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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

A jihadist beheading spurs the French to defend secularism

6 days ago

Oct 22nd 2020PARISIN A COURTYARD at the Sorbonne, the paramount French symbol of learning, President Emmanuel Macron on October 21st paid homage to a teacher slain “for embodying…the freedom that is transmitted and sustained at school.” Samuel Paty (see Obituary) was a middle-school history teacher in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a genteel town north-west of Paris. Earlier this month he had shown pupils caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during a class on freedom of expression. Those pupils who might be offended, he suggested, could choose not to look at them. On October 16th, after threats against him by a parent and on social media, Mr Paty was beheaded in an attack that police are treating as an act of terrorism.Shortly before Mr Paty’s class

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A second wave of covid-19 sends much of Europe back into lockdown

6 days ago

Oct 22nd 2020AMSTERDAMFOR A FEW months this summer it was almost possible for Europeans to believe that life had returned to normal. Parisian museums and Barcelona’s cafés were open, if less crowded. Germans, Dutch and Danes jetted off to holidays on Mediterranean beaches. In August and September, as children across the continent returned to school, covid-19 infections began to rise. Yet governments, worried about a backlash, chose not to reintroduce harsh social-distancing measures.Their decision has had a price. A second wave of covid-19 is now washing over Europe. In many countries the daily numbers of confirmed cases exceed their spring peaks, though this is mostly because there is a lot more testing; death rates are substantially lower. A model developed by The Economist, based on

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An exiled ex-president plans a comeback in Georgia

6 days ago

Oct 22nd 2020IN THE GARISH style of a video game, the former Soviet republic of Georgia’s richest man is running around in a suit, knocking out golden coins with his head, when a rotund figure pops out of a chimney, destroying the oligarch and triggering “game over”. The victor—in the mock game—is Mikheil Saakashvili, independent Georgia’s best-known ex-president. He hopes to become Georgia’s prime minister in an election on October 31st.Mr Saakashvili led the “Rose revolution” of 2003 that propelled Georgians from post-Soviet dourness to pro-European modern governance, cracking down on petty corruption and setting up reputable state institutions. But he then spectacularly plummeted from grace. Now he is conducting a re-election campaign from exile in Ukraine, through his United National

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The European Parliament: powerful yet puny

6 days ago

Oct 24th 2020KILLING A KING is a good way of showing who is boss. In the 17th century, English parliamentarians put Charles I on trial for treason after a civil war. He was found guilty and swiftly executed. French lawmakers did something similar in the 18th century. Their 21st-century peers must rely on less bloody methods. The European Parliament is, in its own way, as mighty as its regicidal forebears. It has plenty of weapons at its disposal. It can block trade deals and veto the EU’s budget. It has as much say on European legislation as ministers from national capitals. And the European Commission, the closest thing the EU has to a government, can be dismissed—although not put to death—at parliament’s will.Yet for all these threats, MEPs are not always treated with much respect. With

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Sweden embarks on its largest military build-up for decades

8 days ago

Oct 19th 2020“AN ARMED ATTACK against Sweden cannot be ruled out,” warned Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister, shortly after he introduced a new defence bill on October 14th. It promises the country’s largest military expansion for 70 years. The reason is plain. Russia’s assertive behaviour across Europe, from invasion to assassination, has alarmed Swedes.In recent years, Sweden has accused Russia of violating its air space and waters several times. Accordingly, it has deepened military ties with NATO (though not a member of the alliance) and with America and its Nordic neighbours. If the new bill is passed, as is likely, the defence budget is set to rise by SKr27.5bn ($3.1bn) between 2021 and 2025, a 40% boost that will bring expenditure to around 1.5% of GDP—the highest level for

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Can the European Union learn to love a common culture?

13 days ago

Oct 17th 2020BAUHAUS AND Brussels are an uneasy mix. Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus art school, which shaped design in the 20th century, declared that a building “must be true to itself, logically transparent, and virginal of lies or trivialities”. A short stroll around the EU quarter in Brussels reveals buildings that happily violate all these rules. Post-modern monstrosities butt against merely ridiculous buildings with nicknames such as the Space Egg. Inside, things are often little better, with lurid colour schemes providing an absurd backdrop for serious discussion and layouts straight out of Maurits Escher’s paintings of “impossible constructions”. Bauhaus principles led to the iPhone, a triumph of simple design. EU design principles led to a building with floor numbers

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An interview with Alexei Navalny, assassination survivor

13 days ago

Oct 17th 2020BERLINALEXEI NAVALNY, Russia’s charismatic opposition leader, has always had something of the Hollywood hero about him, and he likes to illustrate his speeches with references to popular movies. Reflecting on the journey he has made from Siberia, where he was poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent, to a Berlin hospital, where he awoke after a three-week coma, he is conscious of the cinematic quality of the plot so far: a people’s hero challenges an evil dictator who tries to kill him with a mysterious poison. But his loyal friends and his devoted wife bring him back to life. “It starts like a political thriller, then turns into a romantic comedy,” he tells The Economist during an interview in Berlin.The intubation scars on his neck, his gaunt look, the tremor in his hands and

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Turkey locks up Kurdish mayors

13 days ago

Oct 17th 2020ISTANBULIN CITIES ACROSS Turkey’s east, it is no longer an unusual scene. The local mayor, clutching a bag stuffed with some clothes and a toothbrush, the bare necessities for a long spell in prison, emerges from his house before dawn, accompanied by a group of policemen, and disappears into a van. The scene played out most recently on September 25th in Kars, a city near the Armenian border, where police arrested Ayhan Bilgen, who was elected to office last year. A small crowd gathered to say goodbye. “Kars is proud of you,” the chanting began. Dozens of other members of Turkey’s biggest Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including three former parliamentarians, were rounded up the same day.Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, believes he is close to

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Men should have no place in women’s minds, says a new book

13 days ago

Oct 17th 2020PARIS“TO EMANCIPATE A woman is to refuse to confine her to the relations she has to men, not to deny them to her.” So wrote Simone de Beauvoir, the godmother of French feminism, in “The Second Sex” over 70 years ago. Not all French feminists today would agree. A new book, “Lesbian Genius”, suggests that women should banish men from their lives. Its author, Alice Coffin, a lesbian activist and Paris city councillor, says she no longer reads books by men, nor watches films made by men, nor listens to music written by men. No more Voltaire, Truffaut or Daft Punk, then. We need, she declares, to “eliminate men from our minds”.The backlash was immediate. Not from men (who needs to hear from them?), but from other French feminists. Marlène Schiappa, formerly President Emmanuel

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Berlin’s long-delayed airport is finally opening

13 days ago

Oct 17th 2020BERLINCHECK-IN FOR a flight to Antalya was going smoothly until airport staff saw The Economist’s gun. This correspondent, a volunteer on a recent trial run for Berlin’s new airport, had been handed a fake hunting-rifle to test the mettle of security staff. The police summoned to check told him he had “forgotten a crucial bit of documentation”. After a fake ticking-off, permission to board was grudgingly granted.It was a relatively mild slip in the long history of Germany’s best-known infrastructure disaster. Ground was broken on Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) in 2006. It was supposed to take five years to build. After a second failed opening, in June 2012, a head-spinning catalogue of errors was revealed: fire-doors didn’t open; miles of cables were mislaid; and “the

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Scrapping vetoes won’t help European foreign policy

20 days ago

Oct 10th 2020HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN’S story of “The Princess and the Pea” is not on the reading list of many foreign-policy wonks. Perhaps it should be. In the Danish fairy tale, a pea is secretly placed beneath a stack of mattresses on a young lady’s bed. She finds the tiny bump horribly uncomfortable, thus proving herself to be a princess. It is a surprisingly relevant lesson for the EU. The bloc sees itself as a superpower, but when it comes to foreign policy it sometimes behaves like a dainty princess. A single objection from even a pea-sized state is enough to scupper its plans.So it was when Cyprus, the third-smallest EU country in population and a rounding error in terms of GDP, became a one-country obstacle to sanctions against the Belarusian authorities. Unless the EU agreed to

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Why tourists shun Salamis, site of a great sea-battle

20 days ago

Oct 10th 2020PEOPLE ON SALAMIS hoped that their hilly island would be on the tourist map this year. It is the 2,500th anniversary of one of the greatest naval battles of the ancient world. In the early autumn of 480BC, in the strait between Salamis and the mainland, a few hundred Greek triremes (warships with three banks of oars and bronze battering-rams) defeated a much larger Persian armada.It was an unexpected triumph. Xerxes, the Persian king, was so confident of victory that he erected a throne from which to enjoy it, on a slope overlooking the sea. To his horror, the agile Greek fleet sank 200 lumbering Persian vessels, and lost only 40 of its own. Xerxes “counted them at break of day—/And when the sun set, where were they?” crowed Lord Byron, an English poet, 2,300 years later. The

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The French mayor who cancelled the Christmas tree

20 days ago

Oct 10th 2020BORDEAUXSTANDING BEFORE potted plants, Pierre Hurmic, the newly elected Green mayor of Bordeaux, announced last month that the town hall would no longer put up a giant annual Christmas tree. No “dead trees on the town square”, he declared. The opposition cried scandal. The mayor was accused of destroying tradition and family fun. A poll showed that 79% of French people disapproved. Even the prime minister, Jean Castex, was moved to deplore the loss of Bordeaux’s traditional Christmas tree.“It was absolutely not a provocation,” insists Mr Hurmic, who today professes surprise at the “completely disproportionate” fuss that his comment prompted. “I’m not against Christmas trees,” he says. But transporting a 17-metre tree cut from a forest halfway across the country is

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How Sweden hopes to prevent a second wave of covid-19

20 days ago

Oct 10th 2020STOCKHOLMON A CRISP October evening the tables outside Stockholm’s trendy bars and restaurants sit empty. Inside, most tables are full. As life moves indoors in the coming months, covid-19 cases will inevitably rise, says Johan Carlson, head of Sweden’s public-health agency. Case numbers are already creeping up, though not as steeply as they did in the spring, and more slowly than in much of Europe. In response, Sweden is starting to ramp up contact-tracing and quarantining—but in ways that, once again, set it apart.When the pandemic rolled into Europe in March, Sweden stood out by not locking down. Life did not carry on entirely as normal: universities and schools for children over 16 switched to online learning (though they have now reopened); gatherings of more than 50 were

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Poland’s ruling party may clobber independent media

20 days ago

Oct 10th 2020BERLINEVER SINCE Poland’s Law and Justice party returned to power in 2015 it has chipped away at the independence of the media. Poland’s annual ranking in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters without Borders, a non-profit group, has grown worse every year, from 18th in 2015 (ahead of Britain, France and America) to 62nd this year (lower than Niger, Georgia and Armenia). It will slide further if the government carries out its latest plans to “repolonise” the country’s media.For the past few years leaders of Law and Justice, a populist-nationalist party, have talked about two new laws: one to repolonise and another to “deconcentrate” private media firms. Neither has passed. But after the party lost ground in a general election last October and then won July’s

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The Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict hints at the future of war

20 days ago

Oct 10th 2020ISTANBUL AND LONDONAZERBAIJAN’S ARMED forces may be busy waging war over Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed enclave run by Armenia. That did not stop them from setting aside scarce helicopters and tanks to star in a music video, complete with khaki-clad singers, guitarists and a drummer. The bellicose heavy-metal tune, accompanied by a montage of bombing raids, would not be out of place in the Eurovision song contest, and is part of a crude attempt by Azerbaijan’s corrupt and autocratic government to rally people round the flag.The real war, which began on September 27th, has been less telegenic. Hundreds of people, most of them soldiers, are already believed dead. The fighting is the worst since 1994, when ethnic Armenian forces seized Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani

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What do Dua Lipa, Rita Ora and Ava Max have in common?

27 days ago

Oct 3rd 2020UNTIL RECENTLY the most famous ethnic Albanians were Mother Teresa (a nun who cared for orphans and lepers in India) and Enver Hoxha (a homicidal communist despot). Now to the saint and the sinner must be added the singers.They are everywhere. Dua Lipa has 55m monthly listeners on Spotify, a music-streaming platform. Bebe Rexha has 24m. Rita Ora (pictured) has had five British number one singles and has been a judge on “the X Factor”. Era Istrefi sang at the football World Cup in 2018. Njomza Vitia, a singer-songwriter, and Labinot Gashi, a rapper, have global followings. Ava Max’s sexy single “Sweet but Psycho” is universally considered more fun than Hoxha’s literary offering, “Albania Challenges Khrushchev Revisionism”.All these megastars of Albanian heritage except Ms

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A by-election shows why Hungary’s opposition struggles

27 days ago

Oct 3rd 2020BORSODBORSOD IS A sweet spot in north-east Hungary, whichever way you look at it. It is home to a big chocolate factory (Szerencsi Bonbon), a caffeine-packed energy drink (Hell), and a pudding wine traditionally favoured by kings and queens on their wedding night (Tokay). It is also the place where the opposition to Viktor Orban, Hungary’s autocratic prime minister, is up against a challenge.Opposition parties hope that a by-election on October 11th will give a boost to their efforts to combine and defeat Mr Orban’s Fidesz party at the general election scheduled for 2022. Success in Borsod 6, the constituency in question, would theoretically end Fidesz’s super-majority in the Hungarian parliament, which allows it to alter the constitution; it currently has 133 of the 199 seats.

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Spain’s poisonous politics have worsened the pandemic and the economy

27 days ago

Oct 3rd 2020MADRIDTHE INFANTA LEONOR hospital, wedged between a motorway and a suburban railway, serves the dense working-class districts of south-eastern Madrid. Last month 402 of its 480 doctors signed a letter to the regional government warning that the hospital was in a state of “pre-collapse”, with 54% of its 361 beds and all 27 intensive-care spaces occupied by covid-19 patients. With 784 cases per 100,000 people in the past fortnight, Madrid is currently the worst-hit region in Europe.This is part of a broader national failure. On July 5th Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, proclaimed that “we have defeated the virus and controlled the pandemic.” Yet the country is once again Europe’s coronavirus black spot (see chart).What went wrong? Health experts point the finger at a

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War returns to Nagorno-Karabakh

27 days ago

Oct 3rd 2020ISTANBULIN ONE VIDEO, an Azerbaijani tank stands in flames. In another, an Armenian one is pulverised by a drone. A hail of gunfire cuts into troops scaling a hillside. One of the world’s most intractable conflicts, over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, has blown up again, threatening to plunge Armenia and Azerbaijan into full-scale war. By the time The Economist went to press on October 1st, more than 100 people had been killed in five days of fighting.Both sides blame the other for the violence, though it seems Azerbaijan had been preparing an offensive to recover at least part of Nagorno-Karabakh for some time. The fighting has awakened memories of a war that devastated the region in the 1990s. Missiles have rained down on Armenian positions across the separatist

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Germany is being forced to take a leadership role it never wanted

27 days ago

Oct 3rd 2020IN UNGUARDED MOMENTS, British and French diplomats 30 years ago might quietly admit that they could happily live with a divided Germany. Its partition, however unjust, contained the problem of a country that, in Henry Kissinger’s words, was “too big for Europe, too small for the world”. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Margaret Thatcher sought to recruit François Mitterrand, France’s president, in a fruitless plot to block, or at least delay, reunification, fearing an enlarged Germany would upset Europe’s balance or even threaten its security. Among European leaders only Felipe González, Spain’s then prime minister, unequivocally backed a united Germany.Thirty years on—unified Germany marks its birthday on October 3rd—the darker fears of Germany’s European partners have not

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The revenge of strategic yogurt

27 days ago

Oct 3rd 2020DANONE IS PROUD of its yogurts. The French company boasts that 4bn patented bacteria go into every pot, with each batch fermented for eight hours, or roughly a quarter of the French working week. France, understandably, is proud of Danone. When rumours emerged in 2005 that Pepsi was considering a bid for the company, the French political establishment howled. Dominique de Villepin, the then prime minister, pledged to defend the “interests of France”. Jacques Chirac, the president at the time, promised to be “vigilant and mobilised” against any potential predator of French business. Anglo-Saxon capitalists guffawed. In Brussels, European Commission officials rolled their eyes and delivered lectures on the merits of red-blooded competition. “Strategic yogurt” became a byword for

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Italians vote for fewer, better politicians

September 24, 2020

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

September 24, 2020

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

September 24, 2020

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”

September 24, 2020

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

September 24, 2020

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

September 17, 2020

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

September 17, 2020

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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Europe’s asylum compromise

September 17, 2020

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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