Monday , April 24 2017
Home / The Economist: Europe
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

Workers in southern Europe are stuck in lousy jobs

4 days ago

EMA ZELIKOVITCH, a 24-year-old philosophy graduate in Madrid, takes a deep breath before listing the jobs she has held over the past few years. While at university she worked as a dance teacher, waitress, street fund-raiser for NGOs, call-centre operator and greeter at political conferences for Podemos, a far-left party. Since graduating she has juggled jobs at two restaurants, but one recently sacked her. Every job was on a temporary, or “fixed-term���, contract. And while some paid her a living wage, none came with a path to promotion.Dead-end, fixed-term jobs have haunted southern Europe for decades. In 2015 over half of employed 15-to-29 year olds in Spain were on temporary contracts, compared to two-fifths in Italy and just under a quarter in Greece; the average across the European

Read More »

Martin Schulz wants to emulate his “idol”. It won’t be easy

4 days ago

WHEN Martin Schulz entered the village hall in Nunkirchen on March 24th, in the hilly German state of Saarland, the cheer nearly blew the roof off. To a beery crowd of villagers and party activists, the candidate for Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who hopes to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor, was introduced as a near-messiah: “the man who made politics in Germany interesting again, who has reinstated the SPD’s self-belief, who has put social justice back on the agenda, who will be our next chancellor!” As he ascended the stage a hush fell. The bells of the church next door began to peal: “I didn’t ask for that!”, he insisted.His speech quickly transcended the borders of Saarland, which was about to elect a new government. Mr Schulz ruminated on Europe; cracked folksy

Read More »

French Guiana, in South America, seeks more autonomy from France

4 days ago

OF ALL the voters fuming about neglect by out-of-touch politicians in distant Paris, the people of French Guiana have perhaps the strongest case. It is the second-poorest of France’s five overseas departments (DOMs). The unemployment rate, at over 20%, is more than double that of the mainland. Some 40% live in poverty. The murder rate is the highest in France.The department is entering its fifth week of a general strike. Thousands of Guianese have taken to the streets to protest against high living costs, lack of jobs and crime. The demonstrations started on March 20th, when workers from Endel-Engie, an engineering firm, and EDF, the local energy utility, blocked roads outside the coastal city of Kourou to prevent the launch of a rocket from the Guiana Space Centre, which is based near the

Read More »

Ireland is ditching peat for energy from wind

5 days ago

PEAT has a lot to recommend it. It imparts a delicious flavour to whiskey. It emits an agreeable aroma when burned. It is a cheap source of energy; at its simplest it involves no more than digging by hand. Ireland, which has bogs full of the stuff, uses it for 6% of its energy.But peat is also one of the dirtiest fuels available, emitting 23% more carbon dioxide than coal. Ireland is unusual among developed countries in burning it for energy on an industrial scale. A geological precursor to coal, it has been used on the island for at least 1,000 years. But it may at last be on its way out as Ireland turns to another energy source of which it has unlimited quantities: wind.Galway Wind Park, in the remote, soggy hills of Connemara facing the Atlantic Ocean, will be Ireland’s largest wind

Read More »

Recep Tayyip Erdogan gets the power he has long wanted—at a cost

7 days ago

IT WAS a vote that turned out to be as controversial as it was hotly contested. Even before all of the ballots had been counted, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, stepped in front of a crowd of supporters in Istanbul and proclaimed victory. “My nation stood upright and undivided,” he said, referring to the referendum on a constitution that will give him new, virtually unchecked powers. “April 16th was a victory for all of Turkey.”Yet it was hardly the win Mr Erdogan had expected. The Yes camp, which the president headed, limped away with just 51.4% of the vote. The opposition accused the country’s electoral authority of foul play. Outside observers charged the government with stacking the odds in its favour. Anti-government demonstrations broke out in a number of Turkish cities.

Read More »

European voters no longer care much about growth

12 days ago

PUNDITS and political scientists don’t always agree. When it comes to predicting electoral outcomes, though, both tribes assume that the economy is the most reliable oracle. Numerous studies have found a strong correlation between GDP growth and voting behaviour. Whether or not those in power are responsible for the economy, it has been responsible for whether or not they get re-elected.A study by Ruth Dassonneville, now at the University of Montreal, and Michael Lewis-Beck of the University of Iowa makes the relationship clear. They examined economic performance and elections in 31 European countries from 1952 to 2013. After controlling for other factors, such as the number of parties in an election, a 1% increase in GDP was associated with an increase of nearly three-quarters of a

Read More »

Europe is trying to keep Russia from influencing its elections

12 days ago

IN AN influential article in 2013, Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian general staff, described a new doctrine (often termed “hybrid warfare”) involving “information conflict” alongside diplomacy and military force to achieve geopolitical aims. To Americans, the Russian-sponsored hacking and distribution of fake news during last year’s presidential election were a shocking example of this strategy. Yet there is little new about it. The Kremlin has been using spooks and shills to sway Western politics since the days of the Soviet Union. The difference now is that the rise of social media and of populist politics, on both the right and the left, have provided new tools and allies to work with. With France and Germany facing elections this year, Europe expects to be the next target of what

Read More »

The number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean keeps rising

12 days ago

THE 16-year-old Gambian who was discovered by a Spanish naval ship as he clung to a fuel tank in open seas will doubtless be haunted by his experience for the rest of his days. But he was also exceptionally fortunate—the only survivor, by his account, among more than 140 people who left the Libyan port of Sabratha on a large rubber dinghy on March 26th or 27th. It began taking on water a few hours later, he told UN officials from his hospital bed on the Italian island of Lampedusa.Details of sinkings in the central Mediterranean are often sketchy and sometimes unconfirmed. The Libyan Red Crescent said no bodies had been found from the disaster the young Gambian reported. But it is clear from figures kept by international organisations that both the risks of setting out from Libya and the

Read More »

France’s presidential election is a four-way race

12 days ago

PERCHED on a river bend in an unfashionable expanse of central France, Châteaudun is in many ways a typical French town. It boasts a 15th-century chateau, an unemployment rate of 10%, a fine main square shaded by plane trees and a Turkish kebab restaurant. This town of 13,000 inhabitants also happens to have a record of voting in line with the rest of the country. In 2007 locals backed the winner, Nicolas Sarkozy, on the right. In 2012 they voted for the victor, François Hollande, on the left. Today, as the first round of this year’s presidential election approaches on April 23rd, voters once again seem to reflect the national mood.“I’m perplexed,” says Bertrand, a pensioner shopping on the main square, who voted for Mr Sarkozy in 2012 but has yet to make up his mind this time. He thinks

Read More »

The Swedish expert with the strange Russian connections

12 days ago

CHARGES of Russian interference in European politics tend to be shrouded in mystery. Take the case of Egor Putilov (pictured), also known as Alexander Fridback, Tobias Lagerfeldt and Aleksandr Yarovenko. On June 8th 2016, Sveriges Radio, the Swedish public radio station, interviewed Mr Putilov, who identified himself as a former employee of the national migration agency. He stated that asylum-seekers as old as 40 were claiming to be children, and that the agency was letting them in. In a country divided over refugee policy, the allegation seemed explosive.Two hours later, Sveriges Radio deleted the interview. Mr Putilov was an unreliable source: he had taken a journalism course at the broadcaster some months earlier, and had been reported to the police for failing to return his temporary

Read More »

The EU should plan for a Marine Le Pen presidency

12 days ago

AS USUAL, the president’s first foreign trip is to the chancellery in Berlin. But the meeting with Angela Merkel does not go well. The two women instantly begin squabbling. Accused of breaking Europe’s rules on borders, Mrs Merkel fires back that her visitor has not done her homework: Germany has always acted lawfully. Fine, growls la présidente: if Mrs Merkel wants a war, she will get one. On her return to Paris the president orders the European Union flag removed from official buildings. Soon afterwards she calls, and wins, a referendum on France’s exit from the euro. The streets stir, stockmarkets swoon and Europe reels.This cheerful tale, as depicted in “La Présidente” by François Durpaire and Farid Boudjellal, a graphic novel that imagines Marine Le Pen’s first months as president of

Read More »

To win more power, Turkey’s president needs his enemies’ votes

18 days ago

WITH just over a week before a referendum on constitutional changes that would give him practically unchecked powers, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ought to be coasting to victory. The media have been defanged. Critics, including members of his own party, are afraid to speak up. The secular opposition is tripping over its own shoelaces. Yet Mr Erdogan is not assured of a win on April 16th. Most polls show the “no” and “yes” sides too close to call. The outcome now hinges largely on two groups that have long been at each other’s throats: Kurds and nationalists.In Diyarbakir, the heart of the Kurdish southeast, battered over the past two years by fighting between insurgents from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces, the referendum is not a burning

Read More »

Reports emerge of Chechnya rounding up and killing gay people

18 days ago

“THE youngest one was 16 years old, he’s from our village,” reads a post on VKontakte, a Russian social-networking site. “They recently brought him back, all beat up, just a bag of bones. They dumped him in the courtyard and said to kill him.”The post was by an anonymous user from Chechnya, on a group for closeted gay people from the Caucasus. It was one of the clearer indications of a brutal anti-gay campaign believed to be unfolding across the Chechen Republic. Earlier this week Novaya Gazeta, a Russian opposition newspaper, published a series of reports claiming that authorities had been detaining dozens of men in a secret prison “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.” The paper wrote that two recent waves of crackdowns have seen more than 100

Read More »

France’s presidential election is tearing its left apart

18 days ago

BACK in 2002, the French Socialists suffered such a stinging defeat at a presidential election that it gave birth to a new noun. Un 21 avril, referring to the date that their candidate, Lionel Jospin, was evicted in the first round, became a term used for any shock political elimination. Today, ahead of the first round of this year’s presidential election on April 23rd, the Socialists are bracing themselves not just for elimination from the run-off, but for a far greater humiliation, one which could call into question the party’s very survival.Current polls put Benoît Hamon, the Socialist candidate, in a dismal fifth place. He trails not only the nationalist Marine Le Pen, the liberal Emmanuel Macron, and the traditional right’s François Fillon. In the past fortnight, Mr Hamon has also

Read More »

Russian authorities have a suspect in the St Petersburg bombing

18 days ago

THE oldest victim was 71 years old, the youngest just 18. One was a third-year university student described by a teacher as “pretty, smart, sweet and intelligent”. Another was a middle-aged mother known for sewing and selling elaborate dolls. They all entered the St Petersburg underground on the afternoon of April 3rd expecting to return home.An attacker had other plans. A bomb ripped through the third carriage of a train travelling beneath the city centre at around 2.40pm, leaving 14 dead and some 50 more wounded. “There was a bang, and dust,” said the train’s driver, Alexander Kaverin. Russian security officials say that the attacker left a second, larger explosive device at another station, though it did not detonate. That the bombing came as President Vladimir Putin (pictured) was

Read More »

Theresa May is signalling a readiness to compromise on Brexit

18 days ago

HUGO YOUNG, an author, alighted on Hobbesian metaphors to describe Britain’s negotiations, in the early 1970s, to join the then European Economic Community. But if accession was “nasty”, “occasionally brutish” and “indisputably long”, leaving the club may prove harder still. Last week Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister, praised the European Union effusively even as she triggered the process to leave it, beginning two years of withdrawal negotiations. But Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, captured the mood better, predicting “difficult, complex and sometimes even confrontational” talks.This week’s contretemps over Gibraltar was a depressing reminder that the strain of British jingoism unearthed by the vote to leave the EU last June remains alive. It will no doubt find fresh

Read More »

Hungary passes a law to shut down a bothersome university

18 days ago

WITH just 1,440 students, the Central European University (CEU) is one of Hungary’s smallest institutions of higher education, but it may be its most prestigious. Housed in a mix of grand historic and ultramodern buildings in central Budapest, it draws visiting professors from across Europe and America, and its graduates include many members of Hungary’s business and political elite. It was founded in 1991 by George Soros, a Hungarian-born billionaire, as part of his philanthropic effort to promote liberal democratic values in formerly communist countries. This annoys Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, and his ruling Fidesz party. On April 4th Mr Orban fast-tracked a law through parliament that could force CEU to close.The legislation requires foreign-accredited universities in

Read More »

France’s presidential race is a clash of worldviews

25 days ago

WHAT did Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s National Front, expect to gain by visiting Moscow on March 24th? Her core supporters relished seeing her with Vladimir Putin, a strong woman standing next to a strongman. Ms Le Pen came away claiming that the world now belongs to nationalist populists such as Mr Putin, Donald Trump, India’s Narendra Modi and, implicitly, herself. Interestingly, the visit did not seem aimed at the usual goal of candidates who go abroad: reassuring voters that they can safely be trusted with foreign policy.In French campaigns, gravitas-enhancing trips beyond the Hexagone (as mainland France is known) are especially popular with candidates who have little experience of governing. This year Ms Le Pen has been to America (where she was seen sipping coffee in Trump

Read More »

As the world sours on trade, the EU sweetens on it

25 days ago

WHAT a difference a few months makes. Barely half a year ago the European Union’s (EU’s) trade policy was a mess. A much-touted trade and investment partnership (TTIP) with the United States was on life support, trashed by NGOs and consumer groups, and disowned by some of the politicians who had asked for it in the first place. A deal with cuddly Canada (CETA) barely survived an encounter with a preening regional parliament in Belgium. Governments were scrapping over how to respond to state-subsidised Chinese steel, and Britain, among the club’s weightiest pro-trade voices, had voted to leave the EU, a decision made flesh by the government’s Article 50 letter this week.And now? Trade is “going to be huge in the coming months”, says a European diplomat. His word choice is a reminder of the

Read More »

Aleksei Navalny brings Russia’s opposition back to life

25 days ago

NOBODY inside or outside Russia saw it coming. The government seemed to have established complete control over politics, marginalising the opposition with nationalist adventures in Ukraine and Syria. Vladimir Putin’s approval rating had stabilised at more than 80%. After Donald Trump’s victory in America, the Kremlin had proclaimed the threat of global liberalism to be over. And yet on March 26th, 17 years to the day after Mr Putin was first elected, tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in nearly 100 cities to demonstrate against corruption, in the largest protests since 2012.The protests began in Vladivostok and rolled across the country to Moscow and St Petersburg, which saw the largest crowds. Riot police arrested more than 1,000 people in Moscow alone. The state media

Read More »

Who kidnapped the son of Slovakia’s president?

26 days ago

IN AUGUST 1995 Michal Kovac Jr, whose father was president of newly independent Slovakia, was stopped in his car by armed men who handcuffed him, forced him to drink two bottles of whisky and began driving him to an unknown destination. When he tried to jump out of the car, they beat him and shocked him with a stun gun. The 34-year-old Mr Kovac woke up in Austria, where police arrested him in connection with a German financial probe. They said they had been tipped off to his whereabouts by a Slovak informant. An Austrian court soon released him because of the illegal manner of his detainment. He was never charged.Slovak police and justice officials investigating the kidnapping were frustrated when a key witness went into hiding and his police contact was killed with a car-bomb. Still, they

Read More »

Portugal cuts its fiscal deficit while raising pensions and wages

26 days ago

NO ONE would have called António Costa, Portugal’s Socialist prime minister, a fiscal hawk when he took office in November 2015. After finishing second to the centre-right Social Democrats in an inconclusive general election, he cobbled together a coalition with the far left, promising to “turn the page on austerity”. Conservatives dubbed his pact with radicals and communists the geringonça, a term for an improbable contraption. He pledged both to reverse the austerity measures attached to Portugal’s bail-out during the euro crisis and to meet stiff fiscal targets. Many called it voodoo economics.Yet Mr Costa has kept his word. In 2016, according to figures released on March 24th, his government cut the budget deficit by more than half to just under 2.1% of GDP (see chart), the lowest

Read More »

In France’s presidential race, Emmanuel Macron likes his chances

March 23, 2017

A BARNACLE has nothing on François Fillon. Neither scandals nor broken promises nor the defection of allies can prise the Republican candidate from his presidential campaign. Each week brings new details of his questionable practices as a businessman-politician. Last week a court put him under formal investigation for steering about €900,000 ($970,000) of public funds over 25 years to family members who it seems did little to earn it. Mr Fillon, despite a solemn vow to quit if this happened, decided to hang on.In a televised debate on March 20th the candidate alluded to having made mistakes. One was surely his failure to declare gifts of nearly €50,000 since 2012 in the form of finely stitched suits from a Paris tailor. More damning was the news, leaked on March 21st, that investigators

Read More »

Spain’s greatest art museum gets a new director

March 23, 2017

AT THE turn of this century the Prado, Spain’s premier art museum, slumbered in neglect. Limited opening hours and an almost complete lack of information about its paintings seemed calculated to put off visitors. Deliverance came with a law in 2003 granting it autonomy from the civil service. Before that the museum’s staff ran the place in their own interest and the director had little power, says Eduardo Serra, a former defence minister who as chair of the Prado’s trustees pushed the law through. To implement it he hired Miguel Zugaza, a shrewd manager, as director.Miguel Falomir, who was appointed as Mr Zugaza’s successor on March 21st, inherits a Prado that is flourishing. It attracts 3m visitors a year. It has weathered state funding cuts: about 70% of its budget of €45m ($49m) now

Read More »

Italy is Europe’s leaden-toed boot

March 23, 2017

THE European Union may be a Franco-German construction, but when the project needs a dose of grandiosity it invariably turns to Italy. This weekend the leaders of 27 EU countries (all bar Britain) will convene in Rome’s glorious Palazzo dei Conservatori, beneath 17th-century frescoes and flanked by sculptures of sundry popes, to proclaim their unity—60 years after their forefathers signed the Treaty of Rome, the EU’s founding document, in the same room. In today’s fractious union the symbolism counts for something, even if the declaration the leaders will issue is crushingly bland. Yet there will be a note of irony to the proceedings, for if you ask officials in Brussels or Berlin which country keeps them up at night, the answer is always the same: Italy.Very little changes here, sighs a

Read More »

With EU accession distant, Balkan countries find a substitute

March 23, 2017

TO JUDGE by the headlines, things are getting pretty hairy in the western Balkans. Newspapers have been running articles arguing that borders should be redrawn. Russia’s foreign ministry has accused Western officials of promoting a Greater Albania. Montenegro claims that Russia was behind an alleged coup attempt last November aimed at stalling its accession to NATO. Serbia has excoriated the president of Kosovo for suggesting that his demilitarised country might form an army, and Macedonia has lashed out against Kosovo and Albania for supposedly interfering in its domestic affairs.Most of these clashes are empty posturing by leaders who are facing elections or other domestic challenges. But they have had one real consequence: Western governments have become alarmed enough to start paying

Read More »

In the Middle East, Russia is reasserting its power

March 22, 2017

THE black fur hat looked odd on a Libyan warlord. But fur is de rigueur in wintertime Moscow, which has become an essential stop for Middle Eastern leaders like Khalifa Haftar, who visited twice in 2016. This month his rival, Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, dropped by. Jordan’s King Abdullah, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu have all stopped at the Kremlin for audiences with Vladimir Putin this year.The visitors are a sign of Russia’s growing activity in the Middle East. “The policy is wider than just Syria,” says Andrei Kortunov of the Russian International Affairs Council, a think-tank. Russia’s interests in the region include security, arms sales and oil. But most important, the Middle East offers a platform to reinforce

Read More »

Ireland’s Enda Kenny has lost his twinkle

March 16, 2017

IRISH-AMERICANS, who celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a frenzy of public drunkenness, dyed-green beer and leprechaun costumes, might be disappointed at how the Irish themselves mark the holiday. Most prefer to watch the parades on television rather than brave the changeable spring weather, perhaps hoisting an evening toast to Saint Paddy (never “Saint Patty”, as it is often rendered in America). And they never put dye in their beer. Those in search of emerald ale must go abroad, as indeed nearly the entire cabinet does every year, fanning out to visit the global Irish diaspora. In no other country do the upper ranks of government mark the national holiday by flocking overseas.The most high-profile ritual takes place in Washington, where the taoiseach (prime minister) presents America’s

Read More »

Poland has reinforced its position as Europe’s problem child

March 16, 2017

DONALD TUSK’S appointment as president of the European Council in 2014 seemed to complete Poland’s journey to the heart of the European Union. A decade after Poland led the accession of eight former Soviet-bloc countries, its prime minister was elevated to one of the most senior posts in Brussels. The job involves chairing summits of European leaders and forging compromise from their debates. At first some thought Mr Tusk operated more like a Polish prime minister than a consensus-seeking European. But most came round as he coolly shepherded the EU through the Greek bail-out, the refugee crisis and Britain’s Brexit vote. His election to a second two-and-a-half-year term at an EU summit on March 9th looked like a formality.Instead, Mr Tusk found his own country blocking his path, and a

Read More »

A year on from a deal with Turkey, Europe still struggles with migration

March 16, 2017

LOUNGING in a smoky café in Aksaray, a rundown part of Istanbul, Ahmed, a 23-year-old Palestinian people-smuggler, expresses confidence in the future of his industry. “People come here, they have sold everything, they will find a way to get smuggled,” he shrugs. Business has got harder since March 18th 2016, when the European Union struck a deal with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, to send asylum-seekers back from Europe. But people are still trying to make the journey. Indeed, Ahmed boasts, before the deal smuggling was “too easy”.Ahmed’s bravado contradicts European politicians’ claims that the deal with Turkey has broken the smugglers’ business model. Going purely by the numbers, the Europeans would seem to be right. Before the deal was struck around 50,000 people crossed the

Read More »