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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

Emmanuel Macron is revitalising the European Union—and dividing it

2 days ago

LIFE comes at you fast in the European Union. Barely a year ago, with the wounds from the refugee crisis still gaping, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, could be heard warning that a British vote to quit the EU threatened to bring about the collapse of western civilisation. In half the countries on the continent, snarling populists eager for European disintegration were terrifying the pro-EU establishment.Yet over the past few months, gloom has turned to sunshine. In June Mr Tusk declared that he had never felt so optimistic about the EU. Much of the credit goes to Emmanuel Macron. France’s newly minted president has lifted pro-Europeans’ spirits not only by winning election wrapped in the EU flag but by doing so in revolutionary fashion, emerging from nowhere to humble

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France’s top general quits, in a test for Emmanuel Macron

2 days ago

FOR a president usually eager to get the drama of politics right, Emmanuel Macron’s provocation of an open confrontation with his armed forces this month was a notable stumble. On July 14th he celebrated Bastille Day, riding in an open-top military jeep on the Champs-Elysées alongside Pierre de Villiers, the chief of the armed forces, before reviewing a parade with his guest of honour, Donald Trump. Five days later the furious general quit, saying he could no longer “guarantee” the means to protect France and sustain its ambition.The affair has become Mr Macron’s first serious leadership test. He is likely to extricate himself, says François Heisbourg, a French security analyst, but the spat was “avoidable, at least in terms of theatre”.The root of the dispute was money. General de

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Italy is facing a surge of migration across the Mediterranean

2 days ago

THE encampment has no name, no water, no electricity and no right to be where it is: an abandoned bus park in a desolate stretch of scrub, east of the Tiburtina railway station in Rome. Most of the Africans dotted across the asphalt in tents or sprawled on mattresses in the enervating heat of a Roman summer have no permission to be there either. Many come straight off the boat, says Andrea Costa, head of Baobab Experience, the NGO running the camp: “For them, this is just the latest stage in a journey that may already have taken two years.”So far this year, the number of migrants arriving in Italy by sea is up by 17% over the same period in 2016, to 93,335. Unlike the Syrians who poured across the Aegean in 2015, most of them are fleeing not from war or persecution, but for economic

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The cost overruns on Russia’s World Cup stadiums are staggering

2 days ago

FROM a boat cruising past the south bank of the Neva in St Petersburg, passing the baroque facades of the Winter Palace and the gilded dome of St Isaac’s cathedral, it can seem as if the 19th century never ended in Russia. But turn to the river’s north side and you will see something much more futuristic: Krestovsky stadium, a Japanese-designed football arena nicknamed “the spaceship”. In June and July the newly opened stadium hosted several matches of the Confederations Cup, a second-tier tournament, meant to serve as a dress rehearsal for Russia’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup next year (and, unavoidably, won by Germany’s B team). Russians are hoping the competition itself works out better than the preparations. Krestovsky stadium was completed eight years behind schedule and 540% over

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Poland’s government is putting the courts under its control

2 days ago

CHOPIN played in the background and, as night fell, the crowd on the square in front of the Supreme Court in Warsaw sang the Polish national anthem. Someone projected “This is our court” onto the building’s wall. Two weeks earlier, in the same square, Donald Trump had hailed Poland’s role in the defence of Western values. But for the demonstrators who turned out on July 16th to protest against changes to the judicial system by the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, it was those very values that were under threat.Since taking power in 2015, PiS has set about dismantling the country’s checks and balances. It has reduced the public broadcaster to a propaganda organ, packed the civil service with loyalists and purged much of the army’s leadership. It has undermined the independence of the

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Young Russians are brainstorming ways to oppose the government

9 days ago

IN A forest outside St Petersburg this month, a group of young people discussed ideas for modern Russian superheroes. One group suggested “Rainbow Man”, who can change sex and sexuality and crusades against “TV Man” and “Bureaucrat Man”. Another proposed “Human Rights Man”, who uses the constitution to battle the “Dishonest Judge”. The exercise unfolded at Territory of Freedom, a camp dedicated to democratic values. Beyond playing games and grilling sausages, the 80-odd campers, mostly students, heard lectures on human rights and intellectual-property law.The camp has been running for nine years, and the organisers, an activist group called Vesna, say interest is growing. Anti-corruption protests organised in March and June by Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader, drew masses of young

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Germany fears Donald Trump will divide Europe

9 days ago

IN THE aftermath of the G20 summit on July 7th and 8th, German politicians traded blows over who was at fault for riots by anti-globalisation activists that smashed up parts of central Hamburg. But a big global event in the heart of a city with a strong anarchist tradition was always bound to prompt protests. Officials’ deeper reasons for anxiety were different: Donald Trump and his attitudes towards Russia and Poland.To some in Berlin, the president’s meeting with Vladimir Putin was a “Yalta 2.0”, a 21st-century equivalent of the summit in 1945 at which Americans and Russians divided Europe. Angela Merkel saw Mr Trump’s “back-slapping and face-pulling” display before the Russian president (as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a daily, put it) as undermining her efforts to confront

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Donald Trump’s G20 speech owed a lot to Putin

9 days ago

IN SEPTEMBER 2013, Vladimir Putin gave an important speech near the ancient city of Novgorod, which he called “not just the geographical but the spiritual centre of Russia”. The key to the country’s progress, he said, was “spiritual, cultural and national self-determination. Without this we will not be able to withstand internal and external challenges.” Military, technological and economic strength notwithstanding, the determining factor was the nation’s “intellectual, spiritual and moral strength”, grounded in its “history, values and traditions”. He lamented the depravity of godless, rootless Western liberalism. “We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilisation.”

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The EU must show the Balkans they still have a chance of joining

9 days ago

SQUINT, and you can just make it out. In a quiet suburb of Belgrade, a small European Union flag flutters from the seventh floor of a concrete tower block. Almost 20 years ago, during the dark days of Slobodan Milosevic, an engineer-turned-journalist called Zoran Cvijic hung the standard from his balcony to express his hope that Serbia might one day join the club whose values he so admired. Soon afterwards NATO jets pounded Belgrade to halt Serbian atrocities in Kosovo. Gordana, Cvijic’s wife, feared the flag would bring the family unwelcome attention, yet it stayed in place. Cvijic died in 2015, still optimistic that his country would eventually take its seat at the EU table.In 2003 the Balkan countries were told that their future lay inside the EU. Yet these days the hopes of Serbia and

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Catalonia plans an independence vote whether Spain lets it or not

10 days ago

THE production was as dramatic as any other the National Theatre in Barcelona has seen. There, on July 4th, the president of Catalonia’s government, Carles Puigdemont, announced plans to hold a unilateral referendum on independence from Spain on October 1st. The draft law he unveiled says that, whatever the turnout, if those voting in favour outnumber those against, within 48 hours the Catalan parliament will declare independence. To Mr Puigdemont’s supporters, this is a national epic. To Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s conservative prime minister, it is “authoritarian delirium”. He is determined that it should not take place.Mr Puigdemont’s push follows five years of secessionist agitation in Catalonia, one of Spain’s richest regions, whose 7.5m people are 16% of the country’s total. Separatism

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Turkey’s embattled opposition is marching to Istanbul

16 days ago

THE worst that Kemal Kilicdaroglu has suffered so far, on the 450km (280 mile) protest march he is leading from Ankara to Istanbul, are blisters and broken toenails. In that sense, the 68-year-old leader of Turkey’s biggest opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is lucky. Other opposition politicians are in prison. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has jailed more than 50,000 people and sacked more than 110,000 in ever-wider purges following an attempted coup last July. Mr Erdogan and his Islamist AK party have muzzled the country’s media, stacked the schools, courts and army with loyalists and changed the constitution to grant the president untrammelled executive power.“We had to do this, because we ran out of options,” said Mr Kilicdaroglu, his face sunburnt from

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Estonia is trying to convert the EU to its digital creed

16 days ago

ESTONIANS are among Europe’s least pious folk. Just 2% of the population attend services weekly in the medieval churches of Tallinn, or anywhere else. A growing number of the inhabitants of this forested, sparsely populated land subscribe to the nature-loving precepts of neo-paganism. But there is only one faith that truly unites Estonians. Broach the subject of digital technology, and you will be amazed by their fervour.Estonia has carved out a niche as a startup hub and a friendly environment for foreign businesses. Its biggest innovation, however, lies in e-government. Citizens of this tiny Baltic nation can conduct almost every encounter with the state online. A digital-signature system makes official transactions a doddle. Armed with an ID card and a PIN, Estonians can vote, submit

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As America quits, Europe tries to lead on climate change

16 days ago

CAN Europe carry the Paris agreement on climate change forward now that America has left? That was one of the big questions as leaders of the world’s largest economies gathered for the G20 meeting in Hamburg on July 7th and 8th. Donald Trump’s promise that America will pull out has weakened the deal. Many fear that other countries’ future pledges to cut greenhouse-gas emissions will be less ambitious without the world’s second-largest polluter (after China) doing its share.Yet America’s departure has galvanised China, which promotes itself as a champion of the deal—and Europe, which thinks itself in the vanguard of greenery. If they remain staunch, reluctant converts such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey are more likely to stay the course. The G20 meeting was just beginning as The Economist went

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Macron’s ambitions run into economic reality

16 days ago

EMMANUEL MACRON likes pomp. In a speech to MPs and senators on July 3rd in the gilded Palace of Versailles, he referred five times to the “grandeur” of France. His predecessors rarely made such addresses, but he will do so annually, state-of-the-union style. He has said France needs a “Jupiter-like” president: remote and dignified, like the Roman king of the gods. (This sounds less conceited in French than it does in English, but has still raised eyebrows.) Mr Macron’s supporters say he needs to invest his office with more authority to pass ambitious reforms.For example, Mr Macron wants to change the constitution within a year, by referendum if need be. He wants to cut by one-third the number of parliamentarians, add an unspecified “dose” of proportional representation to the electoral

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Germany is not the new leader of the free world

16 days ago

IF HELMUT KOHL, the deceased chancellor whom Germany commemorated in a ceremony on July 1st, could have looked up from his coffin to assess his country’s global standing, it would have made him proud. European and Chinese leaders were passing through Berlin for preparatory talks ahead of the annual G20 summit of large economies, which this year takes place in Hamburg from July 7th. A week earlier Angela Merkel lambasted the isolationism and protectionism of Donald Trump’s America in a speech to the Bundestag. Once Mr Kohl’s protégée, the chancellor of his reunified Germany is sometimes dubbed the “leader of the free world” in the Anglo-Saxon media.Yet such epithets get things wrong. To understand why, look at Germany’s relations with Africa, Poland and America.The flummery is not all

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Georgia, a model of reform, is struggling to stay clean

23 days ago

GEORGIA has been known for excess and eccentricity since ancient times, when it was called Colchis, the home of Medea and the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology. But even by Georgian standards, the latest hobby of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the country’s richest and most powerful man, is extravagant. The reclusive oligarch, whose hilltop glass-and-steel castle towers over Tbilisi, the capital, buys the oldest and tallest trees in the country, digs them out and transports them by road and ship to his residence on the Black Sea.Most Georgians are amused, and hope he will buy one of theirs. But the image of a 100-year-old, 650-tonne tulip tree sailing over the water is an apt symbol for Mr Ivanishvili’s role in Georgia. The billionaire, who holds no official post but pulls strings from behind the

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France launches its last high-speed rail lines

23 days ago

IT TAKES courage to mess with one of France’s most-loved brands. The public adores its TGV—Train à Grande Vitesse—as a symbol of modernity, and because many families dreamily associate the double-decker trains with long summer holidays. Yet from July 2nd, in time for les vacances, the state-owned railways, SNCF, will do away with the three-letter marque: the TGV service will be renamed “InOui”.The change comes at a fateful time. On July 1st Emmanuel Macron, the president, will flag off France’s ninth and tenth high-speed routes, serving the country’s west. Rennes will be just an hour and a half from Paris. Yet no more entirely new lines are being built after these. The Rennes track alone consumed many billions of euros in a decade of construction. A report in 2014 by the public auditor

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Eastern Europeans think Western food brands are selling them dross

23 days ago

FOR some it is the cheese and yogurt; for others the fruit juice. But for Tibor Ferko, a young butcher from Usti nad Labem, a city in the northern Czech Republic, it is the chocolate that leaves him slavering at the chops. Mr Ferko gestures with near-Italian flamboyance as he recalls the “creamy” texture of the Milka bars available just across the German border but denied to him by the inferior product at home. A few miles away, in a supermarket off the Srbice highway, Zdenek Kuklik vows never again to visit Czech shops for the Hipp baby food he feeds to the son clinging to his chest. Why? Because on the one occasion they bought locally he instantly spat the stuff out, explains his wife. From now on it will be strictly the superior product from across the border.Suspicions that

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The West backs Balkan autocrats to keep the peace, again

23 days ago

ON JUNE 23RD, in the presence of as many foreign dignitaries as he could muster, Aleksandar Vucic had himself anointed president of Serbia. The former prime minister, elected on April 2nd, had taken the oath of office in May, but decided to stage a big inaugural ceremony to demonstrate his stature. To succeed himself as prime minister Mr Vucic nominated Ana Brnabic, an openly gay woman, earning plaudits from foreign liberals.In fact it is Mr Vucic who will run the country, and he is no liberal. Yet Western leaders are relieved. Serbia is the most powerful country in the western Balkans, and Mr Vucic, whatever his flaws, can keep it stable. Variations on this deal can be seen across the region. Some are calling such governments “stabilitocracies”.Mr Vucic’s main opponent in the presidential

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What Angela Merkel’s shift on gay marriage reveals about her style

23 days ago

IT WAS a relaxed event at a Berlin theatre on June 26th. Angela Merkel was taking questions from the readers of Brigitte, a lifestyle magazine. A young man asked her: “When can I get to call my boyfriend my husband?” The chancellor, who had previously described marriage as the union of a man and a woman, gave a typically cryptic answer. She noted the “difficulties” that “some” have with same-sex marriage and described being affected by a meeting with a lesbian couple in her constituency. Then came the crucial phrase. Her Christian Democrat (CDU) party, ventured Mrs Merkel tentatively, should shift “somewhat in the direction of a question of conscience”.Then things moved fast. The next day her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners picked up on the comment, broke with the CDU and called a

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Turkey is taking care of refugees, but failing to integrate them

23 days ago

THE refugee camp on the outskirts of Kahramanmaras, in Turkey’s south, glows as brightly as the local officials singing its praises. The air-conditioned container-unit houses, home to 24,000 displaced Syrians and Iraqis, are spotless. Each unit comes with a kitchen, a bedroom, a television and a laundry machine. The camp also boasts a school, a hospital and a supermarket. “We have all that we need,” says Muhammad Darwish, cradling his baby niece, Hiyam, one of over 240,000 refugee children born on Turkish soil since 2011. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, surveys the scene from a huge banner near the camp’s entrance, his image next to that of a distraught child. “It is a matter of conscience,” reads the caption.To the people of the surrounding villages, it is also a matter of

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In Naples, the hit-men are children

June 22, 2017

LESS than a hundred yards away, Via San Biagio dei Librai in the centre of Naples bustles with activity. Tourists buy souvenirs and munch pizza, oblivious to the meaning of the coded graffiti on the street’s peeling walls. But in a side alley, all is solemn hush. Beyond a door, in a courtyard, stands a tall metal cabinet displaying a ceramic bust of a young man, surrounded by fresh white roses. If not for his hipster beard and haircut, it could be the shrine of a long-dead saint.The building that surrounds the courtyard is the redoubt of one of the many warring clans of Italy’s oldest yet least-cohesive mafia, the Camorra. The young man to whom the shrine is dedicated is Emanuele Sibillo, the archetype of a new breed of Neapolitan gangster. He was murdered in 2015 at the age of 19 in a

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A split over refugees has left the Dutch with no government

June 22, 2017

LIKE most things Dutch, the asylum-seekers’ centre in Rijswijk, a suburb of The Hague, is clean, rectilinear and well-organised. The housing units’ aluminium exteriors are as shiny and elegant as a VanMoof bicycle. Pupils from Syria and Afghanistan march cheerfully down the pavement, escorted by blonde teachers. The centre has room for up to 500 residents, but the actual number is lower. Since March 2016, when an agreement between the European Union and Turkey closed off the migration route across the Aegean, the stream of asylum-seekers arriving in the Netherlands has slowed to a trickle. Some of the reception centres set up at the height of the migrant crisis have never been used.With the number of refugees shrinking, one would think asylum might drop off the political agenda. Instead,

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Romania’s Social Democrats yank their own prime minister

June 22, 2017

IN ORDINARY politics, it is opposition parties who attempt to bring governments down. But politics in Romania is rarely ordinary. For the past week the country’s governing Social Democratic Party (PSD) has been trying to unseat its own prime minister and his cabinet. The prime minister, Sorin Grindeanu, refused to go. On June 21st the PSD succeeded at last, winning a no-confidence vote and kicking Mr Grindeanu out of power, less than six months after it had installed him. One of Mr Grindeanu’s few allies, Victor Ponta, a former prime minister, called the vote an “atomic war between the Social Democrats and the Social Democrats”.The PSD claimed it was removing Mr Grindeanu over his failure to pass most of the party’s legislative programme, which includes crowd-pleasing measures like tax

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Emmanuel Macron’s government is off to a floppy start

June 22, 2017

IT SHOULD have been a triumphant moment. Together with its allies, La République en Marche! (LRM), the movement of President Emmanuel Macron, won 350 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly in the election on June 18th. Even on its own, LRM won 308 seats, a clear majority. That is a remarkable outcome for a political outfit launched only last year. Even a couple of months ago few, other than the supremely confident Mr Macron, dared suggest it was possible.Yet he had little chance to savour the moment or prepare for the legislative session that begins on June 27th. His government faced days of awkward scrutiny as four ministers quit. On June 19th Richard Ferrand, an LRM minister close to Mr Macron who has been caught up in a financial scandal, stepped down. (He will become the party’s

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Germany’s Russian gas pipeline smells funny to America

June 22, 2017

LIKE vinyl records and popped collars, rows between the United States and Europe over Russian energy are making a comeback. In the early 1980s Ronald Reagan’s attempts to thwart a Soviet pipeline that would bring Siberian gas to Europe irritated the West Germans and drove the French to proclaim the end of the transatlantic alliance. The cast of characters has shifted a little today, but many of the arguments are the same. In Nord Stream 2 (NS2), a proposed Russian gas pipeline, Germany sees a respectable project that will cut energy costs and lock in secure supplies. American politicians (and the ex-communist countries of eastern Europe) detect a Kremlin plot to deepen Europe’s addiction to cheap Russian gas. They decry German spinelessness.NS2, which its backers hope will come online at

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A new Hungarian liberal party challenges the autocratic Viktor Orban

June 21, 2017

IN A smoky open-air bar at the back of a youth hostel in Budapest, one of Europe’s youngest political parties is hatching plans for a democratic revolution. Its leader, Andras Fekete-Gyor (pictured), a bearded, focused 28-year-old, jabs his right hand for emphasis as he lays out his plans for the party, Momentum. An audience of about 70 people, most of them young, are perched on stools and reclining on sofas, drinking beer and listening intently. For some Hungarian dreamers, this scene represents one of the most promising political developments in years.Momentum burst onto the scene with a petition drive last winter, when it collected more than 250,000 signatures and forced the government to abandon its extravagant bid to host the 2024 Olympics. The games would simply provide an

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Michel Barnier knows that Britain’s chaos is Europe’s too

June 15, 2017

“I AM a man of the mountains,” declared Michel Barnier in 1992, soon before the Winter Olympics that he brought to Albertville, a small town in the French Alpine region of Savoy. If snooty officials once derided Mr Barnier, who will lead the European Union’s talks with Britain over its exit, as le crétin des Alpes, today few Europeans have any complaints over his navigation of Brexit’s craggy terrain. Since his appointment last July Mr Barnier has dutifully trotted around Europe listening to concerns from governments, parliamentarians and businesses, while assembling a crack team of negotiators in Brussels. Now, says Mr Barnier, in a conversation this week with European newspapers, it is time to get on with the job.If only it were that easy. In March Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister,

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Turkey’s president wants to purge Western words from its language

June 15, 2017

TURKEY’S president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, responded to last summer’s attempted coup by sacking or suspending 160,000 public servants and arresting 60,000 more. But his latest purge has a more abstract target. Mr Erdogan wants to rid Turkish of unsightly Western loan-words. Turkey faces a mortal threat from foreign “affectations”, Mr Erdogan declared on May 23rd. “Where do attacks against cultures and civilisations begin? With language.”Mr Erdogan started by ordering the word “arena”, which reminded him of ancient Roman depravity, removed from sports venues across the country. Turkey’s biggest teams complied overnight. Vodafone Arena, home of the Besiktas football club, woke up as “Vodafone Stadyumu”. Critics wondered what the Turkish language had gained by replacing one foreign-derived

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Spain’s reforms point the way for southern Europe

June 15, 2017

ON A back road in the Llobregat valley west of Barcelona, amid a jumble of old wine-growing villages and modern factories, stands a research centre owned by Gestamp, a Spanish firm that in just two decades has become one of the world’s leading makers of car body-parts, doors and bonnets. With 100 plants in 21 countries and sales last year of €7.5bn ($8.4bn), Gestamp is a specialist in hot stamping. This process makes parts six times more resistant than if they are cold-stamped, allowing cars to be safer, lighter and less polluting. What was once mere metal-bashing has become a high-tech operation.Gestamp invests 3.8% of its sales in research and development, and holds more than 900 patents. “We are working on cars that will only go into production in five or six years’ time,” says Juan

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