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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

Italians vote for fewer, better politicians

4 days ago

Sep 26th 2020ROMEIT IS NOT often that voters get a chance to cut politicians down to size. But on September 20th-21st, Italy’s did—and they seized the opportunity with both hands. By a whopping majority of 70% to 30%, they opted in a referendum to slash the number of lawmakers by more than a third. The lower house (the Chamber of Deputies) will have 400 members, down from 630, while the upper one will have 200 elected senators rather than 315. The reform also capped at five the number of presidentially nominated senators-for-life.The new law will take effect after the next general election, which does not have to be until 2023 though it may come earlier. It will not affect the generous salaries and perks of Italy’s parliamentarians. Nor does it tackle a more fundamental problem: that the

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France, as ever, wants to be both European and French

4 days ago

Sep 26th 2020PARISTHE PANDEMIC has grounded most European leaders. But not Emmanuel Macron. In recent weeks, the French president has been in hyperactive diplomatic mode. He has jetted off twice to Lebanon, once dropping in on Iraq on the way back. He has dispatched a frigate and two fighter jets to help Greece and Cyprus defend their waters from Turkish incursions, and held a sea-front summit of Mediterranean leaders in Corsica to try to rally others to make a tougher stand against Turkey. On September 28th-30th the French president is off again, this time to Latvia and Lithuania, where he will visit French soldiers serving in a NATO battlegroup.What is Mr Macron up to? Three years ago this month, in the amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, he outlined an ambitious plan to reinvigorate the

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Ukraine’s anti-corruption court bares its teeth

4 days ago

Sep 26th 2020KYIVTHE OFFICIALS who ran Ukraine before its revolution in 2014 are believed to have stolen billions of dollars. One crony gave Viktor Yanukovych, when he was president, a solid gold loaf of bread. So nabbing a regional forestry official for a $10,000 bribe may seem like small potatoes. But the sentencing on August 28th of Oleksandr Levkivsky, who stands to serve four years in prison for taking a kickback to let out public land, is a big deal. Mr Levkivsky is among the first officials convicted by Ukraine’s High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC), which began work a year ago.The court was set up at the behest of the IMF, which demanded an independent anti-corruption mechanism, among other things, in exchange for the billions of dollars in credit Ukraine needs to keep its economy

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The problem of the EU’s “golden passports”

4 days ago

Sep 26th 2020AN EU PASSPORT is one of the most desirable documents on the planet. Its bearer can live and work in 27 different countries, all of them prosperous and peaceful. Many have excellent food, too. In the birthright lottery of citizenship, those with a burgundy ticket marked “European Union” are among the lucky winners. Putting a pricetag on this is hard, but Cyprus has managed it. Invest €2.2m ($2.6m) in the island and a Cypriot passport with all the benefits of EU citizenship can be yours. Malta runs a similar (and, at just over €1m, rather cheaper) scheme for anyone tired of travelling with papers that open fewer doors.Not everyone thinks this is a good idea. In a recent speech Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s president, mentioned such “golden passports” as one of

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Upcoming referendums will show how the Swiss may relate to the EU

4 days ago

Sep 26th 2020ZURICHOPERATION LIBERO is planning something, but it won’t say what. The Swiss liberal activist group is known for its creative campaigns against referendums launched by the right-wing populist Swiss People’s Party (SVP). On September 27th the latest such initiative, to end freedom of movement with the EU, comes to a vote, and Operation Libero plans to stage an unspecified media stunt. The aim is to tease the country’s politicians, not for doing too much to integrate into the EU, but for doing too little. “They think Swiss people don’t want [more integration] with the EU, but that’s not true,” says Laura Zimmermann, the group’s co-head. “Times have changed.”If so, Operation Libero deserves some credit. For decades the tone of Swiss politics has been set by the anti-immigrant

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Europe’s asylum compromise

11 days ago

Sep 19th 2020IT TAKES A lot of misery to jolt European politicians into action on migration. Only when bodies started piling up on Lampedusa, an Italian island near Tunisia, did European leaders in 2013 first properly acknowledge the refugee crisis at its border. At its peak in 2015, when 1m people entered the EU, only the very worst stories cut through. In one incident, 71 people—including four children—suffocated inside a meat lorry. Their bodies were discovered beside an Austrian motorway when a policeman noticed their liquefied remains seeping out. Compared with those horrors, the long-running misery of Moria, an overcrowded, squalid refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos was a side-story.Until it burnt down on September 9th. Moria and other camps like it dotted across Greece were

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Alexei Navalny, Russia’s poisoned opposition leader, has a Siberian success

11 days ago

Sep 19th 2020LAST MONTH Alexei Navalny, Russia’s main opposition leader, stood in the middle of Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia and the country’s third-biggest city, explaining how to liberate it from occupation by crooks and thieves. For thus has he famously dubbed the United Russia party. The party is the country’s largest, and the vehicle through which President Vladimir Putin exercises legislative control. “The basis of Putin’s power is not the State Duma as is commonly believed,” said Mr Navalny. “The main strength lies in the fact that the Kremlin’s United Russia has a majority in every legislative assembly in every region and in every major city’s council.”All these councillors, mayors and governors keep Mr Putin in power and in return are allowed to extract money from the

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Greece’s navy is in need of a refit

11 days ago

Sep 19th 2020ATHENS“WE GAVE THE Turks a lesson in seamanship,” boasts Andreas Stefanopoulos, a reservist in Greece’s navy. The jingoistic mood that swept Athens after a collision in the eastern Mediterranean on August 12th, in which a newish Turkish frigate suffered visible damage while a 40-year-old Greek one was apparently unharmed, is yet to fade. Morale in the armed forces is “the highest I’ve ever seen”, a former Greek defence minister declares. “The navy and air force are both raring to take on the Turks.”Greece has pockets of naval excellence. Its German-designed submarines are “almost undetectable by Turkish sonar”, says Emmanuel Karagiannis of King’s College London, and its nippy corvettes are armed with French Exocet missiles of the sort that wounded the Royal Navy in the

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The Spanish government proposes a new law on history

11 days ago

Sep 19th 2020MADRIDWHEN DEMOCRACY came to Spain in the late 1970s, it arrived through agreements between moderate supporters of the long dictatorship of Francisco Franco, the victor in the Spanish civil war, and a realistic democratic opposition. At their heart was an amnesty law and a broad understanding not to use the past as a political weapon—arrangements often misleadingly dubbed a “pact of forgetting”. This largely seamless transition was widely hailed as a success. But younger generations, mainly on the left, now worry that Spain never acknowledged the crimes of its past.A first attempt to redress this came with a law of “historical memory” in 2007, which aimed to remove fascist symbols from public buildings and recognise the mistreatment of Franco’s victims, but was only partly

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Germany’s bail-out brings worries about its long-term effects

12 days ago

Sep 16th 2020BERLINGERMANY’S FAMED Kurzarbeitergeld programme, which funnels government cash to workers whose hours are cut by employers, is the “gold standard” of furlough schemes, reckons the IMF. It has been widely imitated across Europe by governments seeking to protect jobs and incomes from the full ravages of covid-19 lockdowns. In Germany, under relaxed criteria introduced in March that were extended to nearly 7m workers, it has limited the rise in unemployment to around 600,000 and kept consumer spending buoyant.The extraordinary rescue package assembled by Angela Merkel’s government, which also included bridging loans to firms and a suspension of fiscal rules to allow stimulus spending, was broadly endorsed by Germany’s economic establishment. It has fuelled a more robust recovery

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Angela Merkel is losing patience with Vladimir Putin

18 days ago

Sep 12th 2020BERLINVLADIMIR PUTIN and his officials refuse to utter the name of Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin’s leading opponent, in public. But in Berlin, where Mr Navalny has been recuperating in hospital since his poisoning in Siberia on August 20th, he is the talk of the town. Mercifully, on September 7th he emerged from a medically induced coma. German doctors caution that it is too early to assess the long-term damage to his health. The harm to Germany’s relations with Russia, though, is already clear.Few global leaders have known each other as long as Mr Putin, inaugurated in 2000, and Angela Merkel, who took office as Germany’s chancellor five years later. At moments of crisis they have spoken daily. But familiarity has bred a certain contempt. In 2014, fed up with Mr Putin’s lies

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The number of migrants arriving in Italy is up again

18 days ago

Sep 12th 2020ROMEAFTER A PAUSE because of bad weather, the landings began again on September 8th. Three boats carrying 56 people reached Italy’s southernmost island, Lampedusa. A sailing vessel with 62 aboard put into the port of Crotone on the Italian mainland.That day’s events highlighted the ways that migration across the central Mediterranean has changed. First, and most obviously, it has increased again. According to the International Organisation for Migration, by September 2nd, 21,927 people had reached Italy or Malta this year by sea: 47% more than in all of 2019. By the end of August, the reception centre on Lampedusa, which has a capacity of 192, was trying to cope with around 1,500 people. Still, the number, which is about as big as it was in 2018, is far below its peak of 2016,

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Sex, lies and philosophy on the Paris left bank

18 days ago

Sep 12th 2020PARISA FRENCH LEFT-BANK philosopher runs off with his father’s younger lover, who is herself now married to an ex-president, during his own failed marriage to a novelist, the daughter of another Parisian philosopher, who was his father’s best friend. Were a scriptwriter to pitch the plot, it would be dismissed for convoluted implausibility. Except that this story, which captures with no apparent irony the intertwined lives of Latin Quarter intellectuals, is true.In “Le Temps Gagné” (Time Saved, a characteristically Proustian reference), published last month, Raphaël Enthoven settles a score with his ex-wife, Justine Lévy (the fictional “Faustine”). She is the daughter of Bernard-Henri Lévy (“Elie”), a French public intellectual with a line in crisp white shirts and moral

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Last of the centre-lefties

18 days ago

Sep 12th 2020ARGUMENTS ARE always worse when they involve family, politics or money. They are especially bad when they contain all three. So it proved when EU leaders sat down this summer for four days of talks about issuing €750bn-worth ($884bn) of common debt. Rather than left versus right, the main fight was left-on-left. Europe’s small band of social-democratic siblings attacked each other. On one side were Portugal and Spain, who wanted the cash handed out as non-repayable grants. Meanwhile, their supposed political allies from Denmark, Sweden and Finland tried to stop them. It is not just money that divides the EU’s dwindling bunch of centre-lefties. Portugal and Spain have both been advocates of allowing more refugees into Europe. Social democrats across Scandinavia demand the

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Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, takes to the world stage

20 days ago

Sep 8th 2020ISTANBULPRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN likes to cut to the chase. Others may think the multilateral dispute over territorial waters, continental shelves and hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean, which has brought Turkey close to war with Greece, is complicated. For Turkey’s leader, however, it is simply an “example of modern colonialism” by European countries, as he put it in a speech on September 1st. “The era of those who for centuries have left no region unexploited from Africa to South America, no community unmassacred and no human being unoppressed, is coming to an end,” he added.Mr Erdogan has long fulminated against the West to stir up patriotic support at home. Now, he is increasingly addressing a global audience, too. Having failed to reshape the Middle East in

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A low point in German-Polish relations

25 days ago

Sep 5th 2020BERLINEVEN JACEK CZAPUTOWICZ, the outgoing Polish foreign minister, called the delay “strange” in an interview on August 31st with Rzeczpospolita, a Polish daily. For three months Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven was waiting in his apartment in Berlin for his agrément (official diplomatic approval) as German envoy to Warsaw, usually a swift formality. The order to procrastinate came reportedly from high up: Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, and Poland’s de facto leader, opposed Mr Freytag von Loringhoven’s appointment because his father served as a military officer in Hitler’s bunker during the last months of the second world war. (Bernd Freytag von Loringhoven was never charged with any war crime.)It is not the first time Mr Kaczynski has

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The information war over Belarus hots up

25 days ago

Sep 5th 2020MINSKIT WAS THE cables that gave them away. As foreign and local journalists in Belarus scrambled to report on the latest crackdown on peaceful protesters, one film crew was always in prime position. Its members were untouched whenever police hounded other journalists, stripping them of their accreditation and deporting them. The camera cables that stretched past several unmarked police minibuses led to the source of their protection: a white and green van belonging to Russia Today.Russia’s “green men”, unbadged soldiers sent to Ukraine after its revolution in 2014, are yet to make an appearance in Belarus. But the Kremlin’s propaganda warriors have already occupied its airwaves. Their invasion was solicited by Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’s embattled dictator, who has lost

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Covid-19 ends Dutch mink farming

25 days ago

Sep 5th 2020AMSTERDAMANIMAL-RIGHTS activists often complain that cute beasts get more sympathy than equally deserving ugly ones. If so, one would think a cuddly critter like the mink would be easy to protect. Yet in the Netherlands, mink are the only animal that can still legally be farmed for their fur. That is about to change. On August 28th the government brought forward to March a ban on mink-farming that had been scheduled to take effect in 2024. The timetable was sped up not because mink had become more adorable, but because they can contract covid-19 and spread it to humans.Dutch farmers normally raise about 2.5m mink a year, making the Netherlands the world’s fourth-largest producer after Denmark, China and Poland. In April a clutch of mink and the farm hands who tended them were

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The contradiction at the heart of the European Commission

25 days ago

Sep 5th 2020THE ECONOMIST is fond of handy descriptions. Sometimes, we admit, they can be a bit obvious (“Xi Jinping, the president of China”; “Goldman Sachs, a bank”). Occasionally, they aim to amuse (“Homer Simpson, an American philosopher”, or “Popeye, a sailor man”). But coming up with one for the European Commission is distinctly tricky.After all, the commission does a bit of everything. It is the closest thing the EU has to a government, putting forward legislation (which then has to be approved by the European Parliament and national ministers). It has the trappings of one, too: Ursula von der Leyen, its president, will give a state-of-the-union address in front of the Parliament later this month. At times the commission is a referee, ensuring both business and governments follow EU

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Emmanuel Macron revives a post-war institution for a post-covid era

25 days ago

Sep 5th 2020PARISEditor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our hubIN 1946, AS France emerged from the horrors of war, Charles de Gaulle devised le Plan to rebuild his battered country. Centred on the theme “Modernisation or Decadence”, the first five-year plan identified six industries—coal, electricity, steel, transport, mechanised agriculture and cement—on which France would construct a modern economy. “Modernisation”, declared Jean Monnet, the first commissioner of the Plan (and later co-architect of European integration), is a “state of mind”. Indeed in the French mind, the Plan was in large part to thank for the 30 years of prosperity—les trente glorieuses—that

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Serbian Orthodox priests say Montenegro's government backs satanists

August 27, 2020

Aug 29th 2020MONTENEGRO IS ONE of those countries whose landscape—glittering mountain peaks, azure seas—is every bit as magnificent as it looks in tourist brochures. The campaign for its general election on August 30th, however, has been ugly. The government’s supporters accuse the main opposition coalition of being “clerical fascists”. The opposition call on voters not to back “unbelievers”. How things came to this pass requires a bit of explanation.President Milo Djukanovic has ruled Montenegro since 1989, whether as president, prime minister or head of the ruling party. His party will probably win this time too. But things have not been entirely placid. In 2016 the government said it had foiled an election-day coup plot led by opposition leaders and backed by Russia. This year Mr

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How France created a university to rival MIT

August 27, 2020

Aug 29th 2020PARISA HUGE MODERNIST university campus is emerging amid farmland on a plateau south of the French capital. The University of Paris-Saclay, officially launched this year, merges some 20 higher-education and research institutions. It has a teaching and research staff of 9,000, catering to 48,000 students—more than Harvard or Stanford. Specialised in science, it is France’s attempt to create, in President Emmanuel Macron’s words, an “MIT à la française”. Such ambition once seemed fanciful. Yet in August Paris-Saclay stormed into the Shanghai world university ranking, grabbing 14th place overall and 3rd in Europe after Cambridge and Oxford. It took the top international spot in maths.France’s two-tier higher-education system baffles outsiders. Three-fifths of its 2.7m students

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Bulgarians have been Europe’s gardeners longer than you think

August 27, 2020

Aug 29th 2020IF YOU ARE enjoying a succulent piece of fresh fruit in Europe this summer, the chance is high that you have a Bulgarian to thank for it. Every year tens of thousands of workers from the eastern Balkan country fan out to pick, pluck, dig and water on farms in Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and elsewhere. When covid-19 shut borders this spring, western European farmers panicked, and governments rapidly surrendered to their demands to let the Bulgarians in.Most Europeans assume this migration began after the cold war, when Bulgaria freed itself from Soviet domination. In fact, says Marijana Jakimova, a historian, it dates back to the late 17th century. The Ottoman empire, which then ruled the Balkans, employed Bulgarians to accompany its troops and grow vegetables for them. The

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The Pampers index: what nappy prices reveal about Europe

August 27, 2020

Aug 29th 2020THE PARENTS of a screaming new-born baby typically have no time to spare. But if they live in Europe, they should spend a few minutes shopping around for nappies. Three enormous boxes of Pampers come to €168 ($198) on Amazon’s Spanish website. By contrast, the same order from Amazon’s British website costs only €74. (Even after an exorbitant delivery fee is added, the saving is still €42.) If sleep-deprived parents are too groggy to work out how much they could save in a year, they could pep themselves up with a new coffee machine. The swankiest Nespresso model will set them back €460 on Amazon’s French website, but can be snapped up for €301 on the German version. They could then boast about their canny shopping on Samsung’s newest phone, which varies in price by up to €300

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Five years after arrival, Germany’s refugees are integrating

August 25, 2020

Aug 25th 2020BERLIN AND GÖTTINGENASKED WHAT he makes of his new home, Safwan Daher, a Syrian refugee, chuckles: Duderstadt, a town near Göttingen that few Germans could find on a map, is “boring”. No matter. Mr Daher has an enjoyable computer-programming job that pays for a flat with three bedrooms. He keeps one empty, hoping his parents will leave Syria and join him. In his spare time he hangs out with his brother, a student at Göttingen University. The next step is German citizenship, for which he has just applied.Karam Kabbani, an activist who fled Aleppo after Bashar al-Assad’s thugs tortured him, has had a rougher time. Nervously chain-smoking, he describes an anguished five years bouncing from one agency to another, forced to take dead-end jobs, with no help offered for his

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Covid-19 is threatening Europe’s Schengen passport-free zone

August 20, 2020

Aug 22nd 2020Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tracker, see our hubIN SUMMER MONTHS a common enemy stalks Europe’s motorways: the Dutch caravan. With four times more caravans per head than the European average, the Netherlands’ holidaying families are the nemeses of other vacation-bound drivers. But this year there are fewer of them. Normally 9m Dutch—slightly over half the population—head abroad for a holiday, mostly to southern Europe. Barely half that number said they would bother this time round, as covid-19 scuppered their usual plans. (In an unscientific poll earlier this month, Charlemagne spotted one lonely Dutch caravan during a five-hour drive from the Dordogne to

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Russia’s opposition leader is in a coma, seemingly poisoned

August 20, 2020

Aug 22nd 2020AS The Economist went to press, Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, was in a coma with symptoms of poisoning. He fell unconscious on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow after drinking tea at the airport. The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, where Mr Navalny was put in intensive care. His condition is worse than it was last year, when he appeared to have been poisoned while in custody.This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline "Russia’s opposition leader is in a coma"Reuse this contentThe Trust Project

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The Balkans are getting short of people

August 20, 2020

Aug 22nd 2020BELGRADESOUTH EASTERN EUROPE is in a Catch-22. The region’s many problems prompt young, talented people to leave in droves. But it will not catch up with the rest of Europe without young, talented people to generate prosperity. Across the Balkans, populations are shrinking and ageing, and unless that changes even more will leave.Measuring demography in the Balkans is difficult: apart from those for births and deaths, data are hard to come by. A lorrydriver who leaves Belgrade to take a job in Germany does not have to tell the Serbian authorities. Because of the region’s complicated history, millions of its citizens can get passports from neighbouring “mother countries”. These are especially attractive if the mother country belongs to the EU, since EU citizenship includes the

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Alexander Lukashenko is trying to beat protesters into submission

August 20, 2020

Aug 22nd 2020MINSKTHE MENACING concrete-walled jail on Minsk’s Okrestina Street played a central role in the reign of terror unleashed last week by Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator who has ruled Belarus for the past quarter century, to put down an uprising that has come close to overthrowing him. Prison guards worked overtime on those who dared to protest against Mr Lukashenko’s theft of the presidential election on August 9th. Prisoners were forced to kneel with their hands behind their backs for hours in overcrowded cells. Men and women were stripped, beaten and raped with truncheons. “You wanted change, how’s that for change,” went a widely reported refrain. An admirer of Joseph Stalin, Mr Lukashenko has proved a worthy disciple.The repression was ostentatious: some victims were

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Italy’s populist Five Star Movement is becoming a more normal party

August 20, 2020

Aug 22nd 2020ROMESOME SEE Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) as a destabilising force which, by refusing to ally itself with mainstream parties, logjammed Italian politics for years. Others see it as an eccentric but original group that genuinely cares about corruption, the environment and using digital technology to give ordinary people a voice in politics. Depending on which view you take, the online referendum of M5S’s members held on August 13th-14th was either a triumph or a disaster, because they ditched two of its core principles.The M5S voted by four to one to modify a rule that limits members to a total of two terms in all elected offices. Henceforth, serving as a local councillor will not count—a change that will allow Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Rome and

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