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A memorial to Albania’s late dictator gets a new lease of life

FOR YEARS it has been an eyesore. Stripped of its marble facing and defaced with graffiti, Tirana’s pyramid was falling down. Now workmen are busily clambering about on top of it, as work has begun on restoring the Albanian capital’s most unusual building. Completed in 1988, the same year as I.M. Pei’s Paris pyramid, Tirana’s shabbier version is getting...

Climate change will feature heavily in Germany’s election

THE FIRST sign of trouble on the Rhine, Europe’s busiest inland waterway, was when the river cruises and hotel ships disappeared. Then the cargo vessels got smaller, or simply stopped sailing; goods like coal were shifted to trains. Water levels fell low enough to expose unexploded wartime bombs. These grim scenes, described by Florian Krekel of the...

The EU: Made in America

FROM THE Big Mac to the nuclear bomb, the list of 20th-century America’s achievements is long. In a remarkable period of invention, America bestowed human flight, superglue, rock and roll, the Saturn V rocket, Pop Tarts and the internet upon humanity. One American innovation from this era receives much less attention: the European Union. The EU is...

Continental Europe enters the gender wars

DEBATES ABOUT transgender rights have raged most angrily in the Anglophone world, but they are now intensifying across Europe. Last month the Spanish parliament voted against a bill that would allow people to determine their own gender. A day later Germany’s voted down two such bills. Few newspapers took any notice. Self-ID, as it is known, is the...

Europe’s drug habit proves immune to covid-19

ONE MIGHT have expected that a pandemic that put a stop to parties would also reduce the use of party drugs. Indeed, wastewater samples in some European cities showed that residues of cocaine and MDMA (also known as ecstasy) fell during the covid-19 lockdowns of early 2020. But by last summer Europeans were riding high again. In many cases, consumption...

Italy has a tough task ahead on climate change

OF ALL THE appointments to Mario Draghi’s cabinet, arguably the least expected was that of Roberto Cingolani, his minister for ecological transition. A physicist and former science director of the Italian Institute of Technology, Mr Cingolani came into government from a senior job in the defence industry, an odd background for an eco-warrior. Mr Cingolani...

The many faces of Sebastian Kurz

A SENSE OF déjà vu surrounds Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor. It is certainly not due to his appearance. At 34, he is a decade or three younger than most European leaders. A slicked-back bob stands out against the near-mandatory short back and sides of his peers. Nor does it extend to his personality. Where most politicians enjoy grandstanding,...

Britain and France send their aircraft-carriers out together

UNDER AN AZURE sky in the western Mediterranean, two aircraft-carriers sail eastwards in tandem. One, the Charles de Gaulle, a French nuclear-powered vessel, has 20 years of service behind it. The other, HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s new flagship, is on its maiden operational tour. For the first time the two carriers are taking part in three days of...

With Donald Trump gone, NATO is plotting its future

Editor’s note (June 14th 2021): This article has been updated to reflect the start of the NATO summit “OVER THE last four years we had some challenges in the transatlantic relationship,” says Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, drily alluding to the diplomatic pandemonium of the Trump years. Now, he says, “We have a unique opportunity to open...

Germany’s Christian Democrats struggle against populists in the east

THE SMALL east German state of Saxony-Anhalt is run by a so-called “Kenya” coalition, comprising three parties whose colours match that country’s flag: the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), the Social Democrats and the Greens. But so bad is the infighting it should be named after the similar hues of Afghanistan’s flag, chuckles Oliver Kirchner,...

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