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What to make of Emmanuel Macron’s frenetic foreign policy

Čt, 12/14/2017 - 15:50

Greetings, mortals

HE IS the Duracell Bunny of diplomacy. This month Emmanuel Macron hopped back from a three-day trip to west Africa, then bounded through visits to Algeria and Qatar. In Paris he received Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to discuss peace prospects for the Middle East. Then the French president hosted a climate jamboree on December 12th, two years after the Paris deal (see article). A day later, more summitry: he led a group of “G5” African leaders in talks on fighting terrorists in the Sahel and beyond.

Mr Macron was a relative newcomer to foreign policy when he became president in May, but his appetite for it is large. He says, unapologetically, that France must be “ambitious” in the wider world and become “a great power again”. His efforts are at times mostly...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

New moves to strengthen the euro zone

Čt, 12/14/2017 - 15:50

IN DARKER times language tends to be blunt. But when Europeans are feeling perky, out come the metaphors. And by that measure, things in the euro zone are looking remarkably bright. With the wind in Europe’s sails, it is said, the time has come to clamber through the window of opportunity and fix the roof while the sun shines. Failure will leave the euro exposed when the economic storm clouds gather, or China starts to sneeze.

Three things saved the euro zone from destruction in 2011-12: a €500bn ($588bn) bail-out fund, the rudiments of a banking union, and Mario Draghi’s “whatever it takes” promise—never tested—that the European Central Bank (ECB) would, if needed, unleash a massive programme of bond-buying to protect the currency. Each of these was supposed to be a last resort, as the wildfires of the crisis licked at the bond markets of one country after another. Red lines were crossed, sacred cows slaughtered, rules bent beyond recognition.

Those were desperate...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Catalonia prepares to vote yet again

Čt, 12/14/2017 - 15:50

ON A mild evening this week about 300 people gathered in a park in Cornellà de Llobregat, a suburb in Barcelona’s industrial belt, to hear Ines Arrimadas, the young leader of Ciudadanos (Citizens), a centre-right party. She laid into the separatist parties that have governed Catalonia since 2010 and whose declaration of independence in October unleashed a constitutional crisis in Spain. “Their hope is to stop being Spaniards. Ours is to cut hospital waiting lists and have better schools,” she said. “We cannot stretch out the independence process any longer.”

These promises have brought a surge in support for Ciudadanos. According to the opinion polls, it may win the most votes in a regional election that will take place on December 21st (see chart). In a normal contest it might have a hope of forming a coalition government. But this is the most peculiar election Spain has seen since the 1970s, and not only because it is the fourth one in Catalonia in just seven years.

...
Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Vladimir Putin’s former economy minister claims his bribery sting was a set-up

Čt, 12/14/2017 - 15:50

LAST November Igor Sechin, the powerful head of Rosneft, the Russian state oil giant, summoned Alexei Ulyukayev, Russia’s economy minister, for a meeting. Mr Sechin chastised Mr Ulyukayev for not wearing a coat, for he knew it would be cold where the minister was headed. Mr Ulyukayev left Mr Sechin’s office with a heavy briefcase—a gift, he thought, of rare wine. Instead, packed inside was $2m in cash, and waiting outside were agents with handcuffs. “It was said long ago: send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee,” Mr Ulyukayev declared during his closing statement in court last week, seemingly addressing his peers in power. “I want to say now that the bell could begin tolling for any of you.”

The court’s verdict will ring out for Mr Ulyukayev on December 15th. No matter the outcome, the ruling will only fuel tensions within the Russian elite. The case is seen not as a good-faith anti-corruption effort, but the result of clan warfare. Mr Ulyukayev was a stalwart of...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

The countries that have two Christmases

Čt, 12/14/2017 - 15:50

Please may I have some more?

ADULTS take the adage “Christmas comes but once a year” as an excuse to splurge on gifts. For children, it is a warning of the limits of Utopia. The tots would no doubt be angered to learn that in some places it is not true. This year Ukraine recognised December 25th as an official holiday, along with the traditional Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. It thus became the world’s fifth country with two Christmases, joining Belarus, Eritrea, Lebanon and Moldova.

The sources of this yuletide surplus lie deep in history. In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII approved a reform of the Julian calendar, which dated from 45BC. Many European countries quickly switched over, though others took centuries. Russia only adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1918, after the Soviets came to power. But the Russian, Serbian and Georgian Orthodox churches stuck with the Julian one, which now runs 13 days late.

The atheist Soviet Union did not...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Poland’s prime minister gets the chop

Čt, 12/14/2017 - 15:50

ON DECEMBER 6TH Beata Szydlo, then Poland’s prime minister, was the special guest on Radio Maryja, a conservative radio station that is close to the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party. Her appearance was overshadowed by something everyone had known for weeks: Mrs Szydlo was on her way out. And indeed by the following evening, she was thanking Poles for her two years in office. On December 11th Mateusz Morawiecki, her deputy, was installed as prime minister. Mrs Szydlo was allowed to stay on; but she is now her former deputy’s deputy.

The switch was ordered by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, PiS’s reclusive party leader. Despite earlier speculation, the 68-year-old did not take the job for himself—as he had in 2006, during PiS’s first stint in power. The government is now headed by a more emollient figure: a former banker who also continues to head the ministries of finance and economic development. Mr Morawiecki served in 2010 as an economic adviser to Donald Tusk, who was then...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Why Tirana, once one of Europe’s dreariest cities, is now worth a visit

Čt, 12/14/2017 - 15:50

Not quite as expected

“UNCLE ERI! Uncle Eri!” shout gaggles of small boys who rush to high-five Erion Veliaj, the 37-year-old boss of Tirana, Albania’s capital. He has swung by to inspect a street where tarmac and new sewage pipes have just been laid, and where weeks ago there were potholes and mud. No city in Europe has changed as much in the past 25 years as Tirana. Now Mr Veliaj, who is tipped by some to be a future leader of the country, is changing it again.

In his first two years as mayor Mr Veliaj, a member of the (centre-left) Socialist Party, worked on the city centre. In June he completed work on Skanderbeg Square, the heart of Tirana. Once a busy roundabout, cars have been banished and trees and fountains have replaced them. Plans are even afoot to renovate Tirana’s wacky but dilapidated 1980s pyramid.

A quarter of a century ago, Tirana was more capital village than capital city. Under communism it was a backwater of 200,000...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

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