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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

The Nordic left is back in charge

4 days ago

Jan 22nd 2022STOCKHOLMTHESE ARE happy days for the Nordic left. For the first time since 2001, they are running all four big Nordic countries—all five, counting tiny Iceland. Four of the five leaders are women: Magdalena Andersson, a Social Democrat, became Sweden’s first female prime minister in November. The Nordic model envied by foreign left-wingers (though not always understood) is having a moment.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.So one might have expected a satisfied mood among the members of Byggnads, a construction trade union, who met at a Folkets Hus (community centre) in Stockholm in December. Instead they were angry. The LO, Sweden’s trade-union confederation, had just struck a deal with the

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Emmanuel Macron’s rivals are less Eurosceptic than before

4 days ago

Jan 22nd 2022PARISFIVE YEARS ago, when Brexit prompted fears that the European Union would unravel, Emmanuel Macron put Europe at the heart of his political identity. Supporters at his rallies enthusiastically waved the EU flag. So it was no surprise that, with France in charge of the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the EU since January 1st, the French president headed on January 19th to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to renew his vows.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The EU, declared Mr Macron, represented democracy, progress and peace at a time when each was under threat. Faced with rising authoritarian powers, breaches of the rule of law within the EU and the menace of war on its

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Friedrich Merz takes over as leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats

4 days ago

Jan 22nd 2022BERLINANGELA MERKEL’S lethargy covered Germany like a “carpet of fog”, raged Friedrich Merz in 2019. There was never any love lost between Germany’s ex-chancellor and the man she forced out of a top job in the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in 2002. Tail between his legs, Mr Merz left the Bundestag in 2009, only to re-emerge nine years later to compete for the party leader ship Mrs Merkel had vacated. His candidacy thrilled CDU members seeking conservative red meat. But moderates found his arrogance off-putting. His bid flopped, as did another last year.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.But in September the winner of that second contest, Armin Laschet, led the CDU and its Bavarian

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What China’s bullying of Lithuania reveals about Europe

4 days ago

Jan 22nd 2022WHEN EASTERN EUROPEAN countries about to join the EU in 2003 spoke up in favour of America’s invasion of Iraq, France’s president at the time, Jacques Chirac, haughtily declared they had “missed a good opportunity to shut up”. Their furious response suggested they thought the same of him. Europe likes to stress its collective power, born of an ever-closer union that includes joint foreign-policy ambitions and dreams of an EU army. Yet each country also wants a licence to pursue pet diplomatic forays. While sometimes these policies are sound (like opposing ill-fated invasions in the Middle East, it turned out), occasionally they end up dragging the entire bloc into fights it would rather avoid. If Europe wants geopolitical relevance, it cannot allow every member to foment its

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As war looms larger, what are Russia’s military options in Ukraine?

7 days ago

Jan 22nd 2022“WHAT STANDS in front of us, what could be weeks away, is the first peer-on-peer, industrialised, digitised, top-tier army against top-tier army war that’s been on this continent for generations,” warned James Heappey, Britain’s junior defence minister, on January 19th, pointing to Russia’s build-up of over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border. “Tens of thousands of people could die.” Estonia’s defence chief echoed the warning. “Everything is moving towards armed conflict,” he said.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, is due to meet Antony Blinken, America’s secretary of state, in Geneva on January 21st. But the prospects for diplomacy are dim. On January 19th

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Arguments over compulsory covid-19 vaccination are raging across Europe

8 days ago

Jan 22nd 2022BERLINEARLIER THIS month President Emmanuel Macron said he wished to “piss off” those who had chosen not to be vaccinated against covid-19. France’s 5m unjabbed people will soon be barred from restaurants, theatres and long-distance trains, among other things. Yet they might consider themselves lucky. Italy and Greece have passed laws making vaccination obligatory for all residents over 50 and 60 respectively. Austria has just done so for all adults, and Germany may follow suit.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Most European countries have already excluded unvaccinated people from large swathes of public life, to varying effect. In many places jabs are a condition of employment in hospitals and care

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A new Dutch government with a taste for Europe

11 days ago

Jan 15th 2022AMSTERDAMORDINARILY, WHEN the EU favours a flood of collective spending, the Dutch put their collective finger in the dyke. In 2020 the Netherlands rallied a group of small, rich countries (the “frugal four”) to oppose the EU’s covid recovery fund. They eventually gave in, but not before Wopke Hoekstra, the then finance minister, insulted southern Europeans for lacking budget discipline. This week a new Dutch government took office. It comprises the same parties as the previous one, yet its stance on the EU is far more relaxed.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Mark Rutte, the Liberal prime minister, is back for a fourth term, but has turned boosterish on Europe. Just as important is the new finance

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Ukraine’s Orthodox Church may change the date of its Christmas

11 days ago

Jan 13th 2022KyivAFTER RUSSIAN soldiers invaded their country in 2014, many Ukrainians began favouring Western holidays over ones associated with Russia. Women’s Day, an originally socialist holiday that took hold in Soviet times, has faded, while the American-made Mother’s Day is in vogue. As the snow piled up in Christmas markets in December, so did the evidence that Santa Claus was displacing the Soviet-era Ded Moroz (“Father Frost”) as the country’s pre-eminent bearded gift-bearer. Weightiest of all is the debate over when to celebrate Christmas itself. Epiphanius I, the head of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church, says he expects his congregants will favour switching from January 7th to December 25th within a decade.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio

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Europe’s energy crisis will trigger its worst neuroses

11 days ago

Jan 15th 2022IN GEORGE ORWELL’S “1984”, Room 101 is where prisoners are confronted with their worst fear. Finding Europeans’ prevailing phobia is trickier: what spooks voters in one bit of the continent (asylum-seekers! deficits! Russia!) may be of scant concern to those on the other end. Covid-19 is one contender, as it has made life dull from Dublin to Dubrovnik and beyond. Another is the continent’s ongoing energy crisis. Surging natural-gas prices are sending heating bills soaring, soaking up the cash Europeans have saved while moping around at home for two years. It is a crisis so all-encompassing that all parts of the EU will have to face up to their deepest apprehensions.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.As

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The French left faces disaster in April’s presidential election

11 days ago

Jan 13th 2022PARISON THE ANNIVERSARY OF François Mitterrand’s death on January 8th Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, went in the driving rain to lay flowers at his grave. She was seeking “inspiration” from the late Socialist president, but it looked more like a requiem for the party’s current candidacy. Polls show Ms Hidalgo, the Socialists’ nominee, winning just 4% in the first round of the French presidential election in April. A result that bad would not only disqualify her from the run-off but fail to meet the 5% threshold for taxpayers to reimburse half of her campaign spending.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.What has happened to the once mighty French left? Under the Fifth Republic, the grand old Socialist

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Spain’s high-speed network reaches Galicia

18 days ago

Jan 6th 2022OURENSEFOR CENTURIES the main way to Galicia, Spain’s north-western corner, was on foot, on the pilgrims’ trail to Santiago de Compostela. Poor roads meant that, until a decade or two ago, the drive from Madrid took nine hours. Recent improvements have cut the trip to the closest Galician city, Ourense, to about five.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Now the journey can be made in two hours and 15 minutes thanks to Galicia’s first connection with Spain’s enviable high-speed railway network. Next year the line should be extended to Santiago, the regional capital, and A Coruña, its biggest city. “Cinderella can now travel in a bigger and more comfortable car,” said Ourense’s mayor, Gonzalo Pérez Jácome,

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Will Mario Draghi move to Italy’s largely ceremonial presidency?

18 days ago

Jan 8th 2022ROMEITALIAN PRESIDENTIAL elections customarily have more twists and implausible turns than a Verdi opera. Voting in the latest—to replace President Sergio Mattarella—is to begin on January 24th. Over the coming weeks party leaders can be expected to trade bluff and counter-bluff, leaking the names of candidates whose chances they are in fact content to sacrifice while keeping secret until the last moment the identity of the one they really favour.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The outcome matters: Italian presidents have the power to dissolve parliaments and name prime ministers. They also hold office for an unusually long time: seven years, during which they acquire a moral authority that can

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The return of big government sparks questions for Europe

18 days ago

Jan 8th 2022CRANK UP THE power flowing into a building and the lights shine that much brighter. Without an upgrade in its wiring, though, fuses will soon blow or smoke emerge from unexpected places. Political structures are much the same. A surge in power delights all involved—until some not altogether welcome things start happening.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Across the world the political current is swelling. The role of the state is expanding. The pandemic has eroded the already-shaky consensus about the limits of governments’ role in liberal societies. National polities, those age-old edifices, have ample experience navigating such surges and sags. For the European project, a hotch-potch of creaking

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Why Germans remain so jittery about nuclear power

18 days ago

Jan 8th 2022BERLINTHE END of 2021 brought mixed news for Germany’s anti-nuclear crowd. On December 6th the gaggle of activists who had gathered outside the Brokdorf nuclear plant, in northern Germany, every month for the 36 years it had operated swapped their usual thermoses for champagne. For on December 31st Brokdorf, the construction of which had inspired some of the roughest protests in German history, was one of three nuclear plants switched off for good. The remaining three will be closed down by the end of this year, concluding a nuclear exit two decades in the making.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Then came the downer. Just before midnight on December 31st, after months of dithering, the European

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Ukrainians are peculiarly relaxed about Russia’s troop build-up

20 days ago

Jan 8th 2022KYIV AND VOVCHANSKIN THE SNOW-BLANKETED town of Vovchansk in eastern Ukraine, where 20,000 people live just five minutes’ drive from the border with Russia, Sergei Sergienko lists his tribulations. Jobs are scarce, so he must leave at 5.00am for construction work in Kharkiv, the nearest city, for which he earns 700 hryvnias ($25) a day. His father is in recovery after covid-19 put him in hospital. Absent from Mr Sergienko’s list is the fear that Russian troops might sweep into Ukraine across the border down the road. “I try not to fill my head with worries about war, there are enough problems without it,” he says. Besides, he adds with a shrug, it is not something he can control.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS

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Spain’s reforms in 2021 were only tiny steps

26 days ago

Jan 1st 2022MADRIDSPANIARDS EAGERLY tuned in on December 22nd to watch the annual Christmas lottery, nicknamed el gordo (“the fat one”). Punters were hoping for a share of €2.4bn ($2.7bn) in prizes. The European Union, meanwhile, had placed a bet of its own. It hoped Spain’s politicians might go out of their way to win a national jackpot of €70bn, the country’s share of the EU’s €750bn covid recovery fund. The grants were conditional on reforms, especially in two worrisome areas: pensions and the jobs market. The government met the EU’s deadline of December 31st. Whether its reforms merit the name is another matter.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Spain’s government, made up of the Socialists and the far-left

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Turkey’s public-private partnerships are pricier than promised

26 days ago

Jan 1st 2022ISTANBULTHE OSMANGAZI suspension bridge, one of the world’s longest, opened in 2016, stretching nearly 2,700 metres over the Marmara Sea. Combined with a new road, it has halved the travel time between Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey’s largest and third-largest cities. But for many Turks, the country’s currency crisis has made the crossing unaffordable. A driver making the trip every day for a month would have to pay tolls amounting to twice the minimum wage. The toll will rise again at the start of 2022.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has decked out his country with scores of new bridges, tunnels, airports and hospitals. Most are public-private partnerships

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How Europe’s politicians started to think of themselves as European

26 days ago

Jan 1st 2022GERMAN IS A thorough language. Almost every concept seems to be covered by a single compound word. There is Kummerspeck, or the weight one puts on if sad. Torschlusspanik is for the worry that your life is running out and opportunities slipping away. Most satisfyingly, there is Backpfeifengesicht for when someone has a slappable face. When it comes to the EU, a compound word pops up repeatedly: Schicksalsgemeinschaft, or a community of fate. Olaf Scholz, the new German chancellor, used the phrase when explaining why Germany must help its neighbours in the pandemic. His predecessor, Angela Merkel, was a fan too. Now, however, the concept—if not the tongue-twisting word—is spreading beyond the German-speaking world.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the

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Turkey’s currency woes are likely to get worse

26 days ago

Jan 1st 2022ISTANBULIN TIMES OF trouble, it is good to have something to lean on. For a currency this can be a central bank capable of keeping inflation at bay, or a stable and predictable government to reassure nervous investors. Since today’s Turkey has neither, its swooning currency, the lira, has had to look elsewhere for help. On December 20th President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced an unorthodox plan to rescue Turkey’s economy from the crisis his policies have caused. It involves the government insuring some lira deposits against swings in the exchange rate.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.In the short term the scheme seemed to have worked. The day after Mr Erdogan’s announcement the lira staged a record

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Russia bans Memorial, a seminal human-rights group

26 days ago

Jan 1st 2022RUSSIAN HISTORY is rich in shameful dates, many of them marking show trials and mass executions—or liquidations, as they were then called. December 28th, 2021, should be added to the calendar. On that day Russia’s supreme court “liquidated” Memorial, the country’s most vital post-Soviet civic institution, dedicated to the memory of Stalinist repression and the defence of human rights.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Memorial emerged as a group independent of the state in the late 1980s, at the height of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reconstruction). One of its founders was Arseny Roginsky, a historian who spent four years in a Soviet prison for publishing a

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A reformist prime minister takes over in Bulgaria

December 16, 2021

Dec 18th 2021SOFIAIN 2021 BULGARIANS voted in three general elections and a presidential one. They ended 12 years of domination by Boyko Borisov, a bull-necked former bodyguard whose period in power saw incomes rise, the population fall and lurid tales of corruption proliferate. But it was only this week that a new coalition government finally took the reins of power. Make way for “the Harvards”, the political pairing now performing a double act.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Kiril Petkov, aged 41, and Assen Vassilev, aged 44, are the new prime minister and finance minister respectively, having earlier this year served in the country’s interim government. Both studied at Harvard Business School. Both became

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Why have Danes turned against immigration?

December 16, 2021

Dec 18th 2021COPENHAGENMJOLNERPARKEN, A HOUSING project in Copenhagen’s multi-ethnic Norrebro district, is pleasantly landscaped and dotted with sports pitches. The only signs of anything amiss are banners hanging from white balconies bearing slogans like “I’ll never move”. By next autumn many of the 1,500 residents may have to. That is because Denmark’s government deems Mjolnerparken to be a “parallel society”. Too many of its residents are hard-up, or jobless, or poorly educated, or have criminal records and are of “non-Western” origin. To comply with its policy of breaking up what the government until recently called “ghettos”, Mjolnerparken’s owner is to sell two of the four apartment blocks to investors. Other citizens will move in.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the

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A Baltic island bucks a Danish anti-immigrant trend

December 16, 2021

Dec 18th 2021MARIBOWHEN DANES think about Lolland, which is not very often, they tend to feel sorry for it. The island in the Baltic sea, a flat expanse of fields and beaches, enjoyed brief notoriety in 2015 thanks to a TV documentary series, “On the Ass in Nakskov”, about privation in its largest town. Nakskov fell on hard times after its shipyard closed in 1986. People have been leaving the island for decades. Since 2007 its population has dropped from 49,000 to 41,000. Those outsiders Lolland still attracts are largely low-income households seeking cheaper lodgings than they can find in Copenhagen.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.But now work has begun on a tunnel linking Lolland to the German island of

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Emmanuel Macron’s tricky Christmas present

December 16, 2021

Dec 18th 2021WHEN EMMANUEL MACRON peers under his Christmas tree this year, he will find that le Père Noël has left him an unusually big, tantalisingly shiny, but awkwardly shaped gift. Call it a year in a present. For 2022 brings a double challenge. From January for six months, France will run the European Union’s rotating jamboree, the presidency of the Council of the EU. Yet Mr Macron is also expected to be campaigning for re-election as French president in April. To run Europe, as the job will doubtless be portrayed at home, as well as France, sounds like a Macron fantasy come true. For other Europeans, the president’s gift, like a toy trumpet, could turn out to be noisy, unpredictable and exhausting.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and

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The Dutch style of government: good for dykes, bad for covid

December 9, 2021

Dec 11th 2021AMSTERDAMTHE DUTCH are not used to being ranked among the worst in Europe. But that is where they stand in covid booster vaccinations: 4.1% of the population have had an extra jab, just behind Romania at 5%. They started on November 18th, months after other countries. “It is impossible to explain,” says Roel Coutinho, a former head of the national outbreak-management team. He blames the Dutch culture of governing via exhaustive negotiations and consensus—a system known as the “polder model”.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Indeed, almost nine months after elections last March, the country has no new government. For months the ruling centre-right Liberal party locked horns with one of its junior

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Angela Merkel, the invisible European

December 9, 2021

Dec 11th 2021EXCEPTIONS PROVE who rules. In the summer of 2015 Angela Merkel suspended the EU’s asylum rules and allowed 1m people into Germany, in the most controversial decision of her tenure. Rather than being returned to their first port of entry in southern Europe, Syrians arriving in Germany were given a new life in Europe’s most prosperous country. Skip forward to December 2021 and asylum rules are being suspended again. This time the aim is to keep people out. Those crossing from Belarus into the EU now face up to four months in a detention centre while their application is processed. Others will not make it even that far. Polish border guards are pushing them back into Belarus, sometimes roughly. Willkommenskultur has been shown the door.Listen to this storyYour browser does not

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“Two-thirds Merkel, one-third Thatcher”: meet Valérie Pécresse

December 9, 2021

Dec 9th 2021PARISCOULD THE French for the first time elect une présidente when they go to the polls next April? Ségolène Royal nearly got there as the Socialists’ candidate, in 2007, but was defeated by Nicolas Sarkozy. Ten years later Marine Le Pen, a populist-nationalist, was soundly beaten by the centrist Emmanuel Macron. Now the Gaullist political party is taking its turn. On December 4th the Republicans picked Valérie Pécresse, head of the Ile-de-France region around Paris, as their presidential candidate.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.In a run-off primary vote among party members, Ms Pécresse trounced Eric Ciotti, a deputy from Nice and an anti-immigration hardliner from the party’s right wing, securing

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Linguistic trivia highlight Spain’s enduring cultural divisions

December 2, 2021

Dec 4th 2021MADRID“WITH THE stroke of a pen” is a phrase usually used metaphorically. But just a single stroke differentiates the two forms of the name of a Spanish city: “Valencia” (in Spanish) and “València” (in the regional language). A left-wing regionalist party recently kicked off a debate in Spain’s Senate by insisting on “València” as the only spelling—even in Spanish (which does not have the letter è).Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Spain’s regional squabbles are often this tiny. Some Catalans detect an insult in the use of the letter ñ, which is used only in Castilian (Spanish), but not in Catalan. Barcelona’s second-biggest football club was named “Español” on its founding in 1900, to distinguish it

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Might Silvio Berlusconi become the next president of Italy?

December 2, 2021

Dec 4th 2021ROMEOPENING THEIR parliamentary mailboxes last month, Italian lawmakers were surprised to find an anthology of speeches by Silvio Berlusconi. On the cover was a photograph of the former prime minister, his arms raised high to acknowledge the adulation of an unseen crowd. The booklet, modestly entitled “I am Forza Italia” (“Come on, Italy”, the party that Mr Berlusconi founded and leads), was the opening gambit in the 85-year-old media mogul’s undeclared campaign to crown his turbulent career with election, by a college of parliamentarians, to Italy’s highest office. The term of the incumbent president, Sergio Mattarella, expires on February 3rd, and he has repeatedly ruled out an extension. The race to succeed him is now dominating Italian public life.Listen to this storyYour

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Nord Stream 2 could still sabotage German-American relations

December 2, 2021

Dec 4th 2021BERLINOLAF SCHOLZ and Joe Biden seem to be destined to have as cordial a relationship as Angela Merkel and Barack Obama did. The incoming German chancellor and the American president are both Atlanticists on the centre-left of their respective political spectrums who are committed to fighting climate change. Mr Scholz has called America “Europe’s closest and most important partner”. As finance minister he got on well with the Biden administration.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Even so, one geopolitical conundrum is casting a big shadow over the relationship. Nord Stream 2, a recently completed 1,230km (764-mile) undersea pipeline for natural gas from Russia to Germany, is fiercely opposed by

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