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The Economist Europe

How the Kremlin outwitted Amnesty International

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 <audio> 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...

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How Germany’s Greens conquered the industrial heartland

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...

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Armenia’s army turns on its prime minister

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 <audio> element.Enjoy more audio and podcasts on iOS or Android.There are no tanks on the...

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Despot, genius or both? France argues about Napoleon

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...

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How brave German hairdressers won a battle for human dignity

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...

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Europe’s underground abortion network

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...

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Skiing without lifts in France

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...

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Why Corsican number plates are popular

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...

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The rise of dirty politics in Europe

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...

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Mario Draghi begins the toughest job in European politics

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...

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