The Economist: Europe

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To ski or not to ski?

IT TOOK A pandemic to silence Gerhard Schmiderer. For the past quarter-century, the now 70-year-old “DJ Gerhard” has blasted trashy hits for drunken après-skiers at MooserWirt, a bar in St Anton, an Austrian ski resort. This year, however, the speakers will be silent rather than blaring out yet another rendition of “The Final Countdown”, a raucous anthem...

Thierry Baudet, a populist prodigy, blows up the party he created

A PHOTO of Thierry Baudet from a newspaper profile in 2014 shows him sprawled on his grand piano, gazing fetchingly to camera. The Chopin-playing Dutch intellectual, then 31, had written a book denouncing the EU. Two years later he co-founded a party, Forum For Democracy (FVD), which won the largest vote-share in provincial elections in 2019. In a speech...

After police are filmed beating a black man, France does a U-turn

AT 6.42PM ON November 21st, three policemen forced their way into a recording studio in a smart area of Paris and savagely beat up Michel Zecler, a black record producer. Pursued for not wearing a face mask, Mr Zecler initially spent 48 hours in detention for violence against the police, and says that during the beating he was called a “sale nègre (dirty...

An interview with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Belarus’s leader in exile

SVETLANA TIKHANOVSKAYA, a former teacher and a mother of two, did not choose to make history. But history has chosen her for a starring role. Despite her lack of political experience, she has come to personify the struggle to transform Belarus from docile former Soviet republic to free and truly independent nation. The leaders of rich democracies greet...

Turkey recovers from one earthquake and braces for more

NEAR ONE of Izmir’s main thoroughfares, bulldozers and excavators power through a vast heap of rubble and steel wire, the ghastly remains of an apartment block levelled by an earthquake that struck Turkey’s third-biggest city in late October. Movers salvage furniture and kitchen supplies from buildings awaiting demolition or on the verge of collapse,...

Why Polish politicians fear to sneer at rural music

“LOVE, LOVE in Zakopane. We’re showering ourselves in champagne. I am the knight, and you, queen of the night.” The balding singer with a stubby moustache and sequined blazer slid across the stage. It was a chilly New Year’s Eve in 2018, but the crowd of 60,000 sang along in the resort town of Zakopane in the foothills of the Tatra mountains. Another...

Why Sweden struggles to curb gang violence

IN AUGUST A criminal clan set up roadblocks in Gothenburg to catch members of a rival gang. The police intervened and made several arrests, but failed to charge anyone. The gang war in Gothenburg eventually ended not because the cops stopped it, but because the gangsters negotiated a truce. Swedes are shocked to see such instances of the forces of law...

Sicily is desperate for the EU’s cash

SEBASTIANO (“NELLO”) MUSUMECI, the governor of Sicily, counts off on his fingers some of the many things he says his island lacks: a hub-port to tap into the goods traffic that flows from the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean; an international airport (“Malta, smaller than the smallest Sicilian province, has one,” he notes indignantly); a modern rail...

The imminent Biden presidency reawakens Europe’s defence debate

EMMANUEL MACRON does not shy from controversy. But the French president’s recent dig at Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Germany’s defence minister, was sharp. Earlier this month she wrote: “Illusions of European strategic autonomy must come to an end.” Since “strategic autonomy” is a centrepiece of Mr Macron’s European ambitions, he did not hold back. Calling...

How long will Sweden’s nationalists be excluded from power?

TWO YOUNG men, Andreas Palmlov and Julian Kroon, sit in a bar swapping anecdotes about their native Sweden. The welfare system is so lax that an immigrant drew benefits while serving as the defence minister of Iraq. A lecturer was suspended because students complained that a lesson about fatherhood was heteronormative. And 1m kroner ($116,000) of taxpayers’...

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