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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

Ukraine is struggling with corruption, sometimes successfully

3 days ago

UKRAINE is fighting two wars. One is near its eastern border, where it faces Russian aggression. The other is at its core, where it is wrestling with some of the worst corruption of any post-Soviet state. The war against corruption is only starting, and the fighting is carried out office by office, ministry by ministry.Naftogaz, a state oil and gas firm which once epitomised the country’s misgovernment, has been cleaned up. Some of the most powerful oligarchs have been squeezed. One of the main sources of corruption that feeds the system, state procurement, has been slowly overhauled, producing some positive results.In 2016 the health ministry launched a four-year programme to outsource procurement of medicines to international agencies. In the past, bureaucrats allied with suppliers to

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Ukraine and Russia are both trapped by the war in Donbas

3 days ago

ON APRIL 12TH 2014 Igor Girkin, a former Russian military officer also known as “Strelkov” (“Shooter”), sneaked across the border into Ukraine’s Donbas region with a few dozen men and took control of the small town of Sloviansk, igniting Europe’s bloodiest war since the 1990s. To create the impression of strength, Mr Girkin, an aficionado of historical battlefield re-enactments, masqueraded as a member of Russia’s special forces, and had his men drive two armoured personnel carriers around every night to simulate a large build-up. In fact, his army never exceeded 600 men, mainly Cossacks and war-hungry opportunists like himself.Having just lost Crimea and lacking a functioning government or military command after the Maidan revolution, Ukraine was stunned. As Russia massed its forces on

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The billionaire who will probably be the next Czech prime minister

3 days ago

BACK when newspapers were king, Charles Brownson, an American congressman, used to say that one should never quarrel with anyone who buys ink by the barrel. The principle still stands, and it is making life difficult for opponents of Andrej Babis, a billionaire media magnate who until this week served as Czech finance minister. With a general election set for October, Mr Babis’s ANO party seems unassailable, polling at 33.5% against 16% for the second-place Social Democrats.On May 2nd Bohuslav Sobotka, the prime minister, threatened to resign unless the country’s president fired Mr Babis over a questionable tax break he received in 2013. Mr Sobotka, a Social Democrat, hoped the attention to Mr Babis’s finances would stop his own party’s headlong slide. The finance minister eventually

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The land of morosité and ennui is embracing life coaches

3 days ago

THE French like to think of themselves as a miserable lot. Voltaire taught them that optimism is for the naive. Jean-Paul Sartre made ennui chic. Best-selling French psychology books include such titles as “Too Intelligent to be Happy”. Polls consistently rank the French among the world’s most despondent. Fully 85% earlier this year said that their country was heading in the wrong direction, compared with 61% of Britons and 51% of Americans. The Anglo-Saxon world hosts a blossoming trade of life coaches, self-help writers, motivational speakers and happiness researchers—what might be called the “optimism industry”. In France, it has had trouble gaining a foothold.Now, it seems, upbeat thinking is à la mode. During his election campaign, Emmanuel Macron, the new president, was the candidate

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Greece meets creditors’ demands but gets no relief

3 days ago

MAKIS, a gym instructor, counted himself lucky three years ago to land a job in the public sector. The 28-year-old works as a groundsman at a sports complex in Glyfada, a seaside suburb of Athens. Hired on a temporary contract, he expected to make a smooth transition to a permanent post in local government. But times are changing. Greece’s state audit council, which normally rubber-stamps official decisions, unexpectedly ruled this month that municipal employees should be dismissed when their contracts expire.“That’s it for me, I’ll have to leave and find a job abroad like everyone else,” Makis says, gesturing towards his colleagues: a phalanx of state employees, from rubbish collectors to computer technicians. They are outside Athens’s city hall, protesting against the audit council’s

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How Trump, Putin and Erdogan unsettle the EU

3 days ago

THE mood is brighter in Europe these days. It has not, admittedly, taken much to lift the spirits: reckless extremists came second, not first, in elections in Austria, the Netherlands and France; economic growth has accelerated beyond a snail’s pace; and Brexit, though probably disastrous for Britain, may not be catastrophic for Europe. Still, even the return of normality is a relief for a continent that has spent the past few years battling crises.But if Europeans have at last started to feel better about themselves, the world outside looks ever-more menacing. The cherished European values of liberalism and respect for human rights are being challenged by a cohort of unpredictable leaders who seem not to prize or understand them. This is unsettling for the European Union, a slow-moving

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The soldier who allegedly plotted to kill Germany’s ex-president

10 days ago

IN JANUARY a maintenance worker at Vienna Airport found a loaded 7.65 calibre pistol in the pipe of a public toilet. He told the Austrian police, who put the toilet under surveillance. A month later they arrested a man who appeared to be searching for the gun. He turned out to be a lieutenant in the Bundeswehr, the German army, who claimed he had drunkenly found the weapon in some bushes and had hidden it in a panic. But investigations suggested something much darker.“Franco A”, as he is known, had allegedly been living a double life. He served in the 291 Light Infantry Battalion at a base in eastern France. In his time off, he lived at a refugee centre in Bavaria, masquerading as David Benjamin, a Syrian asylum seeker driven from his home by Islamic State. According to press reports he

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Two Italian parties are fighting over the Colosseum

10 days ago

THE view from the roof of Rome’s city hall makes others seem inconsequential. Just a turn of the head is sufficient to take in Trajan’s Column, the Forums, the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill and the Circus Maximus—all set against a backdrop of the blue-grey Apennine mountains. This may be the world’s greatest, and most beautiful, open-air museum. But in the past few weeks it has become a battleground too, involving two parties with different visions of how to cope with the burgeoning number of tourists clamouring to see Italy’s cultural riches.On one side, wielding a mighty sword, is the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and its former leader, Dario Franceschini, the arts and heritage minister in the coalition government of Paolo Gentiloni. On the other, waving a net and trident, is the

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Emmanuel Macron appoints a post-partisan government

10 days ago

IN THE first test of his promise to bridge the party divide, Emmanuel Macron has appointed a government marked by political balance, novelty and competence. A day after his inauguration on May 14th, France’s president named as prime minister Edouard Philippe, the centre-right mayor of Le Havre, to counterbalance his own roots on the left. Two days later, he unveiled a post-partisan team of ministers that mixes left and right, old and new.The appointment of Mr Philippe was a coup of sorts. A year ago, when the 39-year-old Mr Macron launched his political movement, En Marche! (“On the Move!”), he vowed to “unblock” France by ending the confrontational division between left and right. Yet in reality, the bulk of his supporters came from the left or the centre. The Republicans, who want to

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Spain’s Socialist primary is a battle for the left’s future

10 days ago

ON THE morning of May 7th about 300 members of Spain’s Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) gathered in a conference hall on the site of Zaragoza’s international exhibition of 2008, across the river Ebro from the city centre. The bleak expo park with its abandoned cable car has seen better days. So has the PSOE. The party faithful were gathered to listen to Susana Díaz (pictured), the narrow favourite in a primary to elect the Socialists’ leader on May 21st. Her message, delivered in an Andalucian accent and the crescendos of an old-fashioned tub-thumper, was that she alone could unite her party “so that the PSOE becomes an alternative government again”.That will be no small task. After governing Spain for 22 of the 29 years to 2011, the Socialists have lost the past three general elections.

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Sweden is trying to turn people Swedish

10 days ago

NASTEHO WEHELIYE sits on one side of a semi-segregated cafeteria (men-only to the right of the counter; mixed to the left) in Tensta, a migrant-heavy suburb of Stockholm. Like many Somalis, she is an enterprising soul. So it is hardly surprising to hear her lament the high taxes and hiring costs of the homeland she adopted as a young asylum-seeker 27 years ago. As she wrings her henna-stained hands at the thought of the regulations that have stymied her two attempts to open shops in the Swedish capital, the café owner parks himself at a neighbouring table in an ill-disguised effort to eavesdrop.The biggest local problems are housing and unemployment, says Ms Weheliye. These challenges have acquired fresh urgency as Sweden confronts the massive task of integrating its latest wave of

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Turkey’s purges are crippling its justice system

10 days ago

WERE he to return to Turkey in the near future, Celal Kalkanoglu (not his real name) would have to do so in handcuffs. “They will arrest me as soon as I land at the airport,” says the judge. On July 16th of last year, the day after an army faction attempted a coup against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president, Mr Kalkanoglu’s name appeared on a long list of officials to be dismissed and arrested. With the judge having left Turkey, the authorities went after his family. Some of his relatives were sacked from government jobs, he says, and barred from leaving the country.More than 4,000 Turkish judges and prosecutors, a quarter of the total, have been dismissed by decree since last summer, mostly because of alleged links to the Gulenists, a secretive Islamic movement accused of leading the

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Europe’s anti-nationalist backlash

17 days ago

“AU NOM de l’amitié” (“In the name of friendship”), proclaimed banners at the weekly Pulse of Europe demonstration in a Berlin square, a week before France’s presidential election. Edith Piaf songs burbled from giant speakers. Amid a sea of blue-and-yellow European Union flags, the 1,500 marchers gushed about the European project. “I love Europe, it’s my home,” said Oli. “I want my children and grandchildren to experience, study and travel in Europe,” added Sabine, who was attending her fifth Pulse of Europe event. Then they all belted out the “Ode to Joy”, the EU’s official anthem.There is nothing novel about support for the EU. In most European countries the political mainstream backs the union and spouts nice words about continental collaboration. But lately something different has been

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Emmanuel Macron’s quest to reform France

17 days ago

THIRTEEN months ago, a young government minister climbed on to a platform in a small meeting hall in his home town of Amiens, in northern France. There was no bass beat to pump up the audience, no spotlights or flags. Alone with his microphone, Emmanuel Macron announced that he was launching a new political movement, to be called En Marche! (“On the Move!”). He wanted it to put an end to the stale political divide between left and right, repair confidence and unblock France. The idea was “a bit mad”, he admitted: “I don’t know if it will succeed.”At the time, says an aide, the idea was mainly to shape public debate. No poll then even tested Mr Macron’s presidential chances. He had never run for office. His hopes of building a political movement capable of taking on the existing party

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Corruption allegations trouble tiny Malta

17 days ago

EVERY six months, one of the European Union’s member countries gets to take its turn as president of its council of ministers, chairing meetings in Brussels, negotiating with the European Parliament and so on. For the union’s smaller members, this is both an honour and an onerous obligation, requiring the government’s full attention. So it is surprising to find the EU’s tiniest state, Malta, which is in the middle of its stint as president, plunged into an early election campaign. “Suddenly, it’s panic stations and they seem to have completely forgotten the European presidency,” says Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-government blogger.Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, has given his island steady economic growth (5% last year), record-low unemployment and its first budget surplus in 35

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Can Emmanuel Macron revive the Franco-German relationship?

17 days ago

LIKE all the best clichés, the notion that the European Union is driven by a Franco-German “locomotive” is grounded in truth. From the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community to the creation of the euro, almost all the signature projects of post-war Europe have emerged from Paris and Berlin. The compromises forged between two former foes with competing political and economic visions have proved powerful enough to bring much of the rest of the continent along with them. Lately, though, the French part of the engine has run out of steam, and the European train has been idling. Can Emmanuel Macron, the young reformer who won France’s presidency wrapped in the EU flag, shunt it back on to the rails?The grandest of Mr Macron’s many ideas involve fixing what he calls the

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How polls undercount centrists, not populists

17 days ago

MARINE LE PEN trailed Emmanuel Macron in run-off polls by around 20 percentage points for the entire campaign. Nonetheless, punters and pundits, humbled by populist surprises in Britain and America, gave her a meaningful chance of winning. At first glance, Mr Macron’s landslide seems a win for pollsters. In fact, they underestimated his support by four points—a larger error than in Britain’s Brexit vote or Donald Trump’s election. Because the error reinforced the expected result rather than upending it, it has drawn less attention. It may reflect voters who abandoned Ms Le Pen the day before the election, when polls were banned, following her weak debate and a plagiarism scandal. But the French run-off further undermines the notion that pollsters miss “shy populists”. Nate Silver, a data

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Britain is leaving the EU, but its language will stay

19 days ago

“SLOWLY but surely, English is losing importance,” quipped Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, before switching to French for a speech on May 5th. Is this true? Not really, and it seems not to have been intended as seriously as easily offended British headline-writers took it. After all, Mr Juncker, who is known for going off-script in speeches, delivered his barb in English, and the audience laughed.In any case, speakers of la langue de Shakespeare have little to worry about. The European Union has 24 official languages, three of them considered “working languages”: French, German and English. Eurocrats are polyglots, often able to speak all three tongues, plus another of their own. Mr Juncker may be right that in the halls of the EU’s institutions, English will

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Turkey and Russia cosy up over missiles

24 days ago

THE attempt to find some common ground over Syria dominated the talks on May 3rd between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. But the meeting between the Turkish and Russian presidents also touched on another subject of concern to Turkey’s NATO allies. A deal has been agreed in principle for Russia to sell Turkey its potent S-400 long-range air-defence system. A price has yet to be agreed. But as both strongmen have shown with their steady reconciliation over the past year, enough political will can make most plans lift off.At a time when tensions between NATO and Russia are at their highest since the cold war, the purchase, if it goes ahead, will be seen as a calculated snub to the alliance. It will also confirm the impression of recent years that Mr Erdogan is happy for Turkey to become, in effect, a semi-detached member of NATO.Turkey first began pushing NATO’s buttons in this way when it announced its intention in 2013 to acquire a Chinese air- and missile-defence system instead of American or European kit. By doing so, Turkey was flouting European Union and American weapons sanctions against China. It would also have meant buying a system that could not be integrated into NATO’s wider missile-defence shield without allowing the Chinese to delve into Western military technology. Turkey gave its reasons for preferring China’s offer as the lower price (about $3.

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Another Eurovision song contest, another diplomatic crisis

24 days ago

ODDLY for a pop show that is meant to be apolitical, the Eurovision song contest causes a fission of fury nearly every year. In 2014 Conchita Wurst, a bearded drag queen from Austria, won the annual festival of kitsch, leading to calls in Russia and Belarus for Ms Wurst’s song not to be transmitted and accusations that the show was a “hotbed of sodomy”. Last year Ukraine won the contest with “1944”, a song about the deportation of Crimean Tatars under Stalin sung by Jamala, herself an ethnic Crimean Tatar. This infuriated the Russian government, which had invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014.This year yet another squabble is brewing among the latex and glitter. Ukraine is hosting the contest, which will be held on May 13th. Channel One, Russia’s main broadcaster, has put up as Russia’s representative Yulia Samoilova, a 28-year-old wheelchair-bound singer (pictured). Ms Samoilova performed in Crimea in 2015; this means she falls foul of Ukraine’s travel ban on prominent Russians who have either been to Crimea since the annexation or who openly support their government’s policy there. Shortly after she was selected, the Ukrainian security service announced that she would not be allowed in.Eurovision’s organiser, the European Broadcasting Union, criticised Ukraine’s decision as undermining “the integrity and non-political nature” of the show.

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What Emmanuel Macron’s home town says about him

24 days ago

WHEN history recounts the remarkable rise of Emmanuel Macron, it might start and end in the town of Amiens. On the big-skied plains of the Somme, amid the woods and the fields of yellow rape that cover former bloody battlefields, this redbrick working-class city is the French presidential candidate’s hometown. With its soaring 13th-century cathedral, and charmless rebuilt central drag, Amiens is arresting both for its splendour and its banality. It is the place that shaped Mr Macron, and the town he fled. It was also the setting for a fraught encounter in the campaign’s closing days, which revealed much about the man who could soon be the next, and youngest-ever, president of France.It was as a pupil at a private Jesuit school in Amiens, aptly named Providence, that Mr Macron met the drama teacher, Brigitte Auzière, fully 24 years his senior, who later became his wife. The bond alarmed his parents, both provincial doctors, who sent him to finish his schooling in Paris instead. The bookish student was at first in awe at the brilliance of the capital’s brightest. But he quickly learned the codes of the French elite, winning a place at the Ecole Nationale d’Administration—whose alumni include three of the five past presidents—and with it access to the power-brokers in Paris.If Mr Macron outgrew Amiens, it was through a desire, as he puts it, ���to choose my own life”.

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Even if defeated, Marine Le Pen has changed French politics

24 days ago

AS FAMILY outings go, it was unorthodox. No fewer than 20 members of all ages travelled from Normandy to a soulless exhibition hall 20km (12 miles) north of Paris, to watch the nationalist Marine Le Pen take the stage for her last big campaign rally. The youngest in the troop was seven; there were several teenaged girls with pony-tails. But the family seemed thrilled. “For 30 years, politicians have ruined this country,” said Bernard, an uncle in the clan, who works in funeral insurance: “They tell us that we’re racist, but that’s nonsense. She’s the one who’s got concrete ideas to get us out of this chaos.”Ahead of the run-off vote for the French presidential election on May 7th, Ms Le Pen trails her liberal opponent, Emmanuel Macron, by a hefty 20 points. But she has not given up the fight. On May 3rd she lashed out at Mr Macron in a televised debate against the 39-year-old one-time banker, casting the election as a referendum on globalisation and finance. She accused the former economy minister of being the candidate of “the system”, “Uberisation of society”, and “savage globalisation”.

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Two German state elections suggest a boost for Angela Merkel

24 days ago

PERHAPS it was the impeccably proletarian setting: a vast former coal mine in the industrial Ruhr. Or perhaps it was the 1,500-strong crowd chanting “Martin! Martin! Martin!” Or perhaps it was the sound system blaring the upbeat 1990 hit “I’ve got the power”. But for some reason Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic (SPD) candidate for Germany’s chancellorship, got carried away and said something rash at his early-April rally in Essen. If the SPD won the state election here in North-Rhine Westphalia on May 14th, he proclaimed, it would go on to become “the strongest force in Germany” and eject Angela Merkel at the general election in September.The Essen rally coincided with the so-called Schulz-Effekt, the surge in support for the SPD following Mr Schulz’s coronation as party leader in March, which saw it draw almost level with Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) for the first time in five years. Its poll numbers in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s industrial heartland and most populous state, and Schleswig-Holstein, its northernmost state which votes on May 7th, had also jumped (see chart).The SPD has run both for over 20 of the past 30 years. Its premiers are popular and seem relatable: Hannelore Kraft in North-Rhine Westphalia is known as “Landesmutter”, or mother of the state; Thorsten Albig in Schleswig-Holstein could pass for a schoolteacher.

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Russians rebel against plans to tear down their homes

24 days ago

WITH its tree-lined boulevards Moscow’s Bogorodskoye district is an island of calm in the clattering metropolis. Dmitri Pankov and Natalia Yakutova moved in a year ago, seeking fresh air for their young daughter and a place close to Mr Pankov’s mother. The ample greenery and accessible transport also attracted Igor Popov, who bought a flat several years ago in one of the Soviet-era apartment blocks typical of the area. “You can hear the birds chirp,” he grins. Late one evening in April they gathered with several dozen others to discuss how to save their beloved neighbourhood—not from creeping crime, but from the wrecking balls of city hall.Earlier this year Moscow city authorities unveiled plans to demolish as many as 8,000 buildings and move up to 1.6m residents from ageing low-rise apartment blocks known as khrushchevki. The ambitious urban makeover could touch some 25m square metres of housing, cost at least 3.5 trillion roubles ($61bn), and run for more than 20 years. The plan is the brainchild of Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, and comes with the blessing of President Vladimir Putin. For some residents, it means a chance to ditch dilapidated housing. Others fear being thrown out of their homes, and are furious at the prospect.On May 2nd the mayor’s office published a list of 4,566 buildings, home to some 1m people, that will be up for demolition.

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If France used America’s system, Marine Le Pen might have won

April 27, 2017

MARINE LE PEN’S second-place finish behind Emmanuel Macron has been hailed as a sign that the global wave of populist nationalism which Donald Trump rode to victory is receding. But if France used America’s system for electing presidents, Ms Le Pen might have won. In America’s electoral college, every state gets one vote for each of its senators and members of the House of Representatives. Imagine that France’s 18 regions were treated as states. Each would have two senators, and they would divide 157 House members according to population (with each region guaranteed at least one). Like Hillary Clinton, the cosmopolitan Mr Macron won the most-populous urban regions, such as the one around Paris. But like Mr Trump, Ms Le Pen won more of the rural regions, which an electoral college would favour. Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen would have ended up with 90 electoral votes each. Under the American system, if no candidate gets a majority, the House of Representatives picks the president, with each state getting one vote. Ms Le Pen won eight regions to Mr Macron’s six, and came higher in three of the other four, so she could well have triumphed. The difference between a populist tide and a centrist resurgence may come down to the electoral system.

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Win or lose, Emmanuel Macron has altered French politics

April 27, 2017

THREE years ago, he was largely unknown to the public. Today he is a step away from becoming France’s president. Emmanuel Macron’s remarkable rise from obscurity to favourite for the presidential election on May 7th carries symbolic value well beyond his homeland. If he defeats Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN), as polls suggest he will, the country will have shown the rest of the world not only that it can favour youth over seniority, and optimism over fear, but that pro-European liberalism can still triumph over populism and nationalism.A former Socialist economy minister and one-time investment banker, the 39-year-old Mr Macron topped first-round voting on April 23rd with 24%. Ms Le Pen came a close second, with 21%. The pair, neither of whom comes from an established mainstream party, knocked out candidates from both of the two political groupings that have held the French presidency for the past 60 years. François Fillon, a former prime minister who ran for the Gaullist Republican party, came third on 20%. Benoît Hamon, the Socialists’ candidate and a former backbench rebel, sank to a dismal fifth place, on 6%. Despite a late surge, the Communist-backed Jean-Luc Mélenchon was narrowly held to fourth place, on 19.6%.Mr Macron’s achievement defied all the rules. His tone on results night looked prematurely victorious.

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Russia bans the Jehovah’s Witnesses, just as the Soviet Union did

April 27, 2017

WHEN the KGB men came to his family flat, they split up Yaroslav Sivulsky and his parents into separate rooms. Mr Sivulsky, then a young boy in the Soviet Union, watched as agents searched their belongings for “banned literature”. His grandparents had been exiled to Siberia for belonging to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination founded in America in the 19th century; his parents had kept the faith alive in their home.Now Mr Sivulsky and the 175,000 other Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia face the prospect of returning to an underground existence. On April 20th, the Russian Supreme Court outlawed the group’s activities, declaring it an “extremist” organisation. “It’s all happening again,” says Mr Sivulsky. “Back then they came after us for ideological reasons, and now because our faith is not of the ‘right kind’.”The ruling puts the group, whose members preach non-violence and refuse to serve in the military, on the same legal footing as several neo-Nazi groups. Lawyers from the Russian Ministry of Justice argued that they pose a threat to “public order and public security”. The group’s property and assets are set to be seized. Any organised religious activity will be considered illegal, with violators facing steep fines and even potential prison sentences.

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Europhiles happy about France should worry about Poland

April 27, 2017

IT IS crucial to keep Siemiatycze pretty, says Piotr Siniakowicz, the mayor, himself resplendent in bright-blue suit and silk pocket-square. The border with Belarus is a hop and a skip away, so this small town in eastern Poland may mark visitors’ first encounter with the European Union. Siemiatycze brims with well-maintained nursery schools and a gleaming sports centre, thanks to EU funds lavished on the region since Poland joined in 2004. Remittances from thousands of émigrés in Belgium have poured into handsome houses, and businesses depend on those who return for holidays: Siemiatycze, beams Mr Siniakowicz, boasts 50 hair salons. Not bad for a town of 15,000.Yet despite all this, the nationalist-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party took 38% of the vote here in 2015. A similar score nationwide won it a majority in parliament. Since then, PiS has set about dismantling Poland’s institutional checks and balances, alarming Polish liberals and startling the rest of the EU.So amid Europe’s relief at Emmanuel Macron’s win in the first round of France’s presidential election on April 23rd, spare a thought for places like Siemiatycze. The unashamedly pro-European Mr Macron will almost certainly defeat Marine Le Pen in their May 7th run-off. But though the threat of populist nationalism may be receding in France, further east it is a daily reality.

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What’s behind the fad for “natural” wine?

April 27, 2017

AT “Rawduck”, a restaurant in London’s trendy Hackney neighbourhood, clients crowd around communal tables under dim lights, inspecting a menu of delights such as charred purple sprouting broccoli, shaved yellow courgette and goat’s curd. Along with food, the venue offers classes in pickling vegetables and making kombucha (a Japanese fermented tea). The greatest emphasis is on the wine list, all of it billed as “natural” or organic. But on this front, though the venue strives for eccentricity, it is part of a much larger trend.The craze for “natural” wine started in France in the 1990s, recalls Bertrand Celce, a wine blogger. A small group of bacchanalians started opening offbeat organic wine bars across Paris. Now the city boasts hundreds, with many others elsewhere in France. Since the mid-2000s they have spread across Europe and to parts of America. “Raw”, a London-based wine fair which started in 2012, has now opened in Berlin, Vienna and New York; this November, it will have its first show in Los Angeles. Well-heeled restaurants such as Claridge’s in London have also started to stock the stuff, which is made not just in France but also in Italy, Austria, Slovakia and elsewhere.Wines labelled “organic” must abide by European Union standards to be certified. “Natural” wines are even fussier: they are grown and harvested organically, but have no additives at all.

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Award: Tom Nuttall

April 27, 2017

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Award: Tom Nuttall, our Brussels correspondent, has won the 2017 Evens Prize for European Journalism, awarded for making the European project easier to understand.

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