Europe

IN PHILIP ROTH’S “The Human Stain”, a university professor finds himself accused of racial harassment after he jokingly asks whether two black students who fail to attend class are “spooks”. (He means “ghosts”; they hear a 1950s-era derogatory term for African-Americans.) It seems like a ludicrous case of political correctness run amok, until the reader discovers that the professor is himself a black man who is passing as white, and is racked by racial anxiety and guilt. His unfort...
THE European Union may be a Franco-German construction, but when the project needs a dose of grandiosity it invariably turns to Italy. This weekend the leaders of 27 EU countries (all bar Britain) will convene in Rome’s glorious Palazzo dei Conservatori, beneath 17th-century frescoes and flanked by sculptures of sundry popes, to proclaim their unity—60 years after their forefathers signed the Treaty of Rome, the EU’s founding document, in the same room. In today’s fractious union the sym...
Groovin’ on RubensAT THE turn of this century the Prado, Spain’s premier art museum, slumbered in neglect. Limited opening hours and an almost complete lack of information about its paintings seemed calculated to put off visitors. Deliverance came with a law in 2003 granting it autonomy from the civil service. Before that the museum’s staff ran the place in their own interest and the director had little power, says Eduardo Serra, a former defence minister who as chair of the Prado’s trus...
TO JUDGE by the headlines, things are getting pretty hairy in the western Balkans. Newspapers have been running articles arguing that borders should be redrawn. Russia’s foreign ministry has accused Western officials of promoting a Greater Albania. Montenegro claims that Russia was behind an alleged coup attempt last November aimed at stalling its accession to NATO. Serbia has excoriated the president of Kosovo for suggesting that his demilitarised country might form an army, and Macedonia has...
A BARNACLE has nothing on François Fillon. Neither scandals nor broken promises nor the defection of allies can prise the Republican candidate from his presidential campaign. Each week brings new details of his questionable practices as a businessman-politician. Last week a court put him under formal investigation for steering about €900,000 ($970,000) of public funds over 25 years to family members who it seems did little to earn it. Mr Fillon, despite a solemn vow to quit if this happened, ...
THE black fur hat looked odd on a Libyan warlord. But fur is essential in wintertime Moscow, which has become an essential stop for Middle Eastern leaders like Khalifa Haftar, who visited twice in 2016. This month his rival, Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli, dropped by. Jordan’s King Abdullah, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu have all stopped at the Kremlin for audiences with Vladimir Putin this year.The visitors are a sign...
VOTERS in France are growing used to seeing would-be presidents spar aggressively on television. In recent months the Republican and Socialist parties each held a series of broadcast debates on prime-time television, in their respective primary campaigns. The result: the established front-runner of each party was knocked aside by insurgent candidates who better caught the mood of their audiences.The presidential campaign has now begun in earnest, ahead of the first round on April 23rd, and the t...
The usual paddywackeryIRISH-AMERICANS, who celebrate St Patrick’s Day with a frenzy of public drunkenness, dyed-green beer and leprechaun costumes, might be disappointed at how the Irish themselves mark the holiday. Most prefer to watch the parades on television rather than brave the changeable spring weather, perhaps hoisting an evening toast to Saint Paddy (never “Saint Patty”, as it is often rendered in America). And they never put dye in their beer. Those in search of emerald ale must ...
DONALD TUSK’S appointment as president of the European Council in 2014 seemed to complete Poland’s journey to the heart of the European Union. A decade after Poland led the accession of eight former Soviet-bloc countries, its prime minister was elevated to one of the most senior posts in Brussels. The job involves chairing summits of European leaders and forging compromise from their debates. At first some thought Mr Tusk operated more like a Polish prime minister than a consensus-seeking Eu...
Learning the hard wayLOUNGING in a smoky café in Aksaray, a rundown part of Istanbul, Ahmed, a 23-year-old Palestinian people-smuggler, expresses confidence in the future of his industry. “People come here, they have sold everything, they will find a way to get smuggled,” he shrugs. Business has got harder since March 18th 2016, when the European Union struck a deal with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, to send asylum-seekers back from Europe. But people are still trying to make ...
WILL no one stand up for the Dutch cosmopolitan elite? For many observers of this week’s election in the Netherlands there was only one story: the fate of Geert Wilders, the bottle-blond nativist who wants to ban the Koran and exit the European Union. Rare was the bar in Limburg, Mr Wilders’s home province, left unmolested by journalists expecting Dutch voters to deliver a populist hat-trick, following the triumphs of Brexit and Donald Trump. The young, educated urbanites of Amsterdam’s Ca...
IT WAS supposed to be the kick-off of Europe’s year of populism. For months, analysts had speculated that Geert Wilders, the platinum-blond rabble-rouser who calls for the Netherlands to shutter its mosques and quit the European Union, might come first in the Dutch election, portending smashing wins for anti-Muslim Eurosceptics across the continent.It did not happen. On March 15th the Dutch delivered a vote of confidence in the competent centre—despite a last-minute diplomatic clash with Tur...
TURKEY’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seems able to spot Nazis where no one else can. On March 11th Mr Erdogan called the Netherlands “Nazi remnants and fascists”, after Dutch authorities prevented his ministers from entering the country to campaign among Dutch-Turkish dual nationals for a “yes” vote in Turkey’s upcoming constitutional referendum. Days earlier, he claimed to have uncovered “Nazi practices” in Germany after authorities there cancelled similar events featuring ...
UNTIL this week, the referendum called by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, to change his country’s constitution and grant himself almost complete control over the government seemed to be a purely Turkish affair. This was inconvenient for the president’s cause. It would be easier for him to persuade Turks to vote him more power if he could frame the campaign as a battle against foreigners opposed to his rule.Now Mr Erdogan has succeeded in doing just that. On March 11th the Netherl...
WHEN a British television show, Top Gear, was marketed to the French a few years ago, it seemed an improbable proposition. The hit programme, which appeals to petrol heads and the nation’s inner laddishness, was not an obvious fit for Gallic sensibilities. More improbable still, when the French version was launched in 2015, was the choice of an early special guest, whose challenge is to set the fastest time possible when driving an ordinary car round a race track: it was the rather dour, besui...
GEENPEIL (“no poll”) is a new Dutch political party that has the unusual distinction of having no programme. Instead it promises to ask its members how to vote on every bill, via an online interface. Its founder, Bart Nijman, thinks this will help solve the biggest problem in Dutch politics: the sense many citizens have that they are ruled by an arrogant, unaccountable elite. On March 6th GeenPeil’s campaign rolled into Heerhugowaard, a town of red-brick modern developments 30km (19 miles)...
No jumping the queueAN UNEASY paradox underlies asylum policy in Europe. As signatories to the Refugee Convention of 1951, all European Union countries must allow foreigners on their territory to apply for protection. But none is obliged to help them arrive in the first place. As most war-torn places are some distance from Europe, asylum-seekers must endure dangerous journeys, and rapacious people-smugglers thrive.Resettling refugees directly from countries that host lots of them, such as Turkey...
The man who nearly reconstituted TurkeyFOR the past 92 years, says Osman Can (pictured), a former heavyweight in Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) party, his country has lived under three constitutions, each a product of upheaval and none of them democratic. The first set the stage for a secular one-party regime. The next two followed military coups. The newest, adopted by parliament in January and set for a referendum on April 16th, is no exception. Billed by the AK government as a...
IN NORMAL times, the world tends to ignore Macedonia and its 2m people, a quarter of them ethnic Albanian. But the world is not ignoring Macedonia now. Western politicians are rushing to Skopje, Russia is issuing warnings and Serbian newspapers proclaim that war is coming. “Geopolitical relevance is returning to the Balkans,” laments Veton Latifi, an analyst.The Macedonian crisis started with a coalition dispute. To preserve ethnic peace, governments consist of the winning Macedonian party a...
DONALD TUSK’S appointment as president of the European Council in 2014 seemed to cap Poland’s journey to the heart of the European Union. Twenty-five years after the collapse of communism and a decade after Poland led the accession of eight former Soviet-bloc countries to the EU, its prime minister was elevated by his peers to one of the most senior posts in Brussels. It was hard to imagine a more potent sign of the healing of Europe’s post-war scars.The job of council president, which inv...