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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

Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats may be essential to forming a government

3 days ago

Sep 25th 2021BERLINCHRISTIAN LINDNER, the leader of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), is likely to emerge as a crucial figure after the election. Polling suggests it will be hard to form a coalition without the FDP. The 42-year-old Mr Lindner will relish the chance to cap his rapid political ascent with a job inside Germany’s next government—ideally as finance minister. His enemies would see that as their worst nightmare.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The FDP advocates tax cuts, slashing red tape, pension reform and limits to European fiscal integration. More recently it has urged a faster easing of lockdown rules. The party has doubled its support in the past year, thanks in part to the

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How Russia’s election was fixed

3 days ago

Sep 25th 2021MOSCOWIN MIKHAIL BULGAKOV’s great novel “The Master and Margarita”, set in Stalin’s Moscow in the 1930s, Satan’s mischievous company performs magic tricks in a comedy theatre. It showers the audience with banknotes. People leap and scramble to catch them as they flutter down. Next day, needless to say, they are all worthless.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Russia’s general election, theatrically staged by the Kremlin between September 17th and 19th, had a touch of Bulgakov about it. Even so, United Russia, the party that supports President Vladimir Putin, had seen its popularity fall to less than 30% in polls taken ahead of the vote. Turnout was as low as ever. But as if by magic the ballot papers

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In the Church of Sweden it is one Lutheran, one vote

3 days ago

Sep 23rd 2021UNLIKE ENGLAND, Thailand or Iran, Sweden no longer has a state religion. The Church of Sweden, Europe’s biggest Lutheran denomination, was formally severed from government back in 2000. But its roots are deep: it traces its history to a 16th-century squabble between King Gustav Vasa and the Pope. About half of Swedes still belong to it. And true to the country’s democratic spirit they get to vote on who runs it. On September 19th some 17% of the church’s 5.7m members cast ballots for its governing synod.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Some issues in the election were religious, such as a proposed ban on new confessional schools. But others were more secular, including climate change, immigration and

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France’s humiliation by America will have lasting effects

3 days ago

Sep 25th 2021THE TIDE was pleasingly high, the seaweed on the white sands of the Cornish beach carefully combed out of sight. Seven world leaders sauntered back from their seafront photo for talks. As they walked, only one was treated to the American presidential arm, a full across-the-back hold, and for a total of 37 seconds: the French president, Emmanuel Macron. The high art of diplomatic choreography renders such fleeting gestures priceless. Was it not a kind of consecration? Britain’s Boris Johnson may have hosted the G7 meeting in June. But France’s president got the honours.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.When Joe Biden was elected, France saw a rare chance to establish itself as America’s favourite

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German candidates fight to woo moderate voters

3 days ago

Sep 25th 2021BERLIN, CELLE, FRANKFURT AND MUNICHTHE MOOD among her comrades is “euphoric”, says Sonja Hergarten, a volunteer for Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) at a campaign stand in Munich’s university district. At the last election, in 2017, she had the unenviable task of persuading Germans to vote for Martin Schulz, a little-known politician who had returned from a career in Brussels to lead the SPD’s campaign. This time the candidate is Olaf Scholz, a familiar face to most Germans as the finance minister and vice-chancellor, and a much easier sell. As if to prove the point, a grinning passer-by exclaims “Toll, toll, toll!” (“Great, great, great!”).Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.A few hours later Mr

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The EU lets farm animals and people eat insects

9 days ago

Sep 18th 2021FIRST IT WAS pets, then fish. Now it’s poultry and pigs. The list of animals allowed to feed on insects is growing. A new EU law authorising the use of insect protein in poultry and pig feed came into force earlier this month, a significant milestone for an industry keen to worm its way into the animal-feed business.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Since a ban on processed animal protein was imposed in 2001 in the wake of the “mad cow” crisis, soy and fishmeal have become the bedrock of animal feed in Europe. But their production needs lots of space and can be harmful to the environment, so feed manufacturers are looking for alternatives.Insects are just the ticket. They are reared in vertical farms

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Vladimir Putin is still rattled by Alexei Navalny

9 days ago

Sep 18th 2021MOSCOWPRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN has every reason to be angry. He has tried to poison Alexei Navalny, Russia’s opposition leader. He has locked him up in one of Russia’s harshest penal colonies. He has outlawed his anti-corruption foundation. He has chased his comrades out of the country and barred his allies from standing in elections. And yet, after all this, Mr Navalny and his movement are still featuring at the heart of the elections to Russia’s Duma (its parliament) on September 19th.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.On the surface, the political field is entirely Mr Putin’s. The only parties allowed to run, including the Communists and Yabloko, an innocuous liberal outfit, have been sanitised by

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How France tackled vaccine hesitancy

10 days ago

Sep 18th 2021PARISACROSS EUROPE this summer, vaccine take-up began to slow after the willing got their covid-19 shots. Persuading the hesitant was always going to be harder. Few places looked more challenging than France. In December 2020 61% of the French said they would not get jabbed—twice the share in America. Yet what happened this summer has become a case study in how to nudge a reluctant population.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.On July 12th, to general surprise, President Emmanuel Macron announced the introduction of a covid-19 passport. Only those who were fully vaccinated, or had a negative test result, would be allowed into cinemas, sports stadiums, restaurants, bars, shopping centres and nightclubs,

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The warring parties’ plans for Germany’s economy are full of holes

10 days ago

Sep 18th 2021FRANKFURT“I HOPE YOU never have to see it like this again,” says Markus Quint, communications chief for Frankfurt’s Messe (exhibition centre), as he surveys 440,000 square metres of empty halls from a 22nd-floor terrace. When the pandemic struck last spring the Messe, which had welcomed nearly 2.5m visitors in 2019, had to shut for all business bar the digital sort. Worldwide revenues (the Messe has 29 subsidiaries) plunged from €736m ($870m) to €257m. Most of the 1,000-odd Frankfurt staff went on Kurzarbeitergeld, Germany’s much-imitated furlough scheme.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.As Germans prepare to go to the polls on September 26th, recovery is glinting. Mr Quint says he could have “cried

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What to make of Die Linke

10 days ago

Sep 18th 2021BERLINEVERY TIME Olaf Scholz or Annalena Baerbock is asked about a coalition with Die Linke (The Left), a party that emerged in 2007 from the ashes of East Germany’s Communist Party, they furiously beat around the bush. Mr Scholz, the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) candidate for the chancellorship, says that he needs a clear commitment to NATO from any future coalition partner. Ms Baerbock, the Green Party’s candidate, says that she will talk to all democratic parties—and Die Linke is a democratic party too.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.At the beginning of this month, leaders of Die Linke seemed to be courting the SPD and the Greens with an offer of a “progressive alliance” that could achieve

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The Dull Man theory of history

10 days ago

Sep 18th 2021EVEN THE hardiest of EU veterans find the gatherings of its finance ministers tough-going. “Soul-crushing” is the verdict of one regular attendee. The EU’s bean-counters are not given their roles for their personalities. When EU leaders meet, there is a sense of history being made; when finance ministers gather, there is a sense of life ebbing away.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Yet it is the dull men and women of Europe’s finance ministries who hold the continent’s fate in their hands. A debate on reforms to the Stability and Growth Pact, which regulates government finances in the bloc, will set the path of the club for decades. It will reveal where power in the EU truly lies, how it will cope

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Germany’s Christian Democrats contemplate defeat

17 days ago

Sep 11th 2021BERLINLAST MONTH the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Spandau, a borough in Berlin, stuck a campaign placard for local candidates over one of Armin Laschet, the main standard-bearer of the CDU and the Christian Social Union (CSU), its Bavarian sister party, in the federal election on September 26th. It was a mistake, says a local politician, but stories abound about CDU chapters across Germany declining to put up Laschet placards. On a two-hour walk through Charlottenburg and Mitte, two other boroughs in Berlin, your correspondent did not spot a single one (though there were several with the grinning face of Olaf Scholz, the Social Democratic Party’s candidate).Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or

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Talks about the Catalan conflict are about to start

17 days ago

Sep 11th 2021BARCELONA AND MADRIDTHERE ARE far fewer esteladas, the red, yellow and blue independence flags that only a couple of years ago draped the balconies of Barcelona. The atmosphere in Spain’s second city is more relaxed than at any time since Catalonia’s nationalist politicians began a drive for independence for one of the country’s biggest and richest regions a decade ago. This culminated in a referendum in defiance of the constitution and a unilateral declaration of independence in 2017, the temporary imposition of direct rule from Madrid and then long jail sentences for nine separatist leaders. But with the pandemic having intensified a sense of exhaustion, confrontation is at last giving way to detente.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more

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After Afghanistan Germans rethink their country’s foreign policy

17 days ago

Sep 11th 2021BERLINAMERICA’S DEBACLE in Kabul has caused especially deep concern in Germany. Two decades ago, after rancorous parliamentary debate, Germany approved its first military deployment outside Europe since 1945, to Afghanistan. The vision was of a Bundeswehr (the armed forces) acting in the service of noble goals: state-building, humanitarianism and diplomacy. “It sounds like a joke today, but read the debates and it really seems like the plan was to turn Afghanistan into Sweden,” says Peter Neumann, a security expert and adviser to Armin Laschet, the conservative candidate for chancellor in this month’s election. The fact that Joe Biden’s administration now claims these goals were delusional has left a bitter taste in Germans’ mouths as they head to the polls.Listen to this

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Why EU-watching is like astrology

17 days ago

Sep 11th 2021THE GAP between astrology and European politics is alarmingly narrow. Both are more art than science, to put it charitably. Both involve professed experts making wildly inaccurate predictions, with metrics that turn out to be nonsense. Because of the peculiarly nocturnal habits of EU leaders, both require work at night.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.What astrology and EU-watching most have in common is the need to wait for mysterious bodies about which they know little to align. Where astrologers look to the heavens, Eurologers consult electoral calendars to see their prospects. Just as a person’s future is written in the stars, so the EU’s destiny is shaped by the order of its national

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German voters face a bewildering array of possible coalitions

24 days ago

Sep 4th 2021BERLINHER FRIENDS would kill her if they knew she had considered voting for the Free Democrats (FDP), says Marijana, a 39-year-old arts PR consultant. A lifelong supporter of the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD), she had always dismissed the FDP, a small, liberal outfit, as a party for the wealthy few. But Germany’s wide-open election on September 26th is forcing voters to contemplate strange choices. Marijana fears the SPD may join the hard-left Die Linke, which she reckons is unprepared for government, as well as the Greens in a left-wing coalition. Hence the idea of lending one of her votes to the FDP, to bolster the chances of an SPD-Green-FDP “traffic-light” coalition. (Germans get two votes: one for a local MP, and one for a party, apportioned proportionally based on

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After Afghanistan, Europe wonders if France was right about America

24 days ago

Sep 4th 2021THE ANNUAL ritual of Bastille Day is a moment for the French to put up bunting, down champagne and celebrate the republic’s founding myths. On July 14th this year, however, when the French ambassador to Kabul, David Martinon, recorded a message to fellow citizens, gravity crushed festivity. “Mes chers compatriotes”, he began, “the situation in Afghanistan is extremely concerning.” The French embassy, he said, had completed its evacuation of Afghan employees. French nationals were told to leave on a special flight three days later. After that, given the “predictable evolution” of events in Afghanistan, he declared—a full month before the fall of Kabul—France could no longer guarantee them a safe exit.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio

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Germany’s election, seen through the bottom of a glass

24 days ago

Sep 2nd 2021BAMBERG AND BERLININ THE NARROW medieval alley outside the half-timbered Schlenkerla, raucous crowds drink the 600-year-old local speciality, dark smoked beer tapped from ancient oak barrels. The meaty menu is not for the faint-hearted. The pork comes as knuckle, stomach or shoulder. Voting patterns are just as traditional. Bamberg is a conservative heartland.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The drinkers are gregarious. But if you want to kill the mood, just mention the Greens. “They’re a joke. They’re crazy. I can’t even talk about them,” rages one drinker. He works for Bosch, an engineering company. It is Bamberg’s largest employer, supplying parts for diesel cars, and has cut jobs of late. “The

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Europe’s latest migrant crisis leaves refugees stuck between two borders

24 days ago

Sep 2nd 2021NOWY DWORIT IS THE first sight of men with guns in the village since Poland’s communist rulers declared martial law 40 years ago. But the villagers of Nowy Dwor, 5km (three miles) from the border with Belarus, say they feel protected by the makeshift barracks that have been set up on the school sports field. Soldiers are here to patrol a frontier that seldom required close supervision before the events of this summer. “When the migrants first started coming,” says a retired health worker, “I was afraid to fetch potatoes from my field for dinner.”Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Fright at the thought of a new influx of migrants affects most of Europe’s governments, too. But what is happening in Poland,

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The rise and fall of sex-selective abortion in Georgia

24 days ago

Sep 4th 2021TBILISIWHEN NILUFER KURBANOVA’S doctor told her she was going to have a boy, he expected a tip for delivering the good news. He did not get one.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Ms Kurbanova does not believe, as many older Georgians do, that sons are better than daughters. Some families feel they need a male child to carry on the bloodline; Ms Kurbanova thinks this is hokum. Traditional families expect sons to look after their parents in their old age, whereas a daughter would look after her husband’s parents. Ms Kurbanova does not see why it has to be that way.For centuries Georgians strongly preferred boys. When Georgia was part of the Soviet Union, from 1921 to 1991, its communist rulers suppressed

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Vladimir Putin’s henchmen target Russia’s universities and students

24 days ago

Sep 2nd 2021MOSCOWAS ALEXEI NAVALNY, Russia’s leading opposition politician, was being hauled off to jail in January, four editors of “Doxa”, an online student magazine, posted a YouTube video. The two men and two women were students at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, generally considered to be Russia’s best liberal university. They spoke out about the intimidation being deployed by the staff of schools and universities in order to dissuade young people from joining a planned protest against Mr Navalny’s mistreatment.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The four appealed to universities across the country. “Expelling students for taking part in peaceful action is illegal. All you will achieve is to destroy

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The fiction that Turkey is a candidate to join the EU is unravelling

August 26, 2021

Aug 28th 2021AUSTRIA’S CHANCELLOR, Sebastian Kurz, may have been speaking for a few other European governments earlier this summer when he suggested that Turkey would be the most appropriate refuge for Afghans escaping the Taliban. But he was not speaking for Turkey, or for the Afghans themselves. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, declared last week that Turkey would not be “Europe’s refugee warehouse”. Most Turks agree. In a country home to well over 4m migrants and refugees, including an estimated 200,000-600,000 Afghans, resentment towards the newcomers is mounting. But so is frustration that Turkey, formally a candidate for membership in the EU, has become its buffer state.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Listen on the goGet The Economist app

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France’s Greens prepare to pick a standard-bearer

August 26, 2021

Aug 28th 2021PARISTHESE ARE succulent times to be a French green. Fully 81% of respondents to a recent poll said climate change was a “very serious problem”, up from 69% in 2015. Recent wildfires, floods and a late frost are a grim reminder of environmental dangers. In local elections last year Europe Écologie Les Verts, the French Green party, won control of some big cities, including Bordeaux, Lyon and Strasbourg. And the rise of the German Greens has raised hopes of a similar breakthrough in France, ahead of presidential elections next year.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Listen on the goGet The Economist app and play articles, wherever you arePlay in appPlay in appSo it is with a spring in their step that the Greens are preparing to pick a presidential

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Bullies proclaiming “national patriarchy” harass Russian feminists

August 26, 2021

Aug 28th 2021MOSCOWANNA KUZMINYKH, a 27-year-old film director, is also a member of Pussy Riot, a punk-rock-and-performance-art group that has been protesting against Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian government for the better part of a decade. In July, along with four other members of the group, she was arrested (twice) for “disobeying police orders”.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Listen on the goGet The Economist app and play articles, wherever you arePlay in appPlay in appAfter 30 days in jail, Ms Kuzminykh was released this month. Then the real trouble began. As she recounts, “My phone started ringing off the hook, 50 numbers at once were calling me.” The messages were littered with threats like “Slut, we will kill you and your whole family.”Ms Kuzminykh’s

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A visit to a stronghold of the AfD, Germany’s far-right party

August 26, 2021

Aug 28th 2021PIRNACLOSE TO THE Czech border, south-east of Dresden, around the Elbe valley, lies one of Germany’s prettiest though clunkiest-titled electoral districts, a constituency called Saxon Switzerland Eastern Ore Mountains (SOE). Its majestic sandstone peaks, verdant trails, beautiful medieval cities and villages have been memorialised by German romantics such as Caspar David, a 19th-century painter. Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the district every year. Unemployment and crime are low. The population is almost entirely ethnic German.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Listen on the goGet The Economist app and play articles, wherever you arePlay in appPlay in appOn the face of it, life is dandy in Saxon Switzerland, but at the last federal

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Employment is growing strongly in the euro zone

August 26, 2021

Aug 28th 2021ADDRESSING THE Brussels Economic Forum in June, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, gave an upbeat assessment of the EU’s recovery. She promised that “in 18 months from now, all 27 member states will be back on track, recovered from the crisis.” But she noted that “it is not by chance. This is the result of the policy decisions we took since the very early days of the pandemic.” A sequence of recent strong output and employment figures indeed seem to vindicate this bold claim. On August 23rd the preliminary estimate of the euro-area purchasing managers index, a monthly survey of companies compiled by IHS Markit, suggested that employment in July and August will turn out to have grown at its fastest monthly rate for 21 years. That followed solid

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Angela Merkel bids Vladimir Putin a disillusioned farewell

August 19, 2021

Aug 21st 2021BERLINWHEN ANGELA MERKEL took over as Germany’s chancellor in 2005 Western leaders had high hopes that Russia would progress from semi-authoritarian regime to liberal democracy. Four years earlier Vladimir Putin had declared in a speech in German to the Bundestag, “Russia is a friendly-minded European country.” The then chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, Mrs Merkel’s predecessor, became so chummy with Mr Putin that shortly before leaving office he approved the construction of a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany crossing the Baltic Sea. Russia provided 40% of Germany’s gas. Germany was about to become Russia’s largest trading partner.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Listen on the goGet The Economist app and play articles, wherever you arePlay in

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How an 18th-century French abbot still sways the EU

August 19, 2021

Aug 19th 2021THE “Project for Bringing About Perpetual Peace in Europe” did not receive rave reviews when published in 1713. Voltaire thought the author, the Abbot of Saint-Pierre, was deluded. “The peace…will no more be realised than among elephants, rhinoceroses, wolves, or dogs,” he wrote. Showing less understanding of nature than of politics, he added: “Carnivorous animals will always tear one another to pieces at the first opportunity.”Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Listen on the goGet The Economist app and play articles, wherever you arePlay in appPlay in appOver the years, European intellectuals queued up to give the work a kicking. Immanuel Kant poked holes in it. Rousseau labelled it naive. Frederick II of Prussia declared the plan “very

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Europe’s tenth-largest cities: Catania, in Etna’s shadow

August 19, 2021

Aug 19th 2021CATANIAIN THE VAST street market that tumbles out of Piazza Stesicoro you can find amulets and antiques, pirated CDs, trousers, tuna and horsemeat. Immigrant tailors bend over sewing machines fixed to little tables so that people who buy clothes can get them altered on the spot. Half a young sheep dangles from a hook.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Listen on the goGet The Economist app and play articles, wherever you arePlay in appPlay in appItaly’s tenth-largest city pulsates with life, yet sits beneath a louring reminder of mortality: Mount Etna, which has been spewing fire, smoke and lava since February. Europe’s largest volcano is evidence that Catania is in one of Italy’s most seismically unpredictable areas. In 1693 an earthquake virtually

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The EU gets a prosecutor’s office of its own

August 19, 2021

Aug 19th 2021LUXEMBOURGMANY THINGS are simple for national governments but hard for the EU. That includes punishing people who steal from it, since the EU’s member states have mostly been wary of giving it the power to prosecute their citizens. The bloc’s main treaty requires its members to punish chicanery involving EU funds, and the European Commission has a detective agency—the European Anti-Fraud Office, or OLAF—to investigate. But until this year it was up to national authorities to take the culprits to court. If a country declined, there was no European body that could do so.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Listen on the goGet The Economist app and play articles, wherever you arePlay in appPlay in appThe new European Public Prosecutors’ Office (EPPO),

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