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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

Poland is a problem for the EU precisely because it will not leave

8 days ago

Oct 14th 2021B REXIT, BEFORE it happened, was imagined in many forms. Hard, soft, Norwegian, Swiss or Turkish. Briefly, an Albanian option was discussed. Often it was just “clean”. A “clean Brexit” would free Britain from the EU’s single market, customs union and its courts, advocates said. Just as there are many ways of leaving the EU, there are many ways of remaining. There is the clean version, in which countries quietly accept the EU’s strictures. Then there is the messy version, where governments foul up the club. Think of it as “dirty remain”.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.To see dirty remain in action, look at Poland. Its Constitutional Tribunal challenged the legal order of the club in a ruling on

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Sebastian Kurz is forced out of the Austrian chancellery—again

8 days ago

Oct 16th 2021BERLINHE MAY ONLY be 35, but Sebastian Kurz has been involved in enough political intrigue for several lifetimes. On October 9th Mr Kurz was toppled as Austria’s chancellor for the second time in three years, amid claims that he had masterminded a conspiracy to buy himself favourable media coverage. In America Mr Kurz would barely be old enough to run for president. But his career at the top of Austrian politics may already be approaching its end.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Mr Kurz and nine others stand accused of an elaborate plot to upend the leadership of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (öVP), and ultimately of the country. Prosecutors allege that, starting in 2016, the finance

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It is tempting to blame foreigners for Europe’s gas crisis

9 days ago

Oct 16th 2021“RUSSIA IS ABOUT bears now, it’s not about bullies.” So joked Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, this week, speaking about the crisis in Europe’s natural-gas market. His country favours stability and lower prices over runaway prices, he insisted: “We would prefer to have here a bear market.”Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Russia is responding to a view gaining currency in European capitals that Gazprom, the state-controlled energy goliath that is the continent’s biggest supplier, has been stoking the continent’s energy crisis by withholding exports of natural gas. European parliamentarians are demanding that Gazprom be investigated for not shipping more gas, allegedly as a ploy to

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A $15bn new canal for Istanbul

15 days ago

Oct 7th 2021ISTANBULTHERE IS NO such thing as a bad view of the Bosporus, the waterway that divides Istanbul between Europe and Asia. But the one from the bridge of the Gas Cobia, a 180-metre tanker, as it makes its way from the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea, is hard to beat. Ottoman palaces slide past. Hagia Sophia soaks up the morning sun. The towers of the Rumeli Hisari, the fortress Sultan Mehmet II used to choke off supplies to the city he later conquered, march down to the shore. Passenger ferries and fishing boats bounce on the waves.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.For Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one Bosporus is not enough. So he is building another. In June, at a ground-breaking ceremony

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The “Pandora papers” ensnare a Czech leader and a Dutch minister

15 days ago

Oct 7th 2021AMSTERDAMPOLITICIANS’ PRIVATE finances are a big political issue in central Europe, as Andrej Babis well knows. Mr Babis, a billionaire who is prime minister of the Czech Republic, faces a general election on October 8th and 9th. A week before it, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a reporters’ alliance, released an extravaganza of leaks from 14 financial firms, which it called the “Pandora Papers”. It charges that Mr Babis transferred $22m through shell companies in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a tax haven, in order to buy a villa near Cannes anonymously. Mr Babis was already facing years-long investigations over alleged conflicts of interest and improper receipt of EU subsidies by Agrofert, an agricultural business he founded. He denies any

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The European Union should not give up on enlargement

15 days ago

Oct 9th 2021FLANKED BY THE leaders of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, hailed the opening of the Svilaj bridge, linking the two countries. It was part of her tour of the western Balkan region, a term used by the EU to define the Balkan countries that have not yet joined the club and which have sat waiting on the doorstep since being promised eventual membership back in 2003. The happy integration between the EU and its Balkan neighbours was cast as nothing less than inevitable. “All the western Balkans belong in the European Union,” said Mrs von der Leyen. “It’s in our common interest, but I also believe it’s our destiny.”Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or

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The Northern League and the Brothers of Italy both wobble

15 days ago

Oct 9th 2021ROMEFOR MORE than two years, the common wisdom has been that Italy’s next government will be right-wing—and radically so. Polls have consistently indicated that the Brothers of Italy party, with its origins in neo-fascism, and the populist Northern League should together secure enough seats at the next election to form a parliamentary majority, perhaps even without needing help from Silvio Berlusconi’s more moderate Forza Italia movement.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.But local elections on October 3rd and 4th showed how fragile the support underpinning the hard right is. Centre-left mayoral candidates won with more than half the votes in Milan, Naples and Bologna. Others in Rome and Turin look set

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The French Catholic church acknowledges a staggering pattern of sexual abuse

15 days ago

Oct 9th 2021PARISTHE SHEER number was overwhelming. Between 1950 and 2020 at least 216,000 children were sexually abused in France by Catholic clergy. Thus, on October 5th, concluded a two-year independent inquiry commissioned by the church. Jean-Marc Sauvé, who led it, said it uncovered “the lead weight of silence smothering the crimes” committed by 2,900-3,200 clergy. If lay molesters involved in church activities were also included, the number of abused could reach 330,000.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Mr Sauvé’s introduction to the report is chilling and unflinching: “The Catholic church’s immediate reaction was to protect itself as an institution” and it “has shown complete, even cruel, indifference to

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The Social Democrats are likely to take charge in Germany

22 days ago

Sep 30th 2021BERLINAT 6PM ON September 26th the atrium of the Willy Brandt House, the Berlin headquarters of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), erupted in cheers when an exit poll suggested it had won the country’s federal election. If victory was narrow, it was also sweet. Having long been in the polling doldrums, the SPD rode a late surge to 25.7% of the vote, 1.6 points ahead of its conservative rivals, the Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU). Olaf Scholz, the SPD’s candidate to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor, said voters had told the CDU/CSU that it “should no longer be in government, but in opposition”.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Mr

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Thanks to covid-19, Vladimir Putin has become almost invisible

22 days ago

Oct 2nd 2021MOSCOWFRESH FROM victories in Tokyo, Russian Olympic medalists were preparing for a reception with Vladimir Putin earlier this month when they were told they would spend a week in quarantine before meeting the president. “I still can’t believe I’ll have to sit in one room for seven days,” Angelina Melnikova, a gymnast, wrote on social media. But the requirement wasn’t new: senior officials, journalists and even veterans of the second world war have had to self-isolate before coming within breathing distance of the man who has stood at Russia’s helm for over two decades, and who next week turns 69.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.When Russia first recorded a surge in coronavirus cases in March last

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Why Europe is a great place for digital nomads

22 days ago

Oct 2nd 2021LISBONAFTER MONTHS in lockdown in grey Berlin, Chris Bloom, a personal coach and blogger, planned his escape. Risking the ire of jealous Instagram followers, he took a covid-19 test, flew to Lisbon and settled into the Outsite co-working and co-living space, a pleasant blue-and-white tiled property with the essentials—stable internet and a coffee shop.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Mr Bloom is part of a growing brigade of digital nomads in Europe, who work remotely while satisfying their wanderlust. This kind of itinerant lifestyle is as old as laptops and free internet. But covid-19 has given it a boost. A game of lockdown arbitrage began earlier this year as border controls eased and people fled

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France and Greece hedge their bets with a new defence pact

22 days ago

Oct 2nd 2021KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, Greece’s prime minister, cast it as a love story. “History…wants us together,” he told Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, in Paris on September 28th. “So does geography.” He serenaded Mr Macron with tales of Ionian seafarers landing in Marseilles and the French Philhellenes who backed Greece’s war of independence. Mr Macron said that Greece was “a civilisation that has inspired us and enabled us to be ourselves”. Then the two leaders consummated their courtship with what they are calling a “strategic” defence pact.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The Franco-Greek relationship has been forged in rivalry with Turkey, which last year squared off with Greek warships around Cyprus,

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Germany’s election is revealingly European

22 days ago

Oct 2nd 2021GERMAN ELECTIONS are idiosyncratic affairs. Armin Laschet, the leader of the Christian Democrat Union, was grilled over his choice of bratwurst condiment (ketchup, not mustard). Annalena Baerbock, the Green candidate for chancellor, was skewered over plagiarism claims, a sin that bedevils only German politics. All politics is local, but in Germany it is parochial. The country may be Europe’s hegemon, yet foreign affairs and the future of the EU were barely mentioned. An at times surreal campaign ended with Angela Merkel, the outgoing chancellor and most powerful person in Europe, being photographed with a parrot on her head.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.If the campaign was unmistakably German, the

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

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

29 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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France’s humiliation by America will have lasting effects

29 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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How Russia’s election was fixed

29 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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German candidates fight to woo moderate voters

September 23, 2021

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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Vladimir Putin is still rattled by Alexei Navalny

September 16, 2021

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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The EU lets farm animals and people eat insects

September 16, 2021

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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How France tackled vaccine hesitancy

September 16, 2021

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

September 16, 2021

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

September 16, 2021

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

September 16, 2021

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

September 9, 2021

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

September 9, 2021

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

September 9, 2021

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

September 9, 2021

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

September 2, 2021

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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After Afghanistan, Europe wonders if France was right about America

September 2, 2021

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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