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Europe
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Sebastian Kurz is flirting with the far-right Freedom Party

Čt, 10/19/2017 - 14:57

SEBASTIAN KURZ has a problem. On October 15th Austria’s 31-year-old foreign minister scored an impressive election victory, somehow presenting himself as a credible messenger of change even though his centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) has been in office for 30 years. His energy and charisma kept the Freedom Party (FPÖ), a far-right outfit with neo-Nazi roots, from running the country; it had led in the polls for two years before Mr Kurz took over as chairman of the ÖVP in May. But to govern Mr Kurz needs a coalition partner, and the FPÖ, which came third in the election, is his first choice. Now Europe is left wondering whether Austria’s political whizz kid is fending off a populist uprising, or preparing to lead it.

Mr Kurz spoke to your columnist this week. He was fresh from a day spent discussing the vagaries of coalition politics with Austria’s president, and taking a congratulatory call from France’s Emmanuel Macron. Should he become chancellor, Mr Kurz will be the...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Alexei Navalny tells Russians they have a choice

Čt, 10/19/2017 - 14:57

Calling on the kids

“HELLO, Khabarovsk!” Alexei Navalny, Russia’s opposition leader and would-be presidential candidate, booms his greeting from a makeshift podium on the outskirts of this far-eastern city, a statue of a victorious revolutionary-era Soviet partisan looming behind him. The young crowd of several thousand, dotted with red balloons and banners reading “Navalny 20!8”, goes wild. After eight rallies across the country the candidate’s voice is hoarse, but he is fired up.

The rally, Khabarovsk’s largest in years, could be part of an American presidential campaign. Tall and charismatic, Mr Navalny looks the part. Russia’s electoral politics have long been neutered by President Vladimir Putin, who decides who can or cannot run; the population assumes the role of a television audience with little say over the show’s content. Mr Navalny’s campaign threatens to change that.

There are five months to go before Russia’s presidential...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Emmanuel Macron’s employment reforms may not go far enough

Čt, 10/19/2017 - 14:57

TOY robots line Jérôme Veneau’s barber shop in Paris, and a Superman symbol adorns one wall. The decor is appropriate: Mr Veneau’s efforts to earn a living are robotic and tireless. His first 200 haircuts each month, he says, pay for his social charges and taxes. Only then does he make his first cent of take-home pay.

His customers are so plentiful that he regularly turns people away. Yet after 29 years, he remains a solo practitioner. When he falls ill or takes lunch, the shop closes. Why not hire someone to help? “Never, the whole system is a mess,” he says. He once had an employee, but the man claimed to have been injured by repetitive scissor-snipping. A court ordered Mr Veneau to pay €17,000 ($20,000)—some to the worker, some to the state. His family stumped up the cash. “I’ll never hire again,” he says.

Mr Veneau voted for Emmanuel Macron, France’s reform-minded young president, who vows to unblock the country’s labour markets. In a television...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Georgia and Abkhazia are making Nutella’s job harder

Čt, 10/19/2017 - 14:57

A few isolated nuts

ISOLATED by the Black Sea and Russia, Georgia has spent the past few decades binding itself closer to the rest of Europe. In this effort, hazelnuts play a crucial role. In 2007 Ferrero, an Italian company, set up a branch in Georgia to supply the key ingredient of its signature product: Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut paste that is the most European of all breakfast spreads. The country has since become the world’s third-largest producer, behind Turkey and Italy. Hazelnuts are Georgia’s biggest export after copper ore.

In 2014 Georgia and the European Union concluded a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). Yet rather than making Nutella’s supply chain smoother, the DCFTA could render it a bit sticky. About 10% of the hazelnuts Georgia exports come from the Russian-backed breakaway territory of Abkhazia, which has enjoyed de facto independence since its war of secession in 1992-93. Georgia has no formal trade relations...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Spain faces a constitutional crisis over Catalonia

Čt, 10/19/2017 - 09:48

WITH its mastery of social media and identity politics, the Catalan independence movement is very 21st-century. But the latest chapter in its struggle with the Spanish government has featured an old-fashioned tool: an exchange of letters, delivered by fax. In these Carles Puigdemont, the head of the Generalitat, Catalonia’s government, twice this week refused to clarify or revoke the ambiguous proclamation of independence that he had issued and immediately “suspended” in a speech to his parliament on October 10th. In response, the Spanish government said it will go ahead and seek extraordinary powers to impose constitutional rule in Catalonia.

Spain is thus entering its worst constitutional crisis since the 1930s. It is the culmination of years of rising discontent in Catalonia, one of the country’s richest regions, which has 7.5m people and its own language and culture. Although Catalonia enjoys broad self-government, many Catalans want it to have more money, more powers, and to be...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

The death of a crusading journalist rocks Malta

St, 10/18/2017 - 17:02

A flame snuffed out

TWO or three hundred people gathered outside the courthouse in Valletta on October 17th to protest at the assassination the previous day of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s most intrepid and controversial journalist. It was a modest turnout for what Adrian Delia, leader of the opposition Nationalist Party (PN), called “the darkest moment in the country’s political history”. After a speech by a friend of the dead woman, the crowd sang the national anthem and dispersed, some weeping.

The last words Ms Caruana Galizia wrote on the blog where she routinely excoriated Malta’s elite for its corruption, negligence and incompetence were: “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.” After posting them, she drove away from her home in the village of Bidnija and was killed by an explosion so powerful it threw her rented car 80 metres into a field. Her son ran to the scene, where the car horn was still blaring...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

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