Anne McElvoy

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Giorgia Meloni addressing the National Confederation of Craftsmen in Rome, Italy, 10 November 2023. Photograph: Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse/Shutterstock

She’s the brash campaigner and paradoxical populist – the Brothers of Italy sister who has strongly partisan prescriptions for a country prone to a stagnant economy, a lagging birthrate and political stalemate. She intends to defeat these challenges by consolidating her own power. Giorgia Meloni is western Europe’s most ruthless tactical operator – a new kind of nationalist populist who defies the easy categories.

She’s also the ideological descendant of a dangerous tradition, formed in the Italian Social Movement, rooted in the the postwar incarnation of Benito Mussolini’s fascists and steeped in the adaptation of beguiling cultural tropes. After decades of fractious coalitions and technocratic solutions, supporters relish her dominant leadership approach and mission to “defend” the country from outside influences.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Living the Zeitenwende’: the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz. Photograph: Kay Nietfeld/AP

Just what is Germany’s Zeitenwende, the latest coinage in a language famous for its compound nouns? The “change in times” announced by the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year rolled like a thunderclap across a country that, since unification in 1990, had flourished on the benefits of the post-cold-war peace dividend, its status as Europe’s powerhouse economy and being de facto regulator of the single currency, calling the shots in eurozone squeezes.

For obvious reasons of 20th-century experience, today’s federal republic is an entity more comfortable with its role as a proponent of restraint and cautious multilateralism than decisive action.…  Seguir leyendo »

Jair Bolsonaro, aka the ‘Trump of the Tropics’, heads the field in the upcoming Brazilian elections. Photograph: Eraldo Peres/AP

The Nobel peace prize often gets it wrong, routinely crowning “approved” individuals or supranational institutions such as the EU and UN, usually on the eve of them making a prizewinning Horlicks of their mission.

But even grumblers like me cheered this year’s decision by the Swedish and Norwegian gods of good works. Presenting the joint award to Nadia Murad, a 25-year-old survivor of rape and torture by Isis and campaigner for other persecuted Yazidi Kurdish minority, and to Denis Mukwege, a doctor who has treated many thousands of victims of rape and sexual violence in Congo, has highlighted the horrors of sexual violence in warfare.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why the once-durable Merkel may not last much longer

Angela Merkel’s New Year address on German television has acquired all the familiarity of the Queen’s Christmas speech. So much so that one newspaper ran a front page showing the chancellor’s 12 years in shiny-jacket attire under the headline, “Can the Social Democrats put up with another one of these?”

The needling of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), for preparing to support Merkel’s fourth term in office, highlights a more irreverent tone towards “Mutti”, as she restarts stalled talks to hammer out a new coalition.

The chancellor has been attacked by some of her own former supporters for her unwillingness to be more open about the practical implications of absorbing the 2015 wave of refugees, and for allegedly failing to identify warmly enough with the victims of the Christmas terror attack in Berlin in 2016.…  Seguir leyendo »

A quarter of a century ago I went for a beer with a friend from East Berlin. We downed our frothy brew in the Märkischer Markt, a stroll from Checkpoint Charlie. Afterwards he stayed locked behind the Berlin Wall – as one of the majority of East Germans who had never been permitted to travel to the west – while I headed past the grim-faced guards to my parallel world of late bars and tinned tomatoes.

Our standing joke was that we did our beer-drinking under communism, but only I went to the loo afterwards under capitalism. By late 1989 that quip felt sour and the mood more bitter than I had experienced, living in the east on and off since 1983.…  Seguir leyendo »