Tuesday , March 23 2021
Home / The Economist: Europe
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 Christian Democrats are losing patience with their leader

5 days ago

Mar 18th 2021BERLINTHE EXCUSES were plentiful as Germany’s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) slumped to two of their worst-ever state-election defeats on March 14th. The party was up against popular incumbents in Green-led Baden-Württemberg and in Rhineland-Palatinate, run by the Social Democrats (SPD). The CDU’s state chapters had chosen weak candidates. And anyway Armin Laschet (pictured), the party’s leader, had said before the votes that state elections have their own character. National politics is another matter entirely.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.All true. Yet there is no disguising the malaise that has descended on Germany’s ruling party. Bad enough on their own, the election results

Read More »

Naci Agbal tries to restore monetary discipline in Turkey

5 days ago

Mar 18th 2021ISTANBULNACI AGBAL deserves a pat on the back. In only a few months as Turkey’s central-bank governor, he has breathed new life into his country’s currency, bolstered the bank’s reputation and started to replenish its coffers.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The lira had a terrible 2020, losing nearly 20% of its dollar value. Among emerging-market currencies, only the Argentine peso and the Brazilian real fared worse. This year it was by far the strongest of the bunch until late February, when a spike in US treasury yields, a possible harbinger of higher borrowing costs in America, prompted a sell-off of Turkish assets.Mr Agbal has come up with the right remedy. When he took over last November, the

Read More »

French politics pits cats against dogs

5 days ago

Mar 20th 2021PARISCATS AND dogs have become the new weapons in France’s image-politics wars. Things began to heat up late last year when Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally (formerly the National Front), revealed that she had passed an exam to become an accredited cat-breeder. Her feline fervour was already well known. Ms Le Pen considers cats to be “part of the family” and once accused a Doberman belonging to her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, of killing one of her treasured mogs. But this latest twist looked suspiciously like part of a bid to soften the image of a leader who has sought to distance herself from her father’s inflammatory far-right politics.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Just as Ms Le

Read More »

Russia’s liberal surrogacy rules are under threat

5 days ago

Mar 18th 2021MOSCOWRUSSIA IS ONE of the few places where commercial surrogacy is entirely legal (along with Ukraine, Georgia and some American states). Foreigners can pay a Russian woman for the use of her womb. Each year Russian surrogate mothers give birth to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of babies (estimates vary wildly). And in contrast to America, the service is cheap. Nine months of gestation plus labour can be bought for around $20,000. But in the next few months or so, Russia’s parliament looks set to ban the practice, at least if the customers are foreign. “Russia is not an incubator,” says Irina Yarovaya, a deputy speaker of the Duma, Russia’s parliament.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The apparent

Read More »

A Dutch election boosts both pro-EU liberals and the far right

5 days ago

Mar 20th 2021AMSTERDAMDUTCH POLITICS are absurdly complicated. The Netherlands has a proportional representation system with no minimum threshold (most EU countries have one at 5%), ensuring a large number of parties and a constant churn of new ones. Voters are more evenly divided than ever between them. The prime minister, Mark Rutte, a brilliant and imperturbably cheerful tactician, has nonetheless managed to stay atop the heap for ten years, through three ruling coalitions. Last year he was hit with the covid-19 pandemic and with a child-benefits scandal that forced his government to resign just two months before an election. Yet there was never much doubt that when the votes were counted, he and his centre-right Liberal (VVD) party would again come in first. Preliminary results after

Read More »

How the British became the new Turks

5 days ago

Mar 20th 2021LIFE IN BRUSSELS has become all too exciting for British diplomats. Before Brexit, they needed the patience to haggle over boring, intricate policy. Now they find a knack for bellicosity more useful. Since completing its departure from the EU at the start of the year, the British government has launched into scraps with its erstwhile colleagues. It began by refusing to offer ambassadorial status to the EU’s man in London. It then unilaterally overrode parts of its agreement on Northern Ireland, sparking apoplexy at the European Commission, which accused it of breaking international law. As a backdrop, British MPs accuse their European peers of vaccine nationalism, after the EU brought in export controls on jabs made in the bloc. Allegations of hypocrisy and even malevolence

Read More »

Italy’s new prime minister upends the country’s political parties

12 days ago

Mar 13th 2021ROMEIN THE DAYS when Italy’s former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, saw himself as an instrument of creative destruction, he revelled in the nickname il rottamatore, the Demolition Man. Today, that title is more applicable to Mario Draghi, the technocrat Mr Renzi boasts of manoeuvring into the premiership. Restrained and courteous, Mr Draghi is an unlikely wrecker. Yet his arrival has so far split the biggest party in parliament, the Five Star Movement (M5S), and pitched the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) into leaderless disarray.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The trouble began as soon as Mr Draghi sought parliament’s endorsement of his broad coalition. Though the Five Stars’ leaders had opted to

Read More »

European censuses are being disrupted by covid-19

12 days ago

Mar 13th 2021IT IS TIME for Europeans to stand up and be counted. Every ten years most European countries hold a census, generally in years ending with a “1”. Britain seems to have started the tradition, back in 1801, and its own decennial stock-take will take place (except in Scotland) next weekend. Before covid-19, there were not many surprises. This year, thanks to the pandemic, there will be shocks and problems galore.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Everywhere more people than expected have died in the past year. Fewer babies are being conceived. Many migrant workers and foreign students have gone home. It is harder for census-takers to count people, because of social distancing. And it will be harder for

Read More »

The many colours of German coalitions

12 days ago

Mar 13th 2021BERLINASSEMBLING COALITIONS in Germany was once a simple affair. Power alternated between the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU, with its Bavarian ally, the CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) or Greens in support. Colourful names occasionally emerged for other governing arrangements: “Jamaica” for coalitions uniting the CDU, Greens and FDP—the parties’ colours match the island’s flag—or “traffic light” for the SPD, FDP and Greens. For years these exotic amalgams mainly fuelled the fever dreams of political scientists. More recently, political fragmentation and Germany’s federal system, in which 16 states churn through their own governments, have made them flesh.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the

Read More »

A protracted swell of cases highlights Europe’s vaccine problems

12 days ago

Mar 13th 2021PARISTHE WORLD is split into three types of covid-19 countries. The first consists of those with lots of recent cases countered by vigorous vaccination campaigns: America and Britain, for example. The second includes the likes of Australia, Japan and China, with few vaccines but few cases to worry about. The last is made up of places with lots of new cases but little vaccination. Continental Europe is the only big, rich region in that unfortunate ward. (Much of Latin America is in a similar spot, and data are patchy in many poor countries.) It is an unexpected outcome for a continent that thought it had managed the first phase of the pandemic rather well.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.About a

Read More »

Why leave the EU, when you can shape it instead?

12 days ago

Mar 13th 2021I N 2017, ANY voters who wanted to follow Britain out of the EU had options. In the run-up to elections that spring, Geert Wilders, a bizarrely coiffured advocate of “Nexit”, was level at the top of polls in the Netherlands. A few months later Marine Le Pen reached the second round of the French presidential election on a policy of taking the country out of the euro and the EU itself. In Italy, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Northern League, attacked Mario Draghi, then the boss of Europe’s central bank, as an “accomplice” to the “massacre” of Italy’s economy. The party dangled the prospect of Italy’s departure from the euro and even the EU itself.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Skip forward four

Read More »

How the Kremlin outwitted Amnesty International

19 days ago

Mar 6th 2021ON MARCH 1ST Russian news announced that Alexei Navalny was moving to a new prison, Penal Colony No. 2, notorious for psychological torture. Two days later his lawyers found him in a different, and less ghastly, jail. Russia’s justice system likes to keep people guessing.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The Kremlin says Mr Navalny, Russia’s main opposition leader, is a common criminal, as well as being a Western agent. Its propagandists tout his (plainly bogus) fraud conviction. Their struggle to convict him in the court of public opinion has received a boost from an unlikely source: Amnesty International, a global human-rights group.On February 23rd Amnesty said it had decided to stop calling Mr

Read More »

Despot, genius or both? France argues about Napoleon

19 days ago

Mar 6th 2021PARISTO SOME HE was a military genius, strategic mastermind and visionary leader who bequeathed to France a centralised modern administration and sense of gloire. To others he was a tyrant and a butcher who squandered French supremacy in Europe on the battlefield of Waterloo. Napoleon Bonaparte, who died in captivity on the British island of Saint Helena at the age of 51, has long inspired both admiration and distaste, even in France. Now, ahead of the bicentenary of his death on May 5th 1821, those rival passions have been revived.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Alexis Corbière, a deputy from Unsubmissive France, a left-wing party, declared: “It is not for the republic to celebrate its gravedigger.”

Read More »

Armenia’s army turns on its prime minister

19 days ago

Mar 4th 2021YerevanFOR A MAN in his own army’s cross-hairs, Nikol Pashinyan, the Armenian prime minister, seems unfazed. As long as the Armenian people have the final say, “there will be no coup,” he told The Economist this week. The only way out of the crisis consuming his country, he says, leads through the ballot box and early elections.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.There are no tanks on the street in Yerevan. But Mr Pashinyan is fighting for his political life. On February 25th dozens of officers, including the country’s top soldier, Onik Gasparyan, demanded the prime minister’s resignation, accusing him of incompetence. Mr Pashinyan called this an attempted coup, refused to step down and ordered Mr

Read More »

How Germany’s Greens conquered the industrial heartland

19 days ago

Mar 6th 2021WINFRIED KRETSCHMANN has a strong claim to be the world’s most powerful Green politician. True, Greens occupy a few junior ministries in places such as Austria and New Zealand. But Mr Kretschmann is the undisputed ruler of the state of Baden-Württemberg, an industrial powerhouse in Germany’s south-west that, with 11m people, is bigger than most EU countries. Ten years ago, voters spooked by the Fukushima nuclear accident and sick of decades of rule under the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) doubled the Greens’ vote, elevating them to power at the head of a left-wing coalition. Even Mr Kretschmann was surprised. Yet he handily secured re-election in 2016, and may well repeat the feat at Baden-Württemberg’s election on March 14th. How he pulled it off carries lessons for

Read More »

How brave German hairdressers won a battle for human dignity

26 days ago

Feb 27th 2021BERLIN“HUMAN DIGNITY shall be inviolable.“ The first article of Germany’s constitution turns out to have surprisingly broad application. For while much of Germany’s service sector remains in the deep freeze, on March 1st Germany’s 80,000 hair salons will be allowed to reopen. Some politicians frowned at the decision, taken in mid-February. But it has “something to do with dignity”, argued Markus Söder, Bavaria’s premier.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Germany required hairdressers to close before Christmas. During this long winter many mop-headed Germans immersed themselves in distinctly undignified self-cutting Instagram tutorials, or made hair-raising dashes to salons in Luxembourg. Others went

Read More »

Europe’s underground abortion network

26 days ago

Feb 27th 2021WANDER AROUND any Polish city and the same phone number pops up on an array of unlikely surfaces. It is scrawled on bus stops and billboards. It can be daubed on the side of a church. Head online and the same number (+48 222 922 597) appears in people’s usernames. Those who dial it are put through to Kobiety w Sieci (“Women on the Net”), a group that offers women information on how to get abortions. In a country where providing terminations is now, in effect, illegal, it is a useful number to have.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.In October Poland’s constitutional court struck down a law allowing abortion in cases of fetal abnormality. Of the 1,000 or so legal abortions in Poland per year before the

Read More »

Skiing without lifts in France

26 days ago

Feb 27th 2021SAINT-MARTIN-DE-BELLEVILLETHE MECHANICAL clatter of chairlifts and the bass beat of high-altitude bars are familiar soundtracks in an Alpine ski resort every winter. So the quiet of the mountains this season is startlingly strange. French ski resorts are instead alive to different sounds: children tobogganing, huskies pulling sledges, defiant enthusiasts trudging uphill on skis with skins. Late last year, when the French government decided to clamp down on covid-19 once more, it shut all uphill transport but kept resorts open. This means the French can still go skiing—but without lifts.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Some solutions are punishing. Ski touring, or uphill skiing, involves struggling up

Read More »

The Kremlin’s criticism of Alexi Navalny is making him more popular

February 18, 2021

Feb 20th 2021MOSCOWFIRST THEY ignored him. Then they smeared his underpants with Novichok, a nerve agent. When he survived that, they jailed him. And now they are trying to demonise him. After years of refusing to utter his name in public for fear of making him seem important, the Kremlin is levelling its most intense propaganda at Alexei Navalny, Russia’s main opposition leader. He is the subject of every prime-time news programme and talk show—and they are not being polite.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The scale and intensity of this propaganda assault are reminiscent of campaigns waged by Stalin’s henchmen in the 1930s against “enemies of the people” and, more recently, are comparable to the Kremlin’s

Read More »

The rise of dirty politics in Europe

February 18, 2021

Feb 20th 2021THE BOIS DE LA CAMBRE is the most handsome park in Brussels. Its 123 hectares offer mature forest and potential peace for the residents of the Belgian capital’s well-to-do southern suburbs. Naturally, the Belgians—among Europe’s biggest petrolheads—built a motorway through it. During the lockdown, the park was closed to traffic. Pedestrians were delighted. Drivers were furious, court cases came and a new front in the culture war was born.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Grumpy motorists are easy to find in Europe today. Head north to the Netherlands and they moan about speed limits. There, motorway traffic now crawls along at 100kph (62mph) after the government cut the daytime speed limit from 130kph

Read More »

Why Corsican number plates are popular

February 18, 2021

Feb 20th 2021PARISJUST OVER a decade ago, France dropped a rule that had obliged motorists to change their car’s number plate each time they moved house to a new administrative département. The point was to ensure, in true bureaucratic style, that the vehicle’s plate matched the place of residence. Since 2009, however, car owners have been free to choose which département code they display, turning number plates into a test of sentimental attachment, with unexpected results.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The surprising favourite is Corsica, an island that is home to just 340,000 people. The 2A that represents one of the island’s two départements, along with its symbol of a bandanna-wrapped head, was the most

Read More »

Mario Draghi begins the toughest job in European politics

February 18, 2021

Feb 20th 2021BERLIN AND ROMEMARKETS HAVE a way of bowing before Mario Draghi, who on February 13th took charge of Italy’s 68th government in 75 years. Stocks soared the moment it was reported he had been asked to become prime minister. Three days after he took office, investors flocked to a bond auction, slashing Italy’s borrowing costs. It was reminiscent of the hot days in July 2012 when Mr Draghi, then president of the European Central Bank, vowed to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the embattled euro. The bond-buying scheme the ECB assembled to render Mr Draghi’s promise credible was never used: his words were enough to calm the financial furies.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.But tackling Italy’s problems

Read More »

Catalonia’s separatists score another victory, but a hollow one

February 15, 2021

Feb 15th 2021MADRIDCATALANS PRIDE themselves on their seny, their hard-headed common sense. Yet when it comes to politics, as Jaume Vicens Vives, a great Catalan historian of the mid-20th century, pointed out, they have more often acted with its opposite: rauxa, or emotional impulsiveness. In the run-up to an election for the regional government on February 14th, many expected that practical matters such as the pandemic and the economic slump would be uppermost in Catalan minds. But the wounds of October 2017, when an unconstitutional referendum on independence for one’s of Spain’s most important regions led to the jailing of nine separatist leaders, are still raw. The Catalan authorities let the prisoners out on day release so that they could campaign. Once again, the emotional divide

Read More »

Shelters fear an influx of no-longer-wanted lockdown pets

February 11, 2021

Feb 13th 2021BERLINARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER owned a succession of pet poodles. Franz Kafka maintained that “all knowledge, the totality of all questions and all answers is contained in the dog.” Frederick the Great exclaimed: “The more I see of men, the better I like my dog.” Pets have been deeply embedded in Germanic culture for centuries, but never more so than now. As people seek a cure for covid-induced solitude and angst, demand has surged for dogs, budgies, snakes and even cats.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The German Kennel Club says dog sales increased by 20% in 2020. Prices for puppies sold on pets4homes, Britain’s largest online ad site for pets, more than doubled. A Yorkshire terrier pup can set you back

Read More »

Covid-19 school closures are widening Europe’s class divisions

February 11, 2021

Feb 13th 2021AMSTERDAMNO ONE IS ever truly ready for lockdown. But when the Netherlands closed its schools in December, the Herman Wesselink College, a high school in a well-off suburb of Amsterdam, was readier than most. About half its students have parents who completed higher education. Nearly all have their own bedroom to study in. The school has given its pupils laptops for years, and during the first lockdown last spring switched smoothly to remote learning. The director says students have not fallen behind a whit in terms of content, though their study skills have languished.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The Mundus College, a trade school in a poorer Amsterdam neighbourhood, has had it rougher. About a

Read More »

Mario Draghi is set to become Italy’s next prime minister

February 11, 2021

Feb 13th 2021ROMEWAS THERE ever a luckier prime minister than Mario Draghi? Or an unluckier one? He is set to come into office with around €200bn ($240bn) from the EU’s recovery funds to spend. But he will also take over Europe’s worst-performing economy in a pandemic and with a parliamentary majority hard put to agree on anything, let alone on controversial structural reforms the European Commission wants to see implemented as the largesse is disbursed.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.By February 12th, as he prepared to announce a cabinet featuring a mixture of politicians and technocrats, only the far-right Brothers of Italy party had declined the chance to climb aboard the “Super Mario” bandwagon. The

Read More »

Turkey’s president scapegoats gay-friendly students

February 11, 2021

Feb 13th 2021ISTANBULSQUADRONS OF armed policemen block the entrance. Metal barriers line the avenue leading up to the campus. Snipers occasionally emerge on nearby rooftops. Bogazici University has long been considered one of Turkey’s most prestigious. Today it resembles a besieged terrorist hideout.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.That, believe it or not, is how Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sees it. On February 1st police stormed the campus and detained dozens of students who were protesting about his appointment of a government loyalist as their rector. The protests have taken place regularly for over a month. They escalated after the arrest of four students who had organised an art show that

Read More »

The European Union must face up to the real Russia

February 11, 2021

Feb 13th 2021WHEN ROBERT CONQUEST, a historian, was working on a new edition of “The Great Terror”, his seminal text on Stalin’s crimes, he was told to come up with a new title. The book had described the horrors of the Soviet Union at a time when apologism for it was still rife. By the time of the new version, freshly opened archives had vindicated Conquest’s account. His friend Kingsley Amis, a novelist, suggested a pithy new title: “I told you so, you fucking fools”.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.Head east in Europe today and it is easy to find similar sentiments about Russia. The Baltic states and Poland warned Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign-policy chief, against visiting Moscow in the wake of its

Read More »

A Swedish film festival has just one attendee

February 4, 2021

Feb 6th 2021WHEN THE Goteborg Film Festival offered the chance for a film fan to spend seven days alone on an island, with only 60 films for company, the organisers weren’t sure if anyone would want to apply. The pandemic has been isolating enough, even for Swedes, who have yet to lock down like other Europeans. The lucky winner would not be able to bring a phone or contact friends and family during a week of stormy seas and dark Swedish winter. No one was expecting that the festival would get over 12,000 applications from 45 countries.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The chosen castaway, a pink-haired Swedish nurse called Lisa Enroth, has been on Hamneskar island, 37km north-west of Gothenburg (as it is spelt in

Read More »

Russia’s regime is weakened by putting Alexei Navalny in jail

February 4, 2021

Feb 6th 2021MOSCOWJUDGING BY THE security measures, you would have thought Moscow was experiencing a terrorist attack. Police in riot gear surrounded the capital’s main court and blocked the approaches. Muscovites suspected of being protesters were whisked away and bundled into police vans. By lunchtime 350 people, including journalists, had been detained, adding to nearly 2,000 arrested during protests two days earlier. Jails and detention centres filled up so fast that many demonstrators were held in police vans in freezing temperatures without food or water for up to 40 hours.Listen to this storyYour browser does not support the element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.The reason for the mass arrests was Alexei Navalny, Russia’s opposition leader, who had returned last

Read More »