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The Nordic left is back in charge

THESE ARE happy days for the Nordic left. For the first time since 2001, they are running all four big Nordic countries—all five, counting tiny Iceland. Four of the five leaders are women: Magdalena Andersson, a Social Democrat, became Sweden’s first female prime minister in November. The Nordic model envied by foreign left-wingers (though not always...

What China’s bullying of Lithuania reveals about Europe

WHEN EASTERN EUROPEAN countries about to join the EU in 2003 spoke up in favour of America’s invasion of Iraq, Fran ce’s president at the time, Jacques Chirac, haughtily declared they had “missed a good opportunity to shut up”. Their furious response suggested they thought the same of him. Europe likes to stress its collective power, born of an ever-closer...

Emmanuel Macron’s rivals are less Eurosceptic than before

FIVE YEARS ago, when Brexit prompted fears that the European Union would unravel, Emmanuel Macron put Europe at the heart of his political identity. Supporters at his rallies enthusiastically waved the EU flag. So it was no surprise that, with France in charge of the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the EU since January 1st, the French...

Friedrich Merz takes over as leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats

ANGELA MERKEL’S lethargy covered Germany like a “carpet of fog”, raged Friedrich Merz in 2019. There was never any love lost between Germany’s ex-chancellor and the man she forced out of a top job in the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in 2002. Tail between his legs, Mr Merz left the Bundestag in 2009, only to re-emerge nine years later...

As war looms larger, what are Russia’s military options in Ukraine?

“WHAT STANDS in front of us, what could be weeks away, is the first peer-on-peer, industrialised, digitised, top-tier army against top-tier army war that’s been on this continent for generations,” warned James Heappey, Britain’s junior defence minister, on January 19th, pointing to Russia’s build-up of over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border. “Tens...

Arguments over compulsory covid-19 vaccination are raging across Europe

EARLIER THIS month President Emmanuel Macron said he wished to “piss off” those who had chosen not to be vaccinated against covid-19. France’s 5m unjabbed people will soon be barred from restaurants, theatres and long-distance trains, among other things. Yet they might consider themselves lucky. Italy and Greece have passed laws making vaccination obligatory...

A new Dutch government with a taste for Europe

ORDINARILY, WHEN the EU favours a flood of collective spending, the Dutch put their collective finger in the dyke. In 2020 the Netherlands rallied a group of small, rich countries (the “frugal four”) to oppose the EU’s covid recovery fund. They eventually gave in, but not before Wopke Hoekstra, the then finance minister, insulted southern Europeans...

Ukraine’s Orthodox Church may change the date of its Christmas

AFTER RUSSIAN soldiers invaded their country in 2014, many Ukrainians began favouring Western holidays over ones associated with Russia. Women’s Day, an originally socialist holiday that took hold in Soviet times, has faded, while the American-made Mother’s Day is in vogue. As the snow piled up in Christmas markets in December, so did the evidence that...

Europe’s energy crisis will trigger its worst neuroses

IN GEORGE ORWELL’S “1984”, Room 101 is where prisoners are confronted with their worst fear. Finding Europeans’ prevailing phobia is trickier: what spooks voters in one bit of the continent (asylum-seekers! deficits! Russia!) may be of scant concern to those on the other end. Covid-19 is one contender, as it has made life dull from Dublin to Dubrovnik...

The French left faces disaster in April’s presidential election

ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF François Mitterrand’s death on January 8th Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, went in the driving rain to lay flowers at his grave. She was seeking “inspiration” from the late Socialist president, but it looked more like a requiem for the party’s current candidacy. Polls show Ms Hidalgo, the Socialists’ nominee, winning just 4%...

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