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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

Armenia’s unpopular president makes himself prime minister

5 days ago

“I BELIEVE that one person must not aspire to the reins of power more than twice in a lifetime,” Serzh Sargsyan, then president of Armenia, declared in 2014. But the unpopular Mr Sargsyan, whose second (and final) consecutive term as president expired on April 9th, was just kidding. On April 17th the national assembly, stacked with loyalists, elected him as the country’s new prime minister. Even many members of the biggest “opposition” group voted for him. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Vladimir Putin must be smiling.Around 10,000 protesters in Yerevan, the capital, took to the streets before the vote, chanting “Reject Serzh!” Police used tear-gas to disperse them. With hindsight Mr Sargsyan’s intentions have long been clear. Constitutional changes he enacted in December

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A Russian created Telegram. Now Russia is trying to block it

5 days ago

TELEGRAM, a sleek online messaging service founded in 2013, has 200m users worldwide. About 15m of them are in Russia, the homeland of its founder, Pavel Durov. Russia’s business and political elite have taken to its anonymous “channel” feature to dish out insider gossip. Even the Kremlin has adopted it to communicate with reporters.But along with user-friendliness, Telegram has built its brand on privacy. Russian authorities are not pleased. The Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, has demanded that Telegram obey a law requiring firms to hand over the cryptographic “keys” needed to access encrypted messages. Mr Durov has refused. His lawyer posted a picture of two metal keys he joked had been sent to the FSB. Last week a court ruled against Telegram. Roskomnadzor, the

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Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious plans for Europe are running aground

5 days ago

WHEN France’s president speaks about Europe, his remarks are directed in part at Germany. Before his election in 2017 Emmanuel Macron went to great lengths to show Angela Merkel that he could be a credible partner. He lauded her leadership on refugees and Russia, took the fight to populists, and promised to tackle France’s economic rigidities, all wrapped in a European Union flag. The Elysée Treaty of 1963, the basis for Franco-German co-operation, would be given a fresh lick of paint. For years visitors to Berlin had grown familiar with weary complaints about unreformable France. Now the Germans seemed to have what they had long claimed to be waiting for. If Mr Macron had not come along, perhaps Germany would have had to invent him.Mr Macron has always argued that his domestic plans

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Mis-labelled Ibérico ham makes Spanish foodies squeal

5 days ago

ON A spring morning in Extremadura, a few miles from the border with Portugal, a herd of brown Ibérico pigs is gambolling in the dehesa, the open parkland that occupies a broad swathe of south-eastern Spain. The pigs are clean and friendly. They live outdoors and are grass-fed. Next winter they will fatten on acorns. They will be slaughtered at around 18 months, and after curing with sea salt and years of natural drying, will start going on sale in 2023, says Jaime García of Montesano, the family-run company that owns them.Ibérico ham is the beluga caviar of the porcine world. It is slow food. The best hams will hang in Montesano’s drying rooms on a hilltop outside the town of Jerez de los Caballeros for up to six years, sweating gently when the windows are opened. This breaks down the fat

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Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party is doing lasting damage

5 days ago

FOR a glimpse of Poland under the populist Law and Justice (PiS) party, tune in to the news on the state television channel, Telewizja Polska (TVP). The opening sequence, a computer-animated tour of Polish landmarks, homes in on the clock tower of Warsaw’s royal castle. The capital’s most recognisable building, the towering Soviet-era Palace of Culture and Science, is nowhere to be seen. Then the anchors appear, and proceed to praise PiS slavishly while branding its critics treacherous crypto-communists.This combination of subtle and brazen nationalist revisionism captures the two-and-a-half years of PiS rule. The party has purged the public administration, made it illegal to accuse the “Polish nation” of complicity in the Holocaust, and peddled conspiracy theories about the aeroplane

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Conspiracy theories from, and about, Russia

12 days ago

RUSSIA attracts conspiracy theories. Just ask the thousands of Poles who marched on April 10th, the eighth anniversary of the plane crash near Smolensk, Russia, that killed Lech Kaczynski, then Poland’s president, and 95 other passengers. As always, the annual commemoration (there are smaller monthly ones) began with mass at Warsaw’s cathedral, and ended with a speech by Mr Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw, head of the populist Law and Justice (PiS) party and Poland’s de facto leader. He promised that Poles would soon know the truth about how their president died. Mr Kaczynski and his party have long implied that Russia downed the plane on purpose.There has never been much evidence for this. The plane fell short of the runway in heavy fog. Investigations by Russian and Polish authorities

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Turkey and Greece ratchet up tension in the Mediterranean

12 days ago

WHEN Recep Tayyip Erdogan travelled to Greece late last year, the first such trip by a Turkish president in more than six decades, hopes surfaced that he and his hosts might hammer out a formula to reduce tensions. The past couple of months have disappointed the optimists. Rather than coming to grips with old grievances, Turkey and Greece are creating new ones instead—in the skies and in the seas.On March 27th a Turkish court denied bail to two Greek soldiers arrested weeks earlier after crossing the border with Turkey. The soldiers say they strayed into Turkish territory because of thick snow and fog. Turkish prosecutors have charged them with espionage: Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, compared Mr Erdogan to a sultan and accused him of turning the men into hostages. Turkey has

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Protests outside Moscow about rubbish turn serious

12 days ago

THE stench hanging over Volokolamsk, a sleepy town west of Moscow, stings the nostrils like tiny needles. Downwind from the nearby Yadrovo landfill site, the noxious blend of sulphur, rot and methane becomes unbearable. Last month it sent at least 50 children to the hospital with respiratory ailments and rashes, and has brought thousands onto the streets in protest. In late March residents physically attacked the head of the local district. A ten-year-old girl in a pink hat became the movement’s symbol after making a throat-slitting gesture towards the regional governor, Andrei Vorobyov.As the authorities struggle to snuff out the smell, unrest has spread. At least half a dozen districts in the Moscow region have seen garbage-related pickets in recent weeks. Residents have focused their

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Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, wins another landslide

12 days ago

VIKTOR ORBAN, the Hungarian prime minister, swept back to power on April 8th for the third time in a row, as his right-wing Fidesz party took 134 seats in the 199-seat parliament. His opponents were left in the dust: Jobbik, a nationalist party now moving to the centre, won 25, while the Socialists and their allies took 20. Fidesz won thanks to an ugly but effective campaign that focused almost entirely on supposed threats to Hungarian sovereignty from George Soros, a Hungarian philanthropist, the EU and the United Nations.Mr Orban’s fourth term in office (he also governed from 1998-2002) is likely to see him entrench his vision of an “illiberal democracy”, and cause further problems for liberal NGOs, especially those dealing with migration. It will doubtless deepen Hungary’s cultural and

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Azerbaijan’s president wins yet another term

12 days ago

THE last time a presidential election was held in Azerbaijan, in 2013, the central election commission began releasing the results a day before voting had even started. Embarrassed officials blamed a technical glitch. This time round, in the election held on April 11th, officials at least kept up the pretence of democracy by withholding results for a full four hours after the final vote was cast. But the outcome was never in doubt. Ilham Aliyev, who succeeded his father in 2003, won a fourth term with around 86% of the vote.The result was hardly a cliff-hanger. Both of the two main opposition parties—Musavat (Equality) and the National Council of Democratic Forces—boycotted the election, which Mr Aliyev had unexpectedly brought forward from October. Although there were seven presidential

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Emmanuel Macron faces a wave of strikes and protests in France

12 days ago

IN THE western city of Nantes, protesters burned an effigy of the president. On the university campus of Nanterre, riot police had to break up a sit-in. Across the country, railwaymen this week entered the third round of rolling strikes. As France approaches the 50th anniversary of the uprising of May 1968, it seems once again to be caught up in a wave of defiant rebellion. The French may have elected a young leader, Emmanuel Macron, who promised change. But nearly a year later it appears that they have already had enough.The sources of discontent are various. Railway workers, or cheminots, are on strike against a reorganisation of the SNCF, the national railway, which would put an end to jobs-for-life for new recruits. Air France pilots have grounded planes over a pay dispute. Retirees

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Social democracy is floundering everywhere in Europe, except Portugal

12 days ago

ANTONIO COSTA, Portugal’s affable prime minister, greets your columnist with a broad grin as he settles his hefty frame into a sofa in his official residence. He has a lot to smile about. Lisbon, among Europe’s hottest tourist destinations, is enjoying a mini startup boom. Portugal’s footballers are the European champions, and its politicians have nabbed a clutch of senior international jobs. And above all, he is the winner of a high-stakes political gamble.When Mr Costa’s Socialist Party lost an election in 2015 to the centre-right (and confusingly named) Social Democrats, who had overseen a harsh EU-imposed austerity programme during a three-year €78bn ($107bn) bail-out, most observers expected the Socialists to prop them up in a left-right “grand coalition” of the sort now common across

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Russian protests over the Kemerovo fire are already burning out

19 days ago

WITHIN a day, fire crews doused the blaze that killed 64 people on March 25th at the Winter Cherry mall in Kemerovo, a Siberian mining hub. More than a week later, the political embers still smoulder. A national day of mourning was declared, social-media avatars went black and marches were held across the country. In Kemerovo, protesters demanded the resignation of the governor, Aman Tuleyev. On April 2nd, he said he would go.Though lethal disasters are common in Russia, the fire in Kemerovo seems destined to enter a different category of national tragedy, alongside the sinking of the Kursk submarine in 2000 and the Beslan hostage crisis in 2004. More than 40 of the victims were children, many trapped inside a cinema watching the animated film “Sherlock Gnomes”. Some wrote panicked

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Viktor Orban is set to continue his illiberal reign

19 days ago

IN 1988 a dissident Hungarian university graduate wrote a letter to George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist, asking for help obtaining a scholarship to Oxford University. In the letter, which has recently resurfaced, the young Viktor Orban said he wanted to study the “rebirth of civil society”. He got the scholarship. Thirty years on, Mr Orban, now prime minister, looks likely to win his third election in a row on April 8th. But he is busy throttling the independent civil society he once championed.Mr Orban’s right-wing populist party, Fidesz, is far ahead in the polls. The divided opposition is bickering over whose candidates should step down in local constituencies, in order to unite behind one anti-Fidesz candidate per district. (That tactic led to an opposition win in a former

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Poland’s conservatives are pushing one of Europe’s toughest abortion laws

19 days ago

AT 13 weeks of pregnancy, Marta, a young woman in Warsaw, learned that her baby had Down’s syndrome and life-threatening defects. After a procedural obstacle course (including a visit to a psychiatrist), she was allowed to undergo a legal abortion, one of just 1,000 or so in Poland every year. Poland has some of Europe’s tightest restrictions on abortion, allowing it only when the mother’s life is at risk, or in cases of rape or severe prenatal defects. Many women turn to illegal abortions or go abroad, often to Germany.Now the restrictions could get even tighter. Legislation proposed by a pro-life organisation, backed by the Catholic church, would ban abortion even for severe prenatal defects. The Polish parliament’s committee for human rights gave the bill the go-ahead last month,

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Viktor Orban is set to continue his illiberal reign

19 days ago

IN 1988 a dissident Hungarian university graduate wrote a letter to George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist, asking for help obtaining a scholarship to Oxford University. In the letter, which has recently resurfaced, the young Viktor Orban said he wanted to study the “rebirth of civil society”. He got the scholarship. Thirty years on, Mr Orban, now prime minister, looks likely to win his third election in a row on April 8th. But he is busy throttling the independent civil society he once championed.Mr Orban’s right-wing populist party, Fidesz, is far ahead in the polls. The divided opposition is bickering over whose candidates should step down in local constituencies, in order to unite behind one anti-Fidesz candidate per district. (That tactic led to an opposition win in a former

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The EU guarantees its citizens’ data rights, in theory

19 days ago

IN THE wake of the scandal over the unauthorised use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica, a campaign consultant, some Americans are looking enviously at the European Union, whose privacy laws are the global gold standard. Rights over personal data are enshrined in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. European citizens have the right to have their data processed fairly, to know what data an organisation holds about them and what it is doing with those data. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a law strengthening data protection across the EU, goes into force at the end of May (see article). Yet in practice, when European citizens try to exercise such rights, they tend to end up mired in bureaucracy.Take the case of Paul-Olivier Dehaye. In December 2016 Mr Dehaye, a Belgian

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France’s leakiest border is in the Indian Ocean

19 days ago

MANY Europeans feel their homelands have too many immigrants. In countries like Germany, as many as 15% of the population are foreigners. But on Mayotte, a small French island in the Indian Ocean with a population of 256,500, the share is more than half. Immigration has led to violent protests and a general strike, bringing the island to a standstill since February. Locals have begun rounding up suspected illegal immigrants, and the island is descending into chaos.“Every night ten boats carrying at least 30 people arrive on our shores,” says Mansour Kamardine, Mayotte’s deputy in France’s National Assembly. “It is absolutely intolerable.” Many of those arriving are pregnant women. Every year, 70% of the 10,000 births in the island’s sole maternity hospital are to illegal migrants. France’s

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The EU is tolerating—and enabling—authoritarian kleptocracy in Hungary

19 days ago

IT IS a miserable day for a political stunt. Rain drips ceaselessly from the stands of the cathedral-like stadium in Felcsut, the home village of Viktor Orban, Hungary’s football-mad prime minister. Bescarved fans huddle for warmth as they queue to watch their team, Puskas Academy, take on a local rival. Across the street Laszlo Szilagyi, an election candidate for Dialogue, an opposition party, and a few colleagues have gathered outside Mr Orban’s modest cottage. Sausages bearing the names of national oligarchs are draped over the garden fence, in an apparent nod to an old Hungarian aphorism that mocks the wealthy.For the likes of Mr Szilagyi, Felcsut is emblematic of everything that has gone wrong under Mr Orban. The stadium, completed in 2014, cost a fortune; a nearby tourist train,

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Bavaria’s conservatives are embracing identity politics to fend off the far right

19 days ago

THE Rittbitten is as characteristic of Erlstätt, a village in southern Bavaria, as the onion dome of its church and the Alpine peaks on its horizon. Each year villagers gather at the Gasthaus Fliegl restaurant, where, accompanied by a brass band in lederhosen, the religious Saint George Society invites locals to join an Easter Monday horseback ride. It is respect for the old ways, says Andreas Fliegl, that has made this place so successful: “We have the lowest unemployment in Germany.” He is thinking of entering his restaurant in a competition, created by Marcus Söder, the new Bavarian premier, to find the state’s best “Heimat inn”. Heimat means home, but also tradition, belonging and place. In Bavaria, it is the front line of a big political experiment.At the general election last

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Western governments expel Russian diplomats

27 days ago

IT IS one thing to stand defiant and aloof on the world stage, another to be a pariah. That is the message that Western governments hope President Vladimir Putin will absorb as he digests the co-ordinated expulsion of over 130 Russian diplomats by more than two dozen countries, in response to a nerve-agent attack in Britain. America’s decision to throw out 60 Russian officials accused of spying under diplomatic cover was that country’s largest such action, exceeding even expulsions in the chilliest years of the cold war. President Donald Trump’s government also ordered the Russian consulate in Seattle to close, citing its proximity to a nuclear submarine base and to the headquarters of Boeing, an aircraft maker.Foreign leaders, notably those from Britain, France and Germany, used a

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Catalonia’s separatist leader is arrested in Germany

27 days ago

SPAIN’S intelligence service was humiliated last year when it failed to stop supporters of Carles Puigdemont’s separatist Catalan government from smuggling in ballot boxes for an unconstitutional independence referendum. The spies got their revenge on March 25th when they tipped off German police, who arrested Mr Puigdemont after he drove across the border from Denmark. He was remanded to prison and is likely to be extradited to Spain within two months.Mr Puigdemont’s arrest ended five months of self-imposed exile, mostly in Belgium, after he organised a post-referendum declaration of independence on October 27th. It came two days after a judge of the supreme court in Madrid charged Mr Puigdemont and 24 other separatist leaders with crimes ranging from rebellion to disobedience. He sent

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How “identitarian” politics is changing Europe

27 days ago

THE Flemish city of Ghent is so packed with medieval antiquities that it is in no danger of forgetting its history. Nonetheless, cultural identity is a burning political issue there. On March 22nd marchers led by a conservative Flemish student group, the Nationalist Student Union (NSV), filed into the square of the Cathedral of St Bavo. The march was a protest over the large number of murders of white South African farmers by blacks. It was also part of a growing movement led by young European activists aimed at reshaping identity politics, long the province of the left, into a right-wing cause.White Afrikaners, like Flemings, speak a form of Dutch, so there is a cultural bond. The NSV, founded in 1976 as part of the Flemish independence movement, wanted to show solidarity with them, said

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Noroc (cheers) for Moldovan wine

27 days ago

“LET’S try this!” Victor Bostan selects a 1984 red from the cellar of his Purcari winery. He is in a bullish mood. Last month Purcari shares began trading on the Bucharest stock exchange. In 2017 sales from his four wineries were up 35% on 2016. Bad weather in the big western European winemaking countries caused production to plummet to its lowest level in 60 years. But in Moldova, where the weather was good, producers can scarcely contain their excitement at how well things are going.In Soviet days almost all Moldovan wine went to the rest of the Soviet Union. In the 1980s its vineyards were uprooted when Mikhail Gorbachev began his anti-alcoholism campaign. With the collapse of the Soviet Union much of Moldova’s industry also collapsed; but the wine and brandy businesses did not. Indeed,

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How the Dutch will take Britain’s place in Europe

27 days ago

“ALL the North Sea’s people are connected to each other,” muses Hans de Boer, president of VNO-NCW, the Dutch business lobby, as he gazes from his 12th-floor office in The Hague. It is not a bad place for a Dutchman to consider the consequences of Brexit. The port of Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest, is just visible in the morning haze. Eighty thousand Dutch firms trade with Britain; 162,000 lorries thunder between the two countries each year. Rabobank, a Dutch lender, calculates that even a soft Brexit could lop 3% off GDP by 2030. Bar Ireland, no country will suffer more. “Brexit was not our preferred option,” offers Mr de Boer, drily.Dutch governments spent the 1950s and 1960s trying to get their British friends into the European club; when Britain voted to leave, in June 2016, some wondered

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Italy’s populists edge closer to forming a government

28 days ago

THE first duty of a newly elected Speaker of the chamber of deputies, Italy’s lower house, is to visit the president in his palace on the Quirinal hill. On March 24th Roberto Fico of the maverick Five Star Movement (M5S) was chosen for the job. But instead of following custom by slipping into an official limousine for the one-kilometre journey, Mr Fico walked up with his partner.His election signalled not just a change of style, but a shift in the political landscape that shortened the odds on an all-populist government emerging from the consultations that President Sergio Mattarella is to initiate after Easter. Mr Fico, who began in politics as an environmental activist, won with the help of the populist-right Northern League and Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia party. Yet

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Turkey’s last big independent media firm is snapped up by a regime ally

29 days ago

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN has been on a roll lately. On March 18th the Turkish president announced the army’s capture of Afrin, a Kurdish stronghold in Syria, after two months of relentless attacks. Barely a week later, he scored another victory when a pliable mogul snapped up the last bastion of semi-independent journalism in Turkey, the Dogan group, for $1.2bn.For one of the country’s largest media conglomerates, the sale must have felt like a coup de grâce. Dogan outlets, including two of the country’s four biggest newspapers, Hurriyet and Posta; a leading television channel, CNN Turk; and a news agency, among many others, have been squirming under government pressure for years. The group’s ageing owner, Aydin Dogan, one of the symbols of Turkey’s deposed secular order, has been hounded by

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Two giant engineering projects will alter the European landscape

March 22, 2018

WHEN the Berlin Wall fell, Europe began repairing its sundered east-west transport networks. A revived Paris-Moscow train heralded the new era. Berlin’s cathedral-like main station, opened in 2006, became the continent’s new hub. But old north-south bottlenecks are back in the spotlight. Of the nine “Core Network Corridors” currently earmarked for EU investment, six are more vertical than horizontal. The centrepiece of this strategy is the “Scandinavian-Mediterranean corridor” from Sweden and Finland, through Denmark, Germany, Austria and Italy to Malta in the south. This programme—jointly funded by the EU and member states—includes railway electrification, port modernisation and the two largest engineering projects on the continent.The greatest progress has been at the route’s northern

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Catholics are keeping a low profile in Ireland’s abortion referendum campaign

March 22, 2018

WHEN Ireland first voted on abortion, back in 1983, there was no doubt as to who was behind the push for a full constitutional ban. The Pro Life Amendment Campaign, which persuaded 67% of voters to approve the 8th Amendment to Ireland’s constitution, was a coalition of Roman Catholic organisations supported by the pope and his bishops. Rosaries and crosses were proudly borne to its marches and rallies.Now, 35 years later, as Ireland prepares to vote, in May or June, on a proposed repeal of the amendment, overt Catholicism has all but vanished from the scene. Although the religious affiliations of many activists are, of course, known, contemporary pro-life groups like the Iona Institute, the Pro Life Campaign, the Life Institute, and Save the 8th present themselves as non- or

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Why Uber in Istanbul is costlier than a cab

March 22, 2018

COMPETITION between Uber and the taxi industry tends to be fierce everywhere. In Turkey it has turned violent. Over the past month, some Uber drivers in Istanbul, the only Turkish city where the ride-sharing firm operates regularly, have been beaten, and on at least one occasion shot at, by disgruntled cabbies. A union of taxi drivers has taken Uber to court, asking the authorities to block access to its app. (The country has already banned Wikipedia and Booking.com, an online travel agent, as well as thousands of other web pages.) The union’s boss recently accused Uber of being part of a “thieving Jewish lobby”.Most of Istanbul’s cabbies are perfectly nice people who resort neither to violence nor to anti-Semitism when faced with new market entrants or afternoon traffic. But too many are

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