Friday , November 24 2017
Home / The Economist: Europe
The Economist: Europe

The Economist: Europe

With a growing global circulation (now more than 1.5 million including both print* and digital) and a reputation for insightful analysis and perspective on every aspect of world events, The Economist is one of the most widely recognized and well-read current affairs publications. The paper covers politics, business, science and technology, and books and arts, concluding each week with the obituary.



Articles by The Economist: Europe

With the break-up of coalition talks, Germany enters new territory

12 hours ago

THE clock was nearing midnight on November 19th when Christian Lindner walked out. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), Mr Lindner’s Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens were close to reaching a deal after weeks of preliminary coalition talks—or so observers thought. In a brief statement, the FDP’s leader shattered their expectations. The talks had failed to yield a “common vision” for the future of the country, he said. Entering a coalition would require his party to give up its principles: “It is better not to govern at all than to govern wrongly.”Mr Lindner’s walkout has put Germany in an unprecedented situation. With the option of a so-called Jamaica coalition (the parties’ colours are the same as those of the Jamaican flag) all but off the

Read More »

EU plans to move closer to the Swedish model for parental leave

12 hours ago

WHEN Johan Braven had his first child he took nine months of leave. For the second he took ten months, the same amount as his wife. “I was afraid of not having the bond if I didn’t spend time at home with the children too,” says Mr Braven. The first country in the world to allow couples to split parental leave (in 1974), Sweden offers each couple 480 days between them for each child. During the first 390 of those days, they are paid at close to 80% of their previous salary—by taxpayers. Ninety of those 480 days are reserved for each parent. The time can be taken up until the child is eight.Parents in the rest of Europe are far less generously treated. In most countries parental leave, other than time taken by either parent as maternity or paternity leave immediately before (in the case of

Read More »

Netherlands fishmongers accuse herring-tasters of erring

12 hours ago

HERRING (genus Clupea, with four species found in the Baltic and North Seas) have been vital to northern Europe’s economy since the Middle Ages, when fishermen worked out how to preserve them in brine. Every north European country maintains that there is a right way to eat the fish, but they differ as to what it is. In Sweden Baltic surströmming are fermented until slightly rancid. In Denmark the sill are pickled, or cooked and eaten in long strips. In the Netherlands haring must be lightly salted for preservation but otherwise raw, dipped in minced onion and accompanied with a pickle. No food is more loved.So the Dutch were shocked when accusations surfaced in November that there was something rotten about the national herring test. The test, sponsored by the Algemeen Dagblad, a

Read More »

New sanctions are about to bite, and Russia’s elite are spooked

12 hours ago

LAST January, shortly after Donald Trump was sworn in as America’s president, telephones started to ring in several Senate offices. The White House, staffers learned, was drafting an executive order to lift some of the sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its war against Ukraine in 2014. “We were horrified. Everyone was calling each other and we soon realised that all heard the same thing,” one recalls.The staffers promptly leaked the rumour, and began work on a bill to turn the sanctions, imposed by executive order under Barack Obama, into law. The idea was to stop Mr Trump from lifting them unilaterally. Although the earlier sanctions were related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was evidence of Russia’s meddling in America’s elections, not to mention Mr Trump’s worryingly

Read More »

Brexit explodes the ambiguity that underpins Northern Ireland

12 hours ago

CROSSING the border between Northern Ireland and his home in the south always left the young Gabriel D’Arcy sweating. But that is because he was invariably overdressed. In the 1960s the D’Arcy family made regular sorties to the north to buy cheap clothes; on the way home the children would layer on their purchases and sit bulging in the back seats as grinning Irish customs officials pretended to check the car for contraband. Today, as the CEO of LacPatrick, an Irish dairy firm with complex supply chains that zigzag across the border, Mr D’Arcy worries that Brexit will revive dangers that people on both sides thought had been consigned to the past.The adamantine certainties of the Brexiteers are an ill fit for the ambiguities of Northern Ireland. Talk to any Irish official and one assertion

Read More »

A verdict of genocide against the Bosnian Serb commander

1 day ago

RATKO MLADIC, the military leader of Bosnian Serb forces during the war of 1992-95, shouted “lies” at the court. Nevertheless, the UN’s Yugoslav war-crimes tribunal in The Hague found him guilty on November 22nd of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. There were no surprises in the verdicts and no surprises in the reactions. Mr Mladic has been sent to prison for life; and next month the tribunal will shut up shop for good.Mr Mladic was a ruddy-faced soldier’s soldier. He did not lead from behind. His troops loved him. He became, and still is, an icon for many Serbs. He saw himself as a defender of the Serbian nation, having taken up the sword as generations before him had done to fight for his people. He said he was innocent of all charges. Like many Serbs he was convinced

Read More »

A challenge to Turkey’s Erdogan

7 days ago

TO STEP into the ring with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s bruiser of a president, takes courage and self-belief. Meral Aksener has plenty of both. At the launch of her new political party on October 25th, some of Mrs Aksener’s supporters broke into chants of “Prime Minister Meral!” She replied: “No, not prime minister. President.” A prominent nationalist and former cabinet minister, she has not yet declared her candidacy for elections that are due to be held in 2019. However, everyone assumes she will. “My friends really want me to run,” she says, referring to colleagues from her newly unveiled, innocuously named Iyi (Good) party. “I might have no other choice.”Those who challenge Mr Erdogan tend to pay. The last to do so, Selahattin Demirtas, joint leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’

Read More »

France’s political extremes have fallen on hard times

7 days ago

“MAKE the most noise possible,” urged Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a radical-left politician, before a crowd this autumn. Saucepan-banging protesters would make a nationwide ruckus, he said, referring to a centuries-old method of protest known as les casserolades. They would tell Emmanuel Macron that his economic reforms “ruin our life and keep us from dreaming, so we stop you from sleeping”.In the event Mr Mélenchon disturbed nobody’s repose. At the appointed hour, at two locations in central Paris, just a handful of sheepish supporters from his France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France) movement turned out. Other marches, against labour-law reforms, have been bigger, but achieved equally little. More nationwide protests were due on November 16th, involving unions and students, but looked unlikely to

Read More »

Charting a new German foreign policy

7 days ago

IT WAS a heart-warming moment in the freezing wind of the Alsatian mountains. On November 10th the presidents of Germany and France, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Emmanuel Macron (pictured), shared a hug as they opened a French-German war memorial at Hartmannswillerkopf, where 30,000 soldiers died during months-long battles for control of the peak in 1915. Every generation had to be reminded anew, said Mr Steinmeier, why the task “to lead Europe into a hope-filled, better future” fell to Germany and France.Mr Steinmeier’s remarks underscored a commitment to European union, one of the twin pillars of German foreign policy since 1945, alongside participation in a multilateral world underwritten by America. But warm words cannot disguise the fact that these days both pillars are shaky. America

Read More »

Hungary’s Jobbik party tries to sound less extreme

9 days ago

AS A firebrand leader of Hungary’s nationalist Jobbik party, Gabor Vona once railed against “Gypsy crime” and “Israeli conquerors”. He even attended parliament in the outfit of the Magyar Garda, Jobbik’s now disbanded and, to many, deeply sinister, uniformed wing.But as Hungary starts to gear up for an election due by next April, Mr Vona and Jobbik claim to have mellowed. They now declare that they want to move beyond the old left-right divide and instead try to build social consensus. “Our goal is to get the support of all constructive forces who want to build rather than destroy,” says the new Mr Vona. The state and business leaders should work together to boost wages and the economy. There is no room for anti-Semitism or racism against Roma people, he says—although not all party

Read More »

A new party for Cyprus’s Russian exiles and expats

9 days ago

HUNDREDS of Western-trained Cypriot lawyers and accountants earn a living by handling the affairs of Russian and Ukrainian offshore companies. The relationship has flourished since the island became a base for proto-capitalists from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, thanks to a communist-era treaty on removing double taxation. A relaxed attitude to transactions involving cash-filled suitcases also helped.Nicosia, the island’s capital, and Limassol, its largest port, are these days home to an estimated 50,000-60,000 citizens of the former Soviet Union. Limassol’s once-seedy waterfront boasts smart blocks of flats, shopping malls and a gleaming marina for the billionaires’ superyachts. The wealthiest Russian and Ukrainian families flit between Cyprus, London and Paris.Upgrade your

Read More »

Italy’s party-hopping MPs

14 days ago

ONE Italian commentator compares them to so many Tarzans, gliding from tree to tree through the jungle of Italian politics. The latest was Giovanni Piccoli. On October 31st the 59-year-old senator swung back to Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, a mere 21 days after deserting it. According to Openpolis, an NGO, Mr Piccoli’s rethink was the 533rd time an Italian parliamentarian had changed sides since the start of the current legislature in 2013. Of the 945 deputies and senators elected then, 342 have felt moved by conscience, or other considerations, to change parliamentary groups; in many cases, more than once.The phenomenon is so common that there is a word for it: trasformismo (also used in Italian to describe the art of the theatrical quick-change artiste). Though a prime source

Read More »

Renaming Balkan airports to annoy the neighbours

14 days ago

ACROSS the western Balkans, gleaming new airport terminals are being built—and named in ways that upset the neighbours. A futuristic new facility opened in March in Zagreb, the Croatian capital. It has been renamed Franjo Tudjman airport, after the father of Croatia’s independence movement. He fought a vicious war with Croatia’s Serbs who, backed by Serbia, set up a short-lived breakaway Serbian republic on a third of Croatia’s territory. In 1995 most of the Serbs in Croatia were sent packing.Among those victims of ethnic cleansing were relatives of the world’s most famous Serb, Nikola Tesla, an inventor. Tesla was born a Serb in 1856 in what is now Croatia, but emigrated to America; both Serbs and Croats claim him. Since 2006, Belgrade airport has annoyingly (to some Croats) borne his

Read More »

Germany is missing its emissions targets

14 days ago

THE PR arm of Germany’s environment ministry has had a busy autumn. Over the past two weeks, colourful posters advertising the government’s global initiatives against climate change have gone up all over the country. In Bonn, where thousands of delegates gathered this week for the COP23 round of international climate-change talks, journalists are being encouraged to tour the area’s green projects. Barbara Hendricks, the environment minister, opened proceedings by pledging additional funds to help developing countries adjust to global warming. The world is supposed to see a pioneering green nation “ready for the future”, as the poster campaign has it.But look more closely, and that is only half-true. In October the government was forced to concede that Germany will probably break its

Read More »

Why Iranians take holidays in turbulent Turkey

14 days ago

TWO women in their 60s, one boasting a shock of bleached hair, the other in a loose headscarf, are dancing alongside a teenage girl in a white tube top. Families crowd behind tables weighed down by narghile pipes, glasses of overpriced beer and plates of sliced carrots and cucumbers. When a popular song comes on, a little boy begs his mother to join him on the dance floor. The venue is an underground nightclub in Van, a dusty, unremarkable city in Turkey’s south-east. But everyone inside, from the DJ to the barmaids to the patrons themselves, is from Iran.Rocked by a series of terror attacks, a failed coup attempt and an ongoing crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, Turkish tourism has been suffering. Foreign arrivals slumped from 36m in 2015 to just 25m last year.

Read More »

Opposition from eastern Europe threatens to scupper refugee reforms

14 days ago

YOU would be hard-pressed to find a more unlikely supporter of Geert Wilders, an anti-immigrant Dutch politician, than Khalid Jone, a Sudanese asylum seeker. Mr Jone lives in an empty office building in Diemen, near Amsterdam, where 60 failed asylum-seekers have been squatting since April. In 2002 he fled to the Netherlands from his native Darfur, escaping ethnic cleansing. He was denied asylum and has been in limbo ever since, filing appeals.There are hundreds of thousands of migrants like Mr Jone across Europe, caught in the gears of asylum systems. He is so fed up with the uncertainty, he says, that he wishes Mr Wilders had won the Dutch election in March: “At least he is not lying to me.” More important, Mr Wilders wants to pull the Netherlands out of the European Union, and Mr Jone

Read More »

Italy’s party-hopping MPs

14 days ago

ONE Italian commentator compares them to so many Tarzans, gliding from tree to tree through the jungle of Italian politics. The latest was Giovanni Piccoli. On October 31st the 59-year-old senator swung back to Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, a mere 21 days after deserting it. According to Openpolis, an NGO, Mr Piccoli’s rethink was the 533rd time an Italian parliamentarian had changed sides since the start of the current legislature in 2013. Of the 945 deputies and senators elected then, 342 have felt moved by conscience, or other considerations, to change parliamentary groups; in many cases, more than once.The phenomenon is so common that there is a word for it: trasformismo (also used in Italian to describe the art of the theatrical quick-change artiste). Though a prime source

Read More »

The Macron plan for Europe

14 days ago

YOU might think Emmanuel Macron deserves a moment to catch his breath. Just half a year ago he pulled off one of the most audacious political coups in recent European history, trouncing a tired political establishment to become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon. He created a political party from scratch and took it to a triple-digit majority in parliament. He has energetically set about reforming France’s labour market and tax system. Yet having pulled off all this at home, Mr Macron now hopes to repeat the trick across the European Union.Surveying the continent, Mr Macron spots similar dysfunction to that he observed in France and wants to apply similar remedies. Allow globalisation to run untempered, he reckons, and you generate vicious backlashes à la Brexit and Donald Trump.

Read More »

Two years after Bataclan, France ponders how to fight terrorism

15 days ago

IT WILL be a sobering tour. Emmanuel Macron is to place flowers at the Stade de France, the Bataclan theatre and elsewhere in Paris on November 13th, marking the places where gunmen killed 130 people and injured over 400. Two years and several murderous assaults later, France’s president says such Islamist extremists remain the greatest threat to internal security. He argues, too, that a country ill-prepared in 2015 to fight “jihadist terrorism” is improving its capacity.He is probably right on both counts. Mr Macron’s government plans to recruit an extra 10,000 police by 2022. After years of neglect, it will promote community policing—sensible, because day-to-day encounters, for example with immigrant groups in poor districts, should provide helpful intelligence. As important, in June it

Read More »

The French are fretting over a sudden butter shortage

21 days ago

“IT’S A true catastrophe, monsieur,” says a baker in central Paris as she places warm, flaky croissants in a paper bag. The price of local butter has soared in the past year, she says: “We are used to costs going up, but this is really extreme.” Her pastry counter is well stocked, but margins per croissant are squeezed.Elsewhere it is shortages that bite. In a nearby Carrefour supermarket, fridges that are usually crammed with packets of butter are mostly empty. Social-media users around France share photos of bare shelves using the tag #BeurreGate. A prankster on an online-auction site offered to sell a slice of buttered toast. Press reports talk of hoarding. Because butter is essential for much local cuisine—the French eat more of it than anyone—scarcity spreads dismay.Various factors

Read More »

How “Wagner” came to Syria

21 days ago

“I AM Roman Sergeyevich Zabolotny, born in 1979, and I have been taken prisoner,” says a Russian-speaking man in a video released last month by the jihadists of Islamic State (IS). A second soldier, his right eye swollen shut, sits silently in grey robes. Both were reportedly captured during a battle near Deir ez-Zor, a city in Syria’s east and the site of a recent offensive by Russian and Syrian government forces. Yet the Russian defence ministry denied that any of its soldiers had gone missing. Friends and relatives told Russian media that the men had gone to Syria not with the Russian army, but as part of a shadowy mercenary force known as “Wagner”.The group has come to play a key role in Russian operations in Syria. Though Russian law officially bans private military companies (PMCs),

Read More »

Britain’s planned departure is already changing Brussels

21 days ago

SCRATCH your head and the memory flickers into life. Britain was once an influential member of the European Union. Its politicians were infuriating but effective, its diplomats skilled at crafting alliances, its officials adept at the push-me-pull-you of shaping EU law. This is how Britain earned a budget rebate, an opt-out from the euro, and, under David Cameron, a “renegotiation” of its membership (since voided by the Brexit vote). Nor were its energies devoted solely to carving out special treatment. Vital EU achievements like the single market and post-1989 enlargement owe their existence to dogged British diplomacy.How things change. British officials describe a chill that set in the moment voters elected to leave. Ostensibly Britain remains fully signed up to the EU, with voting

Read More »

The man who wasn’t there

21 days ago

ON THE morning of October 30th five police vans staked out the Palace of the Generalitat, the part-medieval seat of the government of Catalonia on the Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona’s gothic quarter. But there was no sign of Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia’s now ex-president, nor of any demonstrators protesting against his dismissal by the Spanish government. Instead, there were foreign journalists waiting for the clash that didn’t happen.Three days earlier, Plaça Sant Jaume overflowed with a euphoric crowd celebrating a declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament. “Freedom”, they chanted. “It’s a dream, it’s marvellous,” said David Regalos, an estate agent who had brought his teenage daughter for what he saw as a historic occasion. “It may hurt the business I work in,” he admitted,

Read More »

The new Czech leader is not leading an anti-Europe uprising

29 days ago

WHY does it keep happening? Consider some events of the past week. Andrej Babis, a tycoon with a populist bent, sweeps aside the old guard in a Czech election. Fresh from his own electoral success, Sebastian Kurz, the boy wonder of Austrian conservatism, opens coalition talks with a far-right party that harbours former neo-Nazis in its ranks. Dozens of deputies from the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party take their seats in a Bundestag that was supposed never to find space for their kind, while Viktor Orban, the father of Hungary’s illiberal democracy, declares central Europe a “migrant-free zone”.It is tempting to seek a single explanation for these disparate phenomena. Perhaps Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy of 2015 is to blame. Maybe this is the rage of those left

Read More »

Switzerland is seeing more cases of malaria

29 days ago

“YE SHUL hav a fevere tertaine,” a line from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, is probably a reference to malaria, which was rife in swampy areas of medieval England. (“Tertaine” refers to the fever’s tendency to recur every three days, a hallmark of the variety known as Plasmodium vivax.) The parasite was once endemic throughout Europe, not just in southern countries like Greece but as far north as Finland. In Italy in the late 19th century it used to kill 15,000 people each year. But by the end of the last century public-health programmes had rid the continent of the disease. Today, even in Africa and Asia, the war on malaria is going well: between 2000 and 2015, the World Health Organisation reported a 37% drop in the global incidence rate, and a 60% fall in the death toll.One might thus

Read More »

Ksenia Sobchak fills out the cast of Russia’s electoral circus

29 days ago

KSENIA SOBCHAK first gained fame in Russia as the host of Dom-2, a raunchy reality-television show where contestants compete for love while building a house. Since then, Ms Sobchak, whose father was Vladimir Putin’s political mentor, has cycled through a variety of roles, including talk-show host, opposition leader, journalist, restaurateur, model and actress. Her latest part may be her biggest yet: candidate for president of Russia.Ms Sobchak acknowledges that the election, due in March 2018, is not a real contest, but a “high-budget show”. She knows that she has no chance, but says she represents voters who are “against everyone”. Ms Sobchak insists her role has not been approved by the powers that be, but few in Moscow politics believe her. Many recall the bid in 2012 of Mikhail

Read More »

In the Czech Republic, almost everyone ran against the system

29 days ago

THE ANO (“Yes”) party, led by Andrej Babis, an agro-industrialist billionaire, won a clear victory in the Czech general election on October 21st. Like other populist politicians, Mr Babis attacked established political parties as a cartel of insiders, despite himself serving as finance minister from 2014-17. “Traditional parties play this game of left and right, but they are not left and right,” Mr Babis says. “They have the same programme: power and money.” The message worked. ANO took 29.6% of the vote and 78 of 200 seats.But as in many European countries, Czech politics is fragmenting. Nine parties will enter parliament, including everything from communists to far-right xenophobes, and there is no obvious coalition. Czech unemployment is low, the economy is growing and wages are rising.

Read More »

Spain prepares to intervene in Catalonia

29 days ago

MANY Spaniards have long hoped that an all-out confrontation between the government and the pro-independence leaders of Catalonia could be avoided. But this week time all but ran out.On October 21st Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, asked the Senate to grant him the constitutional power to dismiss the Catalan regional government, impose direct rule and call a fresh regional election within six months. With Catalan leaders pledging resistance, it is unclear whether this heralds the start of a solution or a worsening of Spain’s constitutional crisis.As The Economist went to press, Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Generalitat, as Catalonia’s devolved government is known, was due to address his parliament. Many in his coalition, which holds a bare majority of seats, want him to

Read More »

The fall of a wacky mayor shows Turkey’s president is worried

29 days ago

EARLIER this year, Melih Gokcek, the veteran mayor of Ankara and a member of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party, hosted a group of foreign journalists at an estate on the capital’s outskirts. Mr Gokcek began by clicking his way through a gruesome PowerPoint presentation on the previous summer’s failed coup, mixing images of bodies mangled by tanks with the soundtrack from the film “Requiem for a Dream”. He finished by claiming that Western powers had been involved in the bloodbath, that the Obama administration had created Islamic State, and that American and Israeli seismic vessels were deliberately setting off earthquakes near Turkey’s Aegean coast. A bewildered reporter asked where Mr Gokcek was getting his information. “I have the world’s best intelligence service at my

Read More »

Northern Italy votes for more autonomy

October 24, 2017

MORE than 5m Italians took part on October 22nd in two referendums on granting more autonomy to the rich, northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, which drew inevitable comparisons to the independence ballot three weeks earlier in Catalonia. Few in Italy travelled as far to cast their votes as Maurizio Zordan. The 53-year-old executive recently moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to run the American subsidiary of his family firm, which sells shop fittings for luxury-brand stores. But he felt so passionately about the referendum that he flew back to vote in his home town of Valdagno.The governments of the two regions staged the ballots ostensibly to give themselves a popular mandate to open negotiations with Rome (even though they could have demanded talks without a vote). Both administrations

Read More »