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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

How clams help keep Polish water clean

4 days ago

Jan 23rd 2021A WATER PUMP known as Gruba Kaska (Fat Kathy) is a local landmark in Warsaw. To get there, you must walk 300 metres through a slimy tunnel under the Vistula river. There you will find eight clams hooked up to computers. They are monitoring the city’s drinking water.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The system is nifty. When the molluscs encounter heavy metals, pesticides or other pollutants, they close their shells, explains Piotr Domek of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, who has worked on the project for three decades. To create a natural early-warning system, Mr Domek and his colleagues collect the clams from rivers or reservoirs, and attach a coil and a magnet to their shells. Computers

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Russia quits the Open Skies treaty

4 days ago

Jan 23rd 2021THERE ARE few opportunities left for Russian military officers and their NATO rivals to meet face-to-face and shoot the breeze. Soon there may be none. On January 15th Russia said that it would follow America in withdrawing from the Open Skies treaty, a decades-old arms-control pact that allows unarmed surveillance flights over 33 countries.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.America left the treaty in November, complaining that Russia had imposed unacceptable restrictions on flights over Kaliningrad, Russia’s exclave north of Poland, and had used its own flights over America to map out critical infrastructure (which is permitted). NATO allies were aghast, though publicly they sided with

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Armin Laschet, the man who might succeed Angela Merkel

4 days ago

Jan 23rd 2021BERLIN“I MAY NOT be a great showman, but I am Armin Laschet—and you can trust that.” If the words with which Mr Laschet secured the leadership of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) were less than rousing, they encapsulated the appeal of the football-loving cigarillo-chomper who defeated two rivals at a vote of party delegates on January 16th. Now in charge of Germany’s ruling party, Mr Laschet is well placed to succeed Angela Merkel, his CDU colleague, who will step down as chancellor after a general election in September.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Yet Mr Laschet, premier of the hulking western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), faces several hurdles on his way to the chancellery.

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A benefits scandal sinks the Dutch government

4 days ago

Jan 23rd 2021AMSTERDAMEVERY COUNTRY’S welfare state is a reflection of its soul. Take the Netherlands, an egalitarian country but also a deeply Calvinist and bureaucratic one. Dutch benefits are generous. Income inequality is among the lowest in the EU. But benefits are subject to complicated rules meant to exclude the undeserving. These can run amok. Over the past decade, systems meant to snoop out abuse of child-care benefits wrongly labelled more than 20,000 parents as fraudsters and drove many into penury. On January 15th Mark Rutte, the prime minister, and his cabinet resigned over the scandal. It may herald a modest shift to the left in Dutch social policy.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Child care in the

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The EU should stop ignoring the vaccine race and try and win it

4 days ago

Jan 23rd 2021“COPIUM” IS THE most useful recent addition to the political lexicon. The portmanteau of “cope” and “opium” is a metaphorical opiate that dulls the pain of defeat, according to Urban Dictionary, a useful guide to slang. In Europe a slow vaccine roll-out across the EU has left its leaders huffing gallons of the stuff. So far the EU, a club of mostly small rich countries, has vaccinated 1.4% of its population. By contrast Israel, a small rich country, has vaccinated a third of its population. Even Britain, whose health service is a punchline on the continent, has jabbed 7%. With nearly 5% of people vaccinated America, the uncaring antithesis to the EU’s self-image, has done better than anyone in the bloc.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more

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Alexei Navalny returns to Moscow to face Vladimir Putin

4 days ago

Jan 21st 2021MOSCOWIT IS 8.30PM on January 17th. Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia stride through the arrivals terminal of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. A gaggle of journalists is trying to keep up. Mr Navalny spots a bright poster of the Kremlin on the wall. He stops in front of it. Cameras snap. “I am not afraid…this is the happiest day for the past five months of my life,” Mr Navalny declares. “I have come home.”Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Those were Mr Navalny’s first public words back on Russian soil. (Five months earlier he had fallen into a coma after being poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent, and was evacuated to Germany for treatment.) Moments after he spoke, he was detained by officers in black

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Covid-19 and repression in Turkey

11 days ago

Jan 16th 2021ISTANBULSEBNEM KORUR FINCANCI, a forensic physician, and many other doctors had long insisted there was something dodgy about Turkey’s covid-19 figures. Excess deaths across the country far surpassed officially reported deaths from the virus. Case numbers seemed suspiciously low. Vindication came at the end of November, when the government revealed it had stopped reporting asymptomatic infections months earlier. Once it resumed doing so, the case-count rocketed from about 7,000 to over 30,000 a day. (The numbers later dropped, after new lockdowns were imposed.) For her troubles Dr Fincanci, who turned 61 last year, was labelled a terrorist by none other than Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The head of the Nationalist Movement Party, the president’s coalition partner,

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The botched launch of “Cyberpunk 2077”

11 days ago

Jan 16th 2021IT IS EASY to be optimistic about the future of Europe when running through a dystopian hellscape, machinegunning police and decapitating pedestrians with a samurai sword. Such opportunities come thanks to “Cyberpunk 2077”, a Polish video game, launched before Christmas after a decade of development. It sold 13m copies at up to $60 each in its first ten days, with buyers tempted by its mix of hyper-violence, women wearing inexplicably few clothes and a one-armed terrorist played by Keanu Reeves. Pre-launch hype turned its Warsaw-based creator, CD Projekt, into the country’s most valuable listed company and a rare example of European business succeeding at the frontier of a 21st-century industry, rather than coasting on a reputation built up in the century before. Even the

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Racism tests France’s colour-blind model

11 days ago

Jan 16th 2021WHEN GROWING up in La Courneuve, on the unfashionable fringes of Paris, Rokhaya Diallo says she “didn’t feel black”. The daughter of parents from Senegal and the Gambia, she recalls that “being black was just not an issue, because there were so many of us.” It was only as a young adult in Paris, when people began to ask where she came from, that Ms Diallo realised “that they didn’t mean La Courneuve. It was really a matter of the colour of my skin.”Today, Ms Diallo belongs to a generation of French writers and activists who are asserting their identity as black in a way that challenges France’s sense of itself as colour-blind. This is prompting a complex and heated debate about how, and whether, to think about race. It is particularly sensitive in France because its

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Germany’s next chancellor is likely to come from North Rhine-Westphalia

11 days ago

Jan 14th 2021COLOGNE AND DÜSSELDORFON JANUARY 16TH 1,001 parliamentarians, party functionaries and small-town mayors will open their laptops, log into a virtual congress of Germany’s ruling centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and elect their party’s new leader. The winner will instantly become the favourite to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor once she steps down after an election in September. Yet on the face of it the delegates do not have much of a choice. The three candidates—Armin Laschet, Norbert Röttgen and Friedrich Merz—are all Catholic trained lawyers aged between 55 and 65. Each has struggled to find a distinct message during an interminable campaign drawn out over almost a year by the pandemic. And all three come from the same state: North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW),

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In search of Greenland’s rare earths

11 days ago

Jan 14th 2021MOST PEOPLE sniggered when Donald Trump proposed buying Greenland in 2019, but he had a point. The world’s biggest island has a rich helping of rare-earth minerals, and the superpowers want them.These 17 elements, ranging from scandium to lutetium, lurk in the depths of the periodic table and turn up in all things electronic. The renewable-energy revolution will also rely on them for power storage and transmission. On the darker side, weapons—including nuclear ones—need them too.A new open-pit mine at the top of Kuannersuit, a cloud-rimmed mountain near the settlement of Narsaq in the south of the island, may provide a goodly chunk of the rare earths needed to ditch fossil fuels. So believes Greenland Minerals, actually an Australia-based company, which has been angling for

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The lockdown has helped Greece to digitise

18 days ago

Jan 9th 2021ATHENSGREECE RANKS at or near the bottom of the EU class on digitisation, whether you measure it by high-speed internet connections, ownership of laptops and tablets, or online shopping. The government’s digital-transformation “bible”, a scheme to catch up with European peers by 2025, which includes 400 separate projects, is months behind schedule. Yet the country’s second lockdown in November (now set to last until at least January 11th) has spurred an unexpected leap forward in one important area: distance learning.Under a new law passed in the summer, schoolteachers can be required to hold all classes online, from pre-school nurseries to sixth forms preparing for university-entrance exams. When the spread of coronavirus shut down schools across the country in March, maths

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The Dutch royals are botching covid-19 etiquette

18 days ago

Jan 9th 2021AMSTERDAMPOLITICALLY, COVID-19 has been good for Mark Rutte, the Netherlands’ prime minister. Polls show his party’s support has risen from about 15% to 25% since March. Not so for his sovereign, King Willem-Alexander. In April 76% of Dutch said they trusted the king; in December that had dropped to 47%, according to Ipsos, a pollster. Support for the monarchy as a whole fell from 74% to 60%. The main cause seems to be two disastrous holidays. In August Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima were photographed breaking social-distancing rules in Greece. In October the family returned there during the Dutch autumn break, even as the Netherlands headed towards a lockdown. The trip was cut short by public outrage.The House of Orange has been one of Europe’s most popular royal families.

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Does Spain’s leftish leader have his far-left allies under control?

18 days ago

Jan 9th 2021MADRIDA YEAR AGO Pedro Sánchez embarked on a political experiment. After two indecisive elections, he swallowed his previous qualms and formed Spain’s first coalition government since the 1930s, between his Socialists and Podemos, a hard-left party. Within weeks, this minority administration was faced with the pandemic, which has hit Spain especially hard. Yet it survived. Last month Mr Sánchez secured parliamentary approval for a budget, the first since he came to office in 2018. Spanish budgets can be rolled over, so the government now has a chance of serving out its term, which lasts until 2023. But in a country where politics is deeply polarised, the coalition will not have an easy ride.Mr Sánchez’s critics argue that he has survived only by lurching far from the

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Spain and Britain do a deal over Gibraltar

18 days ago

Jan 7th 2021MADRIDGIBRALTAR IS “a perfect synthesis of Britishness and the Mediterranean way of life”, boasts Fabian Picardo, its chief minister. It has red telephone boxes and a Marks & Spencer, but its 34,000 people often lapse into Llanito, a kind of Spanglish, and their daily lives are intertwined with Spain’s. No wonder that 96% of them voted in the referendum in 2016 for Britain to stay in the EU. On December 31st Gibraltar got some consolation for Brexit in the form of an agreement that softens what is now a hard border. It was a victory for common sense.Gibraltar’s economy turns on services: finance, online gambling and tourism. It exports few goods. But it depends on some 10,000 workers who cross each day from Spain, and relies on its Spanish hinterland for space for homes and

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Repairing the transatlantic rift will be tricky

18 days ago

Jan 9th 2021BERLINTWO YEARS ago at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gabfest for buffs of geopolitics, Vice-President Mike Pence delivered to his largely European audience a stinging address, full of rebukes and America First swagger. On the same stage a few hours later, Joe Biden offered a glimpse of a brighter future. “This too shall pass. We will be back,” he said. The election in November seemed to fulfil his prophecy. President-elect Biden has vowed to restore the alliances damaged by Donald Trump. He has stuffed his incoming administration with familiar faces from the Obama years. As he prepares to take office on January 20th, Europeans are again daring to dream.They are also drawing up to-do lists. A month after Mr Biden’s win the European Commission issued a detailed set of

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Far-right parties in Europe tend to rise—and fall

18 days ago

Jan 9th 2021IMAGINE THE dinner party from hell and it would look a lot like the one politicians from Forum for Democracy (FVD), a Dutch far-right party, held in November. It began with a row over the backing music, with guests torn between classical music or Ava Max’s “Kings & Queens”, a trashy dance hit. Over lobster and wine, allegations of anti-Semitism among the party’s youth ranks were dismissed by its leader, Thierry Baudet. Guests were asked how many people they would let die for the sake of freedom (“three million” was Mr Baudet’s offer). Later, the FVD’S leader suggested that covid-19 was the work of George Soros. In the days that followed, as accounts of the dinner surfaced, politicians from the party lined up to quit. It was a spectacular collapse after a remarkable rise.

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As Angela Merkel steps down, German politics wobbles

26 days ago

Jan 2nd 2021BERLIN“WHAT A PRESIDENCY it has been!” After a gruelling all-night EU summit in mid-December, Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, reserved her biggest smile for Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor. The summit, at which the EU’s leaders found agreement on a number of tricky issues, capped Germany’s six-month presidency of the EU Council, which it will hand over to Portugal on January 1st. It may also prove to be the high-water mark of Mrs Merkel’s final term in office.One year ago Mrs Merkel was starting to cut a diminished figure. Having promised not to stand for a fifth term, she buried herself in foreign policy while the scrap to succeed her began to consume domestic politics. Her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was below 30% in polls,

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Russia menaces Alexei Navalny after he exposed its agents' ineptitude

26 days ago

Jan 2nd 2021STAY ABROAD or rot in jail. That was the choice Vladimir Putin offered this week to Alexei Navalny, the opposition politician currently in Germany recovering from an attempt by Russian security agents to assassinate him last August. The new threat was delivered by Russia’s federal prison agency, which accused Mr Navalny of violating a probation period imposed as part of a trumped-up embezzlement conviction in 2014. It was an obvious sham: the probation period expired on December 30th, but on December 28th Mr Navalny was ordered to attend a parole hearing in Moscow at 9am the following morning, or trigger a suspended sentence of three and a half years.The following day, Russian authorities launched a new and larger embezzlement case against Mr Navalny. He remained unfazed.

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Why everyone loves to blame France

26 days ago

Jan 2nd 2021THE FRENCH, wrote George Canning, a British statesman, to a ministerial colleague in 1825, “have but two rules of action: to thwart us whenever they know our object; and when they know it not, to imagine one, and to set about thwarting that.” Canning’s grumble, made a decade after the end of the Napoleonic wars, sounds oddly familiar two centuries later. And today it is not only the British who follow what might be called Canning’s law: when in doubt, blame the French. Suspicion of France’s intentions, and criticism of its actions, have been on the rise in several other countries, in sometimes understandable but often perplexing ways.Exhibit A is, of course, Brexit. “Only preening Emmanuel Macron stands in the way of Boris Johnson’s triumph,” thundered the Daily Mail when a

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For Europe, the Brexit deal makes the best of a bad business

26 days ago

Jan 2nd 2021WHEN THE trade deal between the EU and Britain was done, there was little celebration in Brussels. Instead, the moaning began. “This is a dark day for the European fishing industry,” declared Gerard van Balsfoort, chairman of the European Fisheries Alliance, a lobby group for fishermen. Indeed, conflict over matters piscatorial dominated the final stages of the negotiations, leaving economists flabbergasted that such a tiny sector could hook so much attention.Yet there is more to life than mackerel. On the whole, the EU is content if not happy with how things turned out. From the union’s perspective, it was important that Britain’s departure was orderly; that it left Britain with worse trading access than the status quo; and, consequent to that, that it removed any temptation

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Why Balkan doctors head for western Europe

December 16, 2020

Dec 19th 2020HEALTH-CARE systems everywhere are buckling because of covid-19. In south-east Europe, rising infection rates are hammering systems that were already run-down. Balkan doctors and nurses have been emigrating for years. The main reason is that conditions at home are poor. Pay is low, graft is rife and hospitals are often run by venal political appointees. Jobs in western Europe seem cushy by comparison.In Bucharest, Romania’s capital, 27 people died when a nightclub caught fire in 2015, but four months later the toll had risen to 64. Many had been killed by hospital infections attributable to corruption. Disinfectants had been so diluted that they had virtually turned to water. In a new documentary about the scandal, Vlad Voiculescu, briefly Romania’s minister of health, says

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Sprechen Sie Tory?

December 16, 2020

Dec 19th 2020SQUINT A LITTLE, and Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen look rather alike. The British prime minister and the president of the European Commission were both children of Eurocrats, partly brought up in Brussels. Both were written off in domestic politics, only to be catapulted into the biggest jobs of their lives. Both have enough children to fill a minibus.Open your eyes fully, however, and the differences become clear. Whereas Mrs von der Leyen speaks like a technocrat, Mr Johnson speaks like a bloke telling jokes in a pub. Mrs von der Leyen is overseeing a much-needed deepening of the EU. Under Mr Johnson, Britain has left it. Mrs von der Leyen boasts of her seven children; Mr Johnson refuses to specify how many he has (Wikipedia opts for “at least six”).The political

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Azeris return to their ruined old homes

December 16, 2020

Dec 19th 2020BAKUTHERE IS PLENTY of farmland in Fuzuli, one of Azerbaijan’s districts that ring the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. But there is nothing to harvest. Where wheat and grapes once grew, unexploded rockets sprout from the ground at odd angles, reminders of the vicious fighting that tore through the area in the autumn. The charred hulks of tanks remain. A cratered road snakes through a wasteland of villages and towns abandoned after an earlier bout of violence three decades ago. Thousands of landmines lurk underground.Farther north in Agdam, once an Azeri city of 40,000 people, Aide Huseynova, a pensioner, snaps photos of a ruined 19th-century mosque. She escaped from Agdam in 1993, during the first Nagorno-Karabakh war, fleeing before an Armenian offensive. About 1m

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The Vatican’s finances have been squeezed by covid-19

December 16, 2020

Dec 19th 2020ROMEAS NATIVITY SCENES go, the one in St Peter’s Square unveiled on December 11th is a startling departure from tradition. Several of the 54 giant ceramic figures would not look out of place on a Star Wars set. “Ugly and demonic-looking,” one appalled Catholic called them on Twitter. But the crib, apparently inspired by Greek, Egyptian and Sumerian art, is of a piece with a year that has been as exceptional for Europe’s smallest state and its ruler, Pope Francis, as for the rest of the world.Like most other countries, the Vatican City State will end 2020 with its public finances in a precarious condition. Just how precarious is hard to know, since the latest figures date from 2015 when it had a budget surplus of almost €60m ($73m). But what is known is that the city-state

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The EU gives itself a weapon to battle against rule-of-law violations

December 16, 2020

Dec 19th 2020BERLINANGELA MERKEL, Germany’s chancellor, has long applied two operating principles in Europe: to keep the club united, and to postpone resolving crises until the last possible moment. Both were evident in an eleventh-hour deal struck on December 10th in Brussels between the European Union’s 27 heads of government. With a fiscal crunch looming, the leaders at last gave the green light to a seven-year EU budget worth €1.1trn ($1.3trn) as well as a one-off €750bn fund, financed by joint borrowing, to speed recovery from the covid-19 crisis.The sticking-point was a problem that has long bedevilled the EU: how to tackle corruption and other skulduggery in countries that benefit from EU transfers. At a gruelling four-day summit in July, the leaders backed the principle of

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The next Romanian government’s weak mandate for fighting corruption

December 10, 2020

Dec 12th 2020BUCHARESTCORRUPTION IS THE biggest political issue across most of eastern Europe, and Romania is no exception. In recent years the streets of Bucharest, its capital, have filled with huge demonstrations against crooked officials and their attempts to weaken the rule of law. Yet on December 6th, when it was time to vote, the city was eerily quiet. Just 32% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the general election, the lowest turnout since the fall of the communist regime in 1989. Some blamed covid-19, others lacklustre politicians and their almost non-existent campaign. It was a sadly missed chance to elect a government with a strong mandate to tackle graft.Many had expected the election to bring stability, after years of brief, scandal-plagued governments. Instead it offered

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The Brothers of Italy are on a roll

December 10, 2020

Dec 12th 2020ROMETHE SCANDALS that demolished Italy’s post-war political order in the early 1990s brought a new generation into public life. Among them was Giorgia Meloni, who at the age of 15 chose to join the youth branch of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the direct heirs of the Fascist Party and its leader, Benito Mussolini, who ruled Italy as a dictator until 1943.Today Ms Meloni is riding high as a leader herself. Her party, the Brothers of Italy (FdI), has been the outstanding beneficiary of the covid-19 pandemic. Since late February, when it was already on a roll, the party has climbed steadily in the opinion polls from around 12% to more than 16%. It has overtaken the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, notionally the senior partner in Giuseppe Conte’s governing coalition.

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Why is Europe so riddled with vaccine scepticism?

December 10, 2020

Dec 12th 2020WHEN PFIZER and BioNTech unveiled their covid-19 vaccine, politicians from across Europe bustled to claim a slice of credit. German politicians reminded people that BioNTech was founded by two Germans of Turkish origin. Belgian ones were quick to note that the vaccine is manufactured in Belgium. EU officials hailed the way in which 27 countries had clubbed together to buy up enough stocks. Britain had to content itself with boasting that its regulators were the quickest to approve the drug.Yet for a surprisingly large number of Europeans, a different emotion came before pride: paranoia. Despite scrupulous tests showing that the vaccine is safe, many people doubt it. One in three French people thinks vaccines in general are unsafe—the highest figure for any country, according

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Europe prepares for its first batches of covid-19 vaccines

December 10, 2020

Dec 12th 2020BERLININ A TYPICAL year the Velodrom, an indoor arena in Berlin that can hold 12,000 people, hosts sports events, trade shows and concerts. This year, the biggest gig it is preparing for is a mass vaccination drive. If all goes to plan, in early January people will start streaming through its 75 booths that are being set up for dishing out doses of Germany’s first supplies of covid-19 vaccines. Two of Berlin’s disused airports and other venues are also being turned into vaccination centres. The plan is to be ready to vaccinate 20,000 Berliners a day over six weeks. This would account for 10% of the city’s residents, mainly the very old.Germany is rushing to set up more than 430 mass vaccination sites like these. It is also organising roaming vaccination teams for care homes.

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