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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

Europe’s drug habit proves immune to covid-19

6 days ago

Jun 10th 2021AMSTERDAMONE MIGHT have expected that a pandemic that put a stop to parties would also reduce the use of party drugs. Indeed, wastewater samples in some European cities showed that residues of cocaine and MDMA (also known as ecstasy) fell during the covid-19 lockdowns of early 2020. But by last summer Europeans were riding high again. In many cases, consumption simply moved from club to living room.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Thus concludes this year’s report by the EU’s European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Police, aided by surveillance of messaging apps (such as the Trojan Shield sting announced this week), are confiscating more cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and

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Italy has a tough task ahead on climate change

6 days ago

Jun 12th 2021ROMEOF ALL THE appointments to Mario Draghi’s cabinet, arguably the least expected was that of Roberto Cingolani, his minister for ecological transition. A physicist and former science director of the Italian Institute of Technology, Mr Cingolani came into government from a senior job in the defence industry, an odd background for an eco-warrior.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Mr Cingolani counters that he has taught courses on sustainability but that, anyhow, his new brief touches on so many different aspects of science that no one could be an expert in them all. His ministry’s remit is certainly vast: it is charged with overseeing the allocation and spending of the biggest chunk of the €235bn

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Continental Europe enters the gender wars

6 days ago

Jun 12th 2021DEBATES ABOUT transgender rights have raged most angrily in the Anglophone world, but they are now intensifying across Europe. Last month the Spanish parliament voted against a bill that would allow people to determine their own gender. A day later Germany’s voted down two such bills. Few newspapers took any notice.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Self-ID, as it is known, is the idea that people be allowed to change the legal markers of their sex simply by saying so, without jumping through any medical hoops. Trans-rights groups say this is crucial for trans people, who face daily prejudice. In Germany one of the bills, put forward by the Green Party, proposed that children be allowed to have

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The many faces of Sebastian Kurz

6 days ago

Jun 12th 2021A SENSE OF déjà vu surrounds Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor. It is certainly not due to his appearance. At 34, he is a decade or three younger than most European leaders. A slicked-back bob stands out against the near-mandatory short back and sides of his peers. Nor does it extend to his personality. Where most politicians enjoy grandstanding, Mr Kurz is renowned as a listener. While leaders can be brusque, Mr Kurz is relentlessly polite, cultivating the image of a well-mannered son-in-law.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.It is Mr Kurz’s approach to politics that is familiar, odd though that may appear at first glance. Although he became Austria’s youngest chancellor in 2017, aged 31, his

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Britain and France send their aircraft-carriers out together

6 days ago

Jun 12th 2021ABOARD THE CHARLES DE GAULLEUNDER AN AZURE sky in the western Mediterranean, two aircraft-carriers sail eastwards in tandem. One, the Charles de Gaulle, a French nuclear-powered vessel, has 20 years of service behind it. The other, HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s new flagship, is on its maiden operational tour. For the first time the two carriers are taking part in three days of joint exercises. Code-named “Gallic Strike”, this involves war games and simulated sea-to-land strikes by 15 vessels and 57 combat aircraft, including ten American fighter planes and two destroyers.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Far from the recent political posturing off Jersey, the French and British navies are busy with

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With Donald Trump gone, NATO is plotting its future

6 days ago

Jun 12th 2021“OVER THE last four years we had some challenges in the transatlantic relationship,” says Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, drily alluding to the diplomatic pandemonium of the Trump years. Now, he says, “We have a unique opportunity to open a new chapter in the relationship between North America and Europe.” But will NATO’s leaders take it?Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.On June 14th the leaders of all 30 NATO members will convene for a meeting in Brussels, sandwiched between the G7 summit in Britain and an EU-US summit. They will discuss the future of the alliance. The mood will be lighter than at past gatherings, when Mr Trump physically jostled one prime minister, threatened to withdraw

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A Christian, a Jew and a Muslim walk into the same house of worship…

13 days ago

Jun 5th 2021BERLINIT IS USUALLY bad news when multiple religions claim the same place of worship. It can lead to conflict, as illustrated by the recent violence at Jerusalem’s holiest site. Or it can be a sign that flocks are dwindling, forcing congregations to share space. But Berlin’s House of One intentionally puts a church, mosque and synagogue under a single roof.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The cornerstone of the €47m ($57m) place of worship was laid last week near Alexanderplatz. In four years’ time, it will be a structure housing three separate prayer rooms and a 46m-high domed hall for the faiths to mix. “We are building the House to make a statement,” says Rabbi Andreas Nachama, one of the project’s

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The era of small-state privilege in Europe is coming to an end

13 days ago

Jun 5th 2021“O NE PERSON, one vote” is a good principle. The ratio in the European Union is a bit more complex: “One Luxembourger, or nine Germans, one vote.” Germany has one MEP for every 860,000 citizens. By contrast Luxembourg—a country roughly the size of Düsseldorf—has one per 100,000.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.A disproportionate parliamentary weighting is one of many perks enjoyed by the EU’s gang of small states. Three-quarters of the bloc’s population live in just seven countries; the remainder is spread over the other 20. For them, membership is a sweet deal. Their politicians can wangle top jobs, usually as compromise candidates. A common currency gives smaller European economies a say in monetary

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An interview with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky

13 days ago

Jun 5th 2021KYIV“I STILL DON’T feel comfortable here,” says Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, as he walks briskly into an opulent presidential meeting room. A former comedian in a hit TV series, “Servant of the People”, that tells the story of a humble schoolteacher who accidentally becomes president, he is still, it seems, more used to a studio than a palace.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.But two years ago his chutzpah, and the failures of his predecessors, won him nearly 75% of the vote in the runoff round of a presidential election. In a country where politics has long been dominated by oligarchs and treated as a means for personal gain, the victory of a man whose only asset was his popularity

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A law to break the Mafia’s code of silence lets a killer go free

13 days ago

Jun 5th 2021ROMESHORTLY AFTER nine o’clock on a Monday night, Giovanni Brusca, his brother, their wives and children had abruptly to abandon their roast-chicken dinner. Armed, masked police burst into their rented villa and arrested both men.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.That was in 1996. On May 31st Mr Brusca left prison in Rome, a free man after serving 25 years of a 30-year sentence imposed for, among many murders, that in 1992 of Italy’s most renowned anti-Mafia prosecutor, Giovanni Falcone. Few recent events have stirred greater revulsion than the release of this former Mafia boss, nicknamed u Verru, (the Pig) in Sicilian. “This is not the justice Italy deserves,” railed Matteo Salvini, the leader of the

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Germany’s Christian Democrats struggle against populists in the east

13 days ago

Jun 5th 2021MAGDEBURGTHE SMALL east German state of Saxony-Anhalt is run by a so-called “Kenya” coalition, comprising three parties whose colours match that country’s flag: the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), the Social Democrats and the Greens. But so bad is the infighting it should be named after the similar hues of Afghanistan’s flag, chuckles Oliver Kirchner, local head of the hard-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.He should know. Five years ago the AfD—an extremist outfit shunned by all other parties—won a quarter of the vote, forcing the Kenya trio into their ill-matched arrangement. The AfD’s enduring support could oblige them to keep it going after

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The hidden side to French suburban living

20 days ago

May 29th 2021LA CHAPELLE-EN-VEXIN AND MARINESCUTTING THROUGH farmland in a regional nature park, the approach to La Chapelle-en-Vexin is dominated not by its 12th-century chapel but by newly built two-storey homes. With their dormer windows, sloping tiled roofs and neatly hedged gardens, houses on such lotissements offer a French version of American suburban life: play space for children, a deck for the barbecue, and—crucially—off-street parking. In this village of just 333 inhabitants, an off-plan three-bedroom house with a garage is on sale for €260,000 ($320,000)—the same as a gloomy bedsit in central Paris.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Only 65km (40 miles) separate La Chapelle-en-Vexin from the cobbled

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How farmers still rule Europe

20 days ago

May 29th 2021ARMED WITH a device designed for throwing tennis balls for dogs, it is possible to launch an egg a very satisfying 60 metres. Head to the Quartier Leopold in Brussels on the right day and you can see farmers from across Europe firing a wide range of produce an impressive distance at Belgian riot police. It is during these regular protests at the European Union’s headquarters that the ingenuity, bravery and diligence of the European farmer truly shows itself. In one episode a pair of tractors slowly drove through a barbed-wire barricade, as cops scattered. When an armoured police van turned up, the farmers drove into that too. It took two water cannons at full blast to make the tractors retreat. Over the years, grumpy farmers have covered stoic Belgian riot police in hay, eggs,

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A mobster’s allegations rock Turkey’s government

20 days ago

May 29th 2021ISTANBULSEDAT PEKER, the man at the centre of one of Turkey’s biggest political scandals for many years, makes an unlikely YouTube celebrity. He slurs his words, possibly as a result of too many Botox injections, wears an unbuttoned shirt, and sits behind a desk adorned with prayer beads, pages of notes and an empty lantern. Over the past month, however, Mr Peker, a convicted mobster, has had millions of Turks glued to their screens as he has settled scores with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.His allegations, which are unproven, are explosive. In a series of videos, Mr Peker has accused the son of Mr Erdogan’s former prime minister of drug trafficking and

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Russia puts the Czech Republic on an official enemies list

20 days ago

May 29th 2021UNLIKE TEENAGERS, countries rarely write down lists of their enemies. But Russia does. On May 14th it published a list of “unfriendly countries”. Oddly, it had only two names on it: the United States and the Czech Republic. The latter was unexpected, but explicable. In April the Czech government revealed that a deadly explosion in 2014 at an ammunition depot in the town of Vrbetice, previously thought accidental, was set off by Russian agents. (Some of the ammunition was destined for Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed rebels.) The Czechs and Russians have since expelled dozens of each others’ diplomats. Relations are now as sour as at any time since the Soviet Union collapsed (though not as bad as in 1968, when Moscow’s tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to overthrow a

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Norwegian folk music is worth preserving, says the UN

20 days ago

May 29th 2021SETESDAL, A WINDING valley to the north of Kristiansand in southern Norway, was once a place of traditions little changed since medieval times. Chief among these were song and dance marked by improvisation and a beat as visceral as the blues. Birth, death and every step in between happened to music. But over the years radio, TV and then the internet wormed their way into its hamlets. Now only a handful of stalwarts know the old tunes and dances. Fearing that they might disappear, UNESCO, the UN’s culture agency, gave Setesdal a listing at the end of 2019.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.A UN convention on safeguarding “intangible cultural heritage”, agreed in 2003, requires states to act to preserve

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Having hijacked a Ryanair plane, Belarus draws closer to Russia

20 days ago

May 26th 2021BELARUSIAN DISSIDENTS expect to be arrested in Belarus. But until May 23rd they thought they were safe in the West. That was when Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old Belarusian journalist and activist, boarded a Ryanair jet that was due to fly from one EU country (Greece) to another (Lithuania). To his horror and the world’s astonishment, Belarus’s autocratic government hijacked it.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The plane was passing through Belarusian airspace and about to cross into Lithuania, where Mr Protasevich had been living in exile. Suddenly, the pilots were told there was a bomb on board. A MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept the plane and escort it to Minsk, Belarus’s capital,

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Poland’s government eases coalition tensions with a spending splurge

27 days ago

May 22nd 2021WARSAWHANDOUTS WIN votes. Poland’s ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), knows that from experience, having used big giveaways to help it secure victory in an election in 2019. On May 15th the populist government unveiled its long-awaited “Polish Deal”, a flurry of expensive policies encompassing health care, taxes, pensions, housing and state investment. The scheme is designed to bolster the economy as the government gradually starts to lift pandemic-related restrictions. It is a chance to please voters and distract attention from recent dramas in the ruling coalition.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Since coming to power in 2015, PiS has combined social conservatism, including hostility towards gay

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Balkan money-laundering is booming

27 days ago

May 22nd 2021ON MAY 12TH prosecutors in North Macedonia charged Nikola Gruevski, the country’s former prime minister, with money-laundering. It is alleged that he funnelled cash donated to his party through Belize to buy property illegally and conceal its ownership. He says the case is politically motivated. Meanwhile in Jahorina, a popular Bosnian ski resort, gangsters, plus the officials they have corrupted, have been investing in hotels. All kinds of corruption are rife. An expatriate, who has half-built a block of flats near his home in Vlora in south Albania, rails that building has stalled because he refuses to pay bribes to secure the necessary permits.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Across the Balkans

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NATO increasingly sees its soldiers’ phones as a liability

27 days ago

May 22nd 2021RUKLA AND VILNIUSVIKTOR KOVALENKO, a Ukrainian conscript defending the eastern city of Debaltseve from pro-Russian forces, once emerged from a shelter and, despite standing instructions not to do it, switched on his phone to call his wife. Soon “shells started exploding around me,” he recalls. Similar attacks killed others in his battalion. The year was 2015, and the enemy was learning to direct artillery fire to transmitting mobiles. Since then, phone use on the front line has sharply fallen but still continues, concedes Captain Volodymyr Fitio of Ukraine’s army.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Mobiles pose a dilemma for defence chiefs. A smartphone ban would hurt recruitment and morale. But a

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Germany is apologising for crimes a century ago in Namibia

27 days ago

May 22nd 2021BERLINT UCKED AWAY in a military cemetery in the Berlin suburb of Neukölln you eventually find it: a small plaque dedicated to “the victims of German colonial rule in Namibia…in particular the colonial war”. Berlin has no shortage of memorials to the crimes of Germans. Yet this is the country’s only commemoration of the genocide it inflicted in 1904-08 on the Herero and Nama peoples in what was then German South-West Africa. The plaque was laid in 2009 by locals anxious to counter the symbolism of the Hererostein that looms behind it: a rock bearing a memorial dating from 1907 to seven German soldiers in the imperial Schutztruppe force who died in the Herero uprising that triggered the killings. The rock is scarred with rivulets of dried red paint, having been defaced last

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Italy’s populist right looks menacing

27 days ago

May 22nd 2021ROMEON MAY 20TH Italy’s interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, was due in Tunis with the EU’s commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, to investigate and discuss a humanitarian crisis that has opened deep divisions in Italy’s new government. So far this month 4,290 migrants have reached Italy’s shores, compared with 1,654 in the whole of May last year. Many set sail from Tunisia. The number of arrivals in 2021 is now more than 13,000—triple the volume in the same period last year. And the summer months, when crossing the Mediterranean is easiest, lie ahead.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.All this is manna from heaven for Matteo Salvini, the leader of the populist Northern League and the

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How Greece became Europe’s unlikely model student

27 days ago

May 22nd 2021BRUSSELS CAN be a patronising place. In the EU, prime ministers are sometimes treated like schoolchildren. In a favourite phrase, stern officials declare that national governments must “do their homework”. If Brussels is a classroom, then Greece has become an unlikely swot. Its handling of the pandemic has been praised. Its plans for spending a €31bn share of the EU’s €750bn ($915bn) recovery pot got a gold star from EU officials. Greek ideas such as a common covid-19 certificate are taken up at a European level. After a decade in which Greece found itself in remedial lessons, enduring three bail-out programmes and economic collapse, it is a big shift. Syriza, the leftist party that ran the country from 2015 to 2019, was the class rebel. By contrast, the government of Kyriakos

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Pandemic tourism in Turkey

May 13, 2021

May 15th 2021BODRUMTOURISTS IN TURKEY are already spoiled. The food is excellent, the locals welcoming and the range of holiday options, from mountain hikes on the Black Sea coast to boat cruises on the Aegean and hot-air balloon rides over Cappadocia, are enough to last several summers. A prolonged currency crisis has seen the dollar strengthen against the lira by nearly 60% in just over two years, meaning that vacations in Turkey come cheap. A room in a luxury hotel can easily cost less than a cramped offering from Airbnb in a European capital. If they can only resist tweeting their thoughts about Recep Tayyip Erdogan (at least 36,000 people have been investigated for insulting Turkey’s thin-skinned president in a single year), foreigners will be in for a treat.Listen to this storyYour

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Plentiful renewable energy is opening up a new industrial frontier

May 13, 2021

May 15th 2021NORRLAND IS THE largest of Sweden’s three historical “lands”. It spans the top half of the country and is sparsely populated, the more so the farther north you go. The few people who live there have long relied for work on mining, the army and forestry. Most of Sweden’s industry is far to the south. But Norrland abounds in hydropower. Power that is cheap and—crucially—green, along with bargain land and proximity to iron ore, is sparking an improbable industrial revolution, based on hydrogen, “green” steel and batteries.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.SSAB, a steelmaker, is poised to deliver its first consignment of “eco-steel” from a hydrogen-fuelled pilot plant in Lulea, a northern city. Volvo, an

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Bulgaria’s outgoing prime minister is under fire

May 13, 2021

May 15th 2021AT A PARTY the boss is playing cards with his friends. One of them shows a video about what happened to a businessman who did not do what they wanted; he was filmed being sexually abused in custody. Another member of the group, known as “the chicken”, has paid €2,500 ($3,025) to a glamorous woman to “take care” of the boss. Others give the big man gold bars as gifts. It sounds like something out of a gangster movie. But the “boss” is allegedly Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria’s prime minister until this week.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The description of the party and other allegations of misconduct were made by Svetoslav Ilchovsky, who owns an agricultural business. He was testifying on May 5th and 7th

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The EU is trying to become a welfare superstate

May 13, 2021

May 15th 2021AMSTERDAM AND BUCHARESTEUROPE IS TO the welfare state what Canada is to ice hockey: the birthplace and the summit of the art. The European Union boasts a “unique social market economy” that “protects us against the great risks of life”, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told a summit of EU leaders on May 7th. They had met in Porto, Portugal’s second city, to approve a plan for turning the union into a bulwark of social protection, with targets for raising employment, improving job training and reducing poverty, as well as looser goals such as fighting gender inequality and regulating the gig economy.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Yet Europe’s welfare states are

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Can the European Union learn from its fiscal mistakes?

May 13, 2021

May 15th 2021“AMERICANS CAN always be counted on to do the right thing,” Winston Churchill is supposed to have quipped, “after they have exhausted all other possibilities.” There are two problems with the quotation. First, there is no evidence Churchill ever said it. Second, today the phrase applies better to Europe’s leadership than to their friends across the Atlantic.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Take the European Union’s recovery from the pandemic. For the first time since last spring, economic optimism is in the air. Across Europe, vaccines are going into arms, summer holidays are being booked and bars are opening up. The European Commission has just jacked up its growth forecasts for 2021 and 2022,

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Four decades after Mitterrand’s victory, France’s left is in trouble

May 9, 2021

May 13th 2021PARISListen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.FORTY YEARS ago on May 10th, François Mitterrand made history, becoming France’s first Socialist president since before the second world war. At next year’s presidential election, the party the wily leader carried triumphantly to power in 1981 could make history again, but for rather a different reason. The Socialist Party runs the risk of failing to make it to the final run-off vote twice in a row.A year ahead of any election, polls need to be treated with caution. French history is littered with early favourites—Alain Juppé, Dominique Strauss-Kahn—who never made it to the Elysée. A year before the presidential vote in 2017, the name Emmanuel Macron had not been

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France worries about how to handle released terrorists

May 6, 2021

May 8th 2021PARIS“BEING LOCKED up is a piece of piss if the guy was ready to die,” said Youssef, who had been jailed for jihadism. “Ten years in prison? It’s fi sabilillah (in the cause of Allah). I’m going to learn the Koran, and leave even stronger.” Youssef (not his real name) was speaking to Hugo Micheron, a researcher conducting a study on jihadism in France. By the time the book was published last year, Youssef had served his term and been set free.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.France is grappling with an unfamiliar challenge: how to handle those let out after serving time for terrorist-related offences. Of the 500 or so such detainees now behind bars, 58 are due for release this year, and a total of

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