The rise of the (well-dressed) left in Spain, religious furore in Austria and making tracks in Warsaw.
Birmingham’s balti dish is set to become the first curry in Europe to be given “protected food name” status. The EU list identifies world-class produce indelibly linked to one city or region.
Home to dozens of international agencies and ngos, Switzerland punches well above its weight when it comes to helping the less fortunate; each year it spends chf3bn (€2.5bn) on foreign aid to poorer countries. But new figures prove that immigrants working in the Alpine nation do one better, sending back double that amount in remittances annually.
Increasing amounts of that money stays within Europe though, as the numbers of migrants from the EU, particularly southern Europe, has risen since the start of the financial crisis. Portugal alone now receives some chf900m (€738m) each year from its citizens in Switzerland.
Austria is mulling changes to a historic 1912 law that guaranteed Muslim rights, citing the growing threat of radicalisation among its Muslim community. The new draft, championed by minister for foreign affairs and integration Sebastian Kurz, bans foreign funding of mosques or imams and requires a standard German-language translation of the Koran. Kurz insists his country needs “an Islam of Austrian coinage”. More than 150 Austrian citizens are believed to have joined jihadist groups in Iraq or Syria.
But Austria’s half a million Muslims are incensed. “There is a general tone of mistrust toward Muslims,” says Carla Amina Baghajati, spokeswoman for the country’s Islamic Religious Authority. “The 1912 Islam law set up a model of how state acknowledgment of a religious minority can help it to better integrate.”
style leader no. 57
While right-wing populists continue to gain traction across Europe, Spanish voters are instead embracing the left. Years of economic malaise and high unemployment have left the country thirsty for alternatives. New grassroots party Podemos (We Can) is winning over the disenchanted with a finely tuned pro-social justice, anti-corruption message.
Its leader is Pablo Iglesias Turrión, a young university lecturer from Madrid’s working-class district of Vallecas. After a brief stint in Venezuela as an adviser to the Hugo Chavez government, the media-savvy 36-year-old returned to Spain where he began appearing on popular TV debate shows, building up a national profile with an informed, articulate voice of opposition to Spain’s ruling class.
Formed by a group of political scientists, Podemos surprised everyone (including itself) by winning 1.2 million votes at the 2014 European elections. It has been pressing the case for change on television debate shows, arguing that Spanish politics has been stymied by more than three decades of bipartisan rule. Their message is resonating, particularly as corruption scandals embroil the two major parties.
General elections are slated for the end of 2015 and a government led by Pablo Iglesias is not entirely unfeasible. He is rattling the establishment with his pledge to take on la casta (the country’s old-guard or political caste), painting Podemos as an alternative to “a crumbling regime”. Whether the wheels come off this populist insurgency depends on Pablo Iglesias’s ability to appeal to voters across the spectrum.