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An interview with Germany’s finance minister, Olaf Scholz

Čt, 07/12/2018 - 14:48

Scholz may have a plan

FOLLOWING a dismal campaign, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) fell to their lowest post-war result in Germany’s general election last September. Early this year they quarrelled over whether to enter another coalition with Angela Merkel. Lefties warned that without a spell in opposition to formulate more distinct policies, the party would be doomed. But the leadership won over members at a vote in March with promises of renewal within government, greater distance from the centre-right, investment increases and, most of all, a “European awakening” beside Emmanuel Macron, the French president.

As the new SPD finance minister and vice-chancellor, Olaf Scholz has more power to enact that plan than anyone else. He is widely tipped to be the party’s candidate for chancellor at the next election, which is due to take place in 2021 but may come sooner. Yet talking to The Economist in his office in the finance...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

The Dutch underground bicycle-park arms race

Čt, 07/12/2018 - 14:48

It was a black one

THE trilling of spokes, cyclists rounding the bend in unison: no, this is not the Tour de France. It is the new underground bicycle park at Utrecht Central railway station, which opened last year. Three storeys deep, with electronic monitors indicating where spaces are available, it has room to park 7,500 bicycles. “It’s a bit of a maze,” says Xander Staal, who takes a picture of his bike’s berth as an aide-memoire each morning before commuting to Amsterdam.

The Netherlands is experiencing an underground bike-park boom, as cities race each other to build the largest. The Hague had hoped to overtake Utrecht this spring with a new park with 8,500 places, but that has been delayed by construction problems. Later this year Utrecht’s park will expand to 12,500 slots, surpassing a 9,400-space one in Tokyo to become the largest in the world. Amsterdam is playing catch-up: a 4,000-space garage is to be built next to its central...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

How policy debates in Europe become untethered from reality

Čt, 07/12/2018 - 14:48

IN 2016 the election of an American president with a wilful disregard for the truth inspired some observers to return to “On Bullshit”, a monograph on hot air written in 1986 by Harry Frankfurt, a philosopher. Europeans delight in this sort of thing. They enjoy contrasting the “fake news” and “alternative facts” that characterise the Trump administration with their own, more honest, brand of politics. Yet they should not be so sanguine. Worryingly, bovine waste seems to be spreading in Europe.

Take the recent spat in Germany, where Horst Seehofer, the interior minister, came close to blowing up the coalition between his Bavaria-based Christian Social Union and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. Although migrant arrivals in Germany have plummeted, Mr Seehofer wanted to turn back from the southern frontier asylum-seekers registered in other countries, an action that could have triggered a domino effect of border controls elsewhere. Denied by Mrs Merkel, Mr Seehofer...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

Emmanuel Macron’s popularity hits a new low

Čt, 07/12/2018 - 14:48

A YEAR ago, as a young freshly elected president eager to look the part, Emmanuel Macron summoned a joint sitting of both houses of parliament in the former royal palace at Versailles, and spoke loftily of grandeur and destiny. On July 9th, for his second speech to Congress, it was a more humble head of state who stepped into the chamber. “I know that I can’t do everything,” he declared, “I know that I won’t succeed in everything.” The setting was unchanged, but the tone was markedly different. A chastened president, it seems, is trying to recover his touch.

In a stiflingly hot chamber, as parliamentarians fanned their moist faces, Mr Macron sent two broad messages. First, that the president, so often accused of arrogance, is in fact listening. He spoke of voters’ anger and fear, of those who feel they are “ignored, held in contempt”, and struggle to make ends meet. Results, he warned, could take time to come through. But he would keep trying. Jupiter, in other words, may still be sitting on...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn

The American president lambasts his allies

Čt, 07/12/2018 - 10:18

It could have been worse

DONALD TRUMP’S bark may be worse than his bite, but the bark is a very nasty sound. America’s NATO allies were left with that feeling after a summit in which the American president showed startling rudeness, but in the end raised no objection to a stout pledge of common defence against Russia and other adversaries.

Diplomats had issued careful warnings about the likelihood of robust exchanges at the gathering in Brussels on July 11th-12th, but nobody was quite prepared for the tirade against America’s “delinquent” allies, and Germany in particular, which Mr Trump unleashed on arrival, venting his spleen in front of Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general.

The president accused the Germans of being “controlled by Russia.” He complained that billions of dollars a year were flowing from Berlin to Moscow under a new gas-pipeline deal, while Germany had the nerve to expect American help with warding off Russian threats. Angela...

Kategorie: Evropa, Souhrn


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