The Economist: Europe

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An unknown prime minister reinforces Macron’s centralised presidency

IT HAS LONG been a constitutional perk for a French president to treat the country’s prime minister as a shock-absorber: useful for cushioning damage, replaceable when worn out. Under the Fifth Republic, only one president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has governed with the same prime minister for his entire term. It is more unusual, however, to get rid of a prime...

Turkey’s president is playing religious politics

IT WAS BORN as a church, one of the icons of the Byzantine world, before being converted into a mosque by the Ottoman Turks and into a museum by their secular-minded successors. But now it would be transformed again. Workers squeezed a bland wooden minbar into a corner of the nave and a mihrab into a nearby portico, drew panels and screens to obscure...

At 78, a Sardinian ex-kidnapper is on the run

SOME SAID Graziano Mesina had absconded to the neighbouring French island of Corsica; others that he had fled to Tunisia. But what became increasingly clear on July 3rd was that the man known as the last balènte, or Sardinian bandit, was yet again on the run—at the age of 78. His younger sister, Antonia Mesina, said he had called by her house the previous...

The massacre of Bosnian Muslims is still denied by Serbs

THEY WILL pour 8,372 commemorative cups of coffee in Srebrenica on July 11th. A quarter of a century after the fall of the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) enclave at the end of the Bosnian war, when that number of men and boys are reckoned to have been massacred by Bosnian Serb soldiers, this year’s ceremony will feature videos sent by princes, presidents...

Harsh economic realities push Spain’s government towards the centre

LAST MONTH, as Spain loosened its tight lockdown, Carmen Olmos opened up her smart tapas bar in the Salamanca district of Madrid for the first time since early March. Little by little she brought all nine of her staff out of the government’s furlough scheme. She is allowed to use only 60% of her tables, the office workers who used to drop by for breakfast...

A Dutch dilemma

MARK RUTTE makes an unconvincing villain. In person, the Dutch prime minister resembles an over-caffeinated vicar, mixing manic good-cheer with sermons on the importance of living within one’s means. The 53-year-old lives alone in a modest apartment, cycles to his poky office in The Hague and takes time off from running the country to teach social studies...

A lockdown opera pays tribute to a political prisoner in Turkey

IN A PRISON outside Istanbul, Osman, an inmate held in solitary confinement, finds two snails nestled in his lunch. Longing for company, he decides to look after the gastropods, feeding them lettuce and rice. The snails reward him—with a song. “In some kitchens, we’d end up in a pot with garlic butter and seasoning,” they chant. “Our luck to be here...

After hearing birdsong during lockdown, French cities vote Green

WHEN HE WON the French presidency in 2017 at the age of 39, Emmanuel Macron triumphed in France’s big cities. In Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux and Strasbourg he topped first-round voting, and grabbed over 81% of the run-off vote against the nationalist Marine Le Pen. The former economy minister, who enthused about tech startups and modernising France, was a...

A phoney referendum shows Putin’s legitimacy is fading

ON JUNE 30TH Vladimir Putin posed in front of a 25-metre bronze statue to the Soviet soldier which he had just unveiled. Filmed from below, to give him extra height, President Putin appealed to his people to vote on a package of constitutional changes, for the sake of the motherland that millions of Russians died to defend against Hitler. He did not...

Ireland’s two oldest rival parties get together

YOU CAN tell a lot about the slow-changing culture of Irish politics from the names of its three largest parties. Micheal Martin, who took over as prime minister this week after months of deadlock, has led Fianna Fail, or the “Warriors of Destiny”, for nine years. His predecessor as taoiseach (prime minister), Leo Varadkar, drops to deputy prime minister,...

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