poroshenko, who is himself under investigation, having lost the presidency nearly a year ago to Volodymyr Zelensky, a former TV comedian. Meanwhile Mr Saakashvili is back in the limelight, vying for a key job as a deputy prime minister in charge of reforms and negotiations with the

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Some countries want central databases for contact-tracing apps

April 30, 2020

May 2nd 2020Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hubBY EARLY APRIL, as covid-19 spread around the world and lockdown gripped Europe, many of its governments had started building contact-tracing apps. They hoped to use smartphones to track people’s contact with each other, and to pinpoint who might have been infected. Apple and Google tried to help. They started working together to rewrite the Bluetooth protocols in their phones so that apps could gather contact data in the background, from both iPhones and Android devices, without interfering with the normal operation of

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A scandal in squeaky-clean Norway

April 30, 2020

May 2nd 2020BERLIN“WE EVEN HAD to pay for our cup of coffee in meetings,” says Espen Henriksen, recalling the strict code of conduct at the world’s largest sovereign- wealth fund. Mr Henriksen, who now works at the Norwegian Business School, reckons that anyone else who accepted a flight on a private jet and hospitality from a hedge-fund billionaire, as Yngve Slyngstad did, would have been fired instantly. But Mr Slyngstad, the outgoing boss of Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), merely told its employees that he was very sorry for having “screwed up”. He still intends to stay on as an adviser for another two years, once his successor takes over in September.The big question now is whether, amid all the furore created by Mr Slyngstad’s misstep (the first in his 22 years at the fund),

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Christian Drosten, Germany’s covid-19 explainer-in-chief

April 30, 2020

May 2nd 2020Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hubCHRISTIAN DROSTEN of Berlin’s Charité—Germany’s most renowned hospital—knows a thing or two about going viral. Despite his busy schedule advising Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government, Charité’s head of virology has regularly spoken with two journalists from NDR, a public broadcaster, since February 26th. Their 30-minute-plus podcast went out every weekday for the first six weeks of the crisis, and still goes out twice a week.When the podcast launched, Germany had just 21 recorded cases of covid-19 and the

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An interview with Luigi Di Maio

April 30, 2020

May 2nd 2020ROMEYOU MIGHT expect Italy’s foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, to be wary of sporting allusions. One of the many jobs—none of them permanent—that he took on before his spectacular political rise was as a crowd steward for Napoli football club. It has earned the 33-year-old wunderkind more than a few snide comments. But when it comes to judging Italy’s position after last week’s European summit, he cannot resist a metaphor from football.“We’ve had a good first half,” he says. “But now the issue is to win the game.” On April 23rd the leaders of the 27 EU member states agreed to establish a big covid-19 recovery fund linked to the EU budget—a decision that ran counter to Germany’s previously resolute opposition to ambitious spending plans. Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte,

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Do low-trust societies do better in a pandemic?

April 30, 2020

May 2nd 2020AMSTERDAM AND BUCHARESTEditor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hubSURVEYS CONSISTENTLY find that residents of north-western Europe trust their governments and fellow citizens quite a lot, while those in southern and eastern Europe do not. When the World Values Survey (WVS) asks Swedes whether most people can be trusted, more than 60% answer yes. In Italy only about 30% do so, and in Romania a mere 7%. Another study, the European Social Survey (ESS), asks respondents to rate their trust in politicians on a ten-point scale. In 2018 the Dutch averaged 5.4, the Poles

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Emmanuel Macron ditches Jupiter for other gods

April 29, 2020

Apr 30th 2020Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hubTHE OFFICIAL presidential plane, with its crisp-white fuselage and tricolore livery, is cruising at high altitude towards Paris from Beijing. Inside his airborne meeting room, Emmanuel Macron has just finished a debrief at the end of a China trip, leaving his staff to snatch a few hours’ sleep. To the visitor’s untrained eye, the most astonishing feature in the presidential aircraft office is not the framed print fixed defiantly to the wall, nor the leather chairs bolted rigidly to the floor. It is that Mr Macron is

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Germany excels among its European peers

April 23, 2020

Apr 25th 2020BERLINEditor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hubIF ANY BIG European country can be said to have so far had a good corona crisis, it is Germany. Deaths are fewer than in other countries, the state helps ailing firms and workers and the politicians seem level-headed and competent. Places with more erratic leadership have noted the contrast. British journalists ask their politicians why they can’t emulate Germany’s testing rates. American television networks urge Jens Spahn, the health minister, to reveal Germany’s secrets. One columnist even mused that Angela

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