Europe / Global
The style of Turkey's embattled prime minister, a controversial new development around Belgrade and a Hungarian election watch
Hugging trees Bosnia and Herzegovina
Around half of Bosnia and Herzegovina is covered in forest, making the protection of woodland a priority for environmentalists in the Balkans. Experts have been brought in to help forestry officials keep it safe.
Style leader no.51
Real man about town
Turkey [RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN]
It has been a rocky few months for the Turkish prime minister. The protests that flared up last summer in Istanbul’s Gezi Park were, in retrospect, only the beginning. Since December, corruption allegations involving his Justice and Development Party, business allies and even family members have come flooding in. His recent attempts to tighten state control of the internet have been met with yet more public unrest.
Erdogan says that followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric based in Pennsylvania, are carrying out a campaign to destroy him and Turkey. Some critics argue it is always dangerous when a leader speaks of his own political future and that of his country in the same breath. Alarm bells are ringing: the lira is tumbling, investment is shrinking and Brussels is looking further away than ever.
And yet Erdogan is still the most popular politician in Turkey, polling around 40 per cent support nationwide. This has a lot to do with the image he presents to his countrymen: strong, outspoken, yet undoubtedly “one of them”. “His whole image is built on the perception of being the strong man of the country,” says Sinan Ulgen, a Carnegie scholar based in Brussels. At the same time, though, his clothing represents his desire to be “close to the man on the street”.
Whether the corruption storm will damage that perception is unclear. But with local elections coming up in March and presidential ones later in the summer, Erdogan’s future will be decided at the ballot box.
City on water
“A waterfront is not just a body of water. It’s the flow of memory – the origin of the city itself,” said Daniel Libeskind as he presented his vision for the redevelopment of Belgrade’s riverside in 2008. Serbia’s capital could certainly do with a reminder that it has – potentially – one of the most spectacular waterfronts in Europe. Only connoisseurs of dusty concrete works, dilapidated goods railways and decaying riverboats are likely to appreciate the walk along the Danube and Sava promenade.
That may change if Belgrade On Water – a new billion-euro project proposed by a uae property developer – comes into fruition. Remaining industrial detritus from behind the main railway station will go. In will come parks, retail space and the city’s tallest tower. Passenger trains and buses will be shifted to new terminuses. But critics argue the bidding process has not been transparent.
Italy x 3
New prime minister Matteo Renzi would prefer to lead Italy for four years without holding elections. That’s unlikely to happen. Instead expect him to push through a new electoral law in the coming months that will work in his favour – one which will make it easier for the biggest party to form a government without having to gain the support of smaller parties.
The most important Italian is not Renzi, it’s Mario Draghi. The European Central Bank chief has boosted the Italian economy once by making clear he would do “whatever it takes” to save the euro. Now he will put pressure on Renzi to introduce economic reforms that can herald a return to sustainable growth.
Once he has his house in order, expect Renzi to start pushing his profile across Europe. Since British prime minister Tony Blair left office the European centre-left has lacked an elected leader with star power. Renzi could provide a counter-balance to Angela Merkel where François Hollande has failed.