France's top business daily, Les Echos covers domestic and international economic, financial and markets news. Founded in 1908, the newspaper has been the property of French luxury good conglomerate LVMH (Moet Hennessy - Louis Vuitton) since 2007.
Work In Progress
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Where Have All The Workers Gone?

Reams have been written about the shift to remote working. And yet, for many people, the more pressing issue right now isn't where, but how much they work.

After the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, companies all over the world are taking advantage of loosened lockdowns and progress on the vaccine front to ramp up operations and make up for lost productivity. But the frenetic spurts of the recovery are getting serious pushback: From the rise of the four-day work week to legally punishing overtime, the world is waking up to the importance of a balanced workload.

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Guillaume de Calignon

The Economic Paradox Of The “Post-COVID” Recovery

The current economic recovery is unlike any other in the labor market. For companies in the United States and Europe, recruitment is particularly tough. Resignations are exploding on both sides of the Atlantic and productivity is declining in places like France. These are all paradoxes confounding economists.

PARIS — This is the great upheaval. COVID-19 has disrupted the balance of the labor market in Europe and the United States. As a result, the speed of the rebound in activity is like no other. In the Eurozone single currency market, the unemployment rate, which had already fallen to 7.5% in August, has nearly reached the level it had at the end of 2019. But this atypical recovery still leaves many questions that economists struggle to answer.

The first paradox is that, on both sides of the Atlantic, companies say they are having trouble finding people to hire. An anomaly in periods of economic recovery, since it normally takes time for the rise in unemployment to subside before the first recruitment difficulties appear.

Skyrocketing job vacancies

These troubles are, however, more acute in the U.S. With the reopening of the economy, American companies, which have laid off employees — unlike European ones who have been able to keep them thanks to partial unemployment benefits programs — have a pressing need for labor, especially in services. In Europe, it is primarily the countries of the North, such as the Netherlands, that face the greatest difficulties.

Moreover, in the United States, there were more than 10 million job advertisements last month, less than the total number of unemployed workers. For every job available, there are currently 0.8 unemployed people. In Europe, the job vacancy rate has returned to the level it was at the end of 2019, close to its all-time high.

Almost everywhere, it is the labor reallocation problems that explain the continued strong tension in the labor market. Hence the efforts of training that were launched in France and in other countries. These difficulties are exacerbated by the fact that some people have left the labor market.

An estimated 1.3 million Americans will return to the workforce with the end of unemployment benefits

Michael Nagle/Xinhua/ZUMA

1.3 million set to return to work

In the United States, for example, the participation rate remains 5 points below its pre-crisis level. "We have seen a sharp drop in the number of retirees who wanted to work in the United States. Not all will return to the job market," warns Anton Brender, chief economist at Candriam.

Immigrants with odd jobs had to leave and the employment rate for women fell, partly because some schools remained closed for a year and a half and mothers tend to be the primary caregiver and educator. It is, therefore, possible that the reopening of schools will bring some Americans back into the workforce.

Some question themselves, which can lead them to settle for less.

The end of exceptional unemployment benefits earlier this month should also push people to look for work. Goldman Sachs estimates that 1.3 million Americans will return to the workforce with the end of unemployment benefits. If this is the case, the recruitment difficulties are bound to ease.

"Historically, one of the most important consequences of pandemics is the decline in the working population," says Mathilde Lemoine, chief economist of the Edmond de Rothschild Group. "Out of caution, people are withdrawing from the labor market. Subsequently, given the brutality of the shock, some people question themselves, which can lead them to settle for less, to work less or to embark on personal projects. This is what we saw with the leap in business start-ups during COVID. "

Resignations: A domino effect 

The second paradox is that since last March and the reopening of economic activity, 500,000 more Americans than in 2019 are resigning from their jobs every month. This has never been seen at the end of a crisis. It is possible that people no longer want to work in the same sector, such as restaurants for example.

The other, more plausible explanation is put forward by Gero Jung, the chief economist of Mirabaud Asset Management: "People are quitting their jobs in the United States because they hope to find something better elsewhere, whether it is higher wages or better working conditions."

The final paradox is only valid for France: the number of jobs was, at the end of June, higher than its pre-crisis level, while the GDP remained 2 to 3 points lower than in the final quarter of 2019. Productivity per capita has therefore fallen whereas it usually tends to increase at the end of a crisis. Job creation, indeed, may already begin slowing down next year.

Anna Rousseau

The XXL Saga Of French Fashion And Inclusive Sizing

Clothing companies in France have a habit of simply ignoring larger-sized women. But led by a new generation of designers, some of them inspired by first-hand frustrations, the sector is finally showing signs of change.

PARIS — Leslie Barbara Butch offered quite an eyeful when she appeared, in February 2020, on the cover of the French culture and television magazine weekly Télérama wearing nothing but a dash of crimson lipstick.

The image is all the more striking because of how the DJ and feminist activist directs her gaze — purposely away from the reader — thus giving people free rein to study her ample curves and countours as much as they want.

"My body is big," says Butch. "I accept it, I show it."

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Martina Meister

Post-Merkel, Macron And Draghi Will Try To Ease Europe's Debt Rules

Coalition negotiations in Berlin will make for a period of political uncertainty that French President Emmanuel Macron is keen to exploit. He already has a new Italian partner, with whom he wants to steer the EU in a new direction.


BERLIN — In the coming weeks — perhaps even months — a power vacuum will reign in Berlin. But just like their colleagues in the world of science, political observers know that nature abhors a vacuum. It's just a matter of time, in other words, until the void is filled.

Does Germany's recent election mark the end of the country's leadership role in the European Union? Current coalition negotiations — which seem likely to drag on for some time — will force Berlin and Brussels to press pause. Others, in the meantime, won't be inclined to just sit quietly by and wait.

French President Emmanuel Macron sees himself as the natural leader of an EU that has lost the center of gravity that Merkel long provided. Even while her chancellorship was nearing its end, Macron was already preparing to take over the EU Council presidency, which begins in January and coincides with France's own elections.

Italy won't replace Germany

The Elysée Palace is already drawing up Macron's European report card. They recently pointed out that more than half of the 60 proposals the French president put forward in his speech at the Sorbonne in September 2017 have come to fruition.

"That speech formed the backbone of our European policy," says one of Macron's advisers.

Macron will not be alone when he takes on this new leadership role. He has found an ally in Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, so much so that, when Draghi was elected earlier this year, the Financial Times speculated about "the EU's new power couple." They spoke of a new power axis between Rome and Paris, to replace the current driving forces of Germany and France. After "Mercron," can we now expect a "Dracron" axis?

Photo of Angela Merkel with flags behind her

July 2, 2019 - Bruxelles, Belgium - Angela Merkel


Draghi will play a key role

Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has also spoken of a "key role" for Rome and Paris. "At this stage of the power vacuum, the leadership role within the EU will fall to Macron and Mario Draghi," he said in an interview this past Sunday.

Dominique Moïsi, a French political scientist from the think tank Institut Montaigne, sees things a little differently. "Draghi is a kind of star and he will play a key role, but Italy won't replace Germany," he says.

Another politician who sees this as an "opportune moment" to be seized is Sandro Gozi. In his former role as the Italian government's under-secretary for European affairs, Gozi was tasked with negotiating the Quirinal Treaty, a bilateral agreement between Italy and France, modeled on the 1963 Elysée Treaty between France and West Germany and named after the Quirinal Palace in Rome, one of the three official residences of the Italian President.

That was at a difficult time in Franco-Italian relations, as Luigi Di Maio, Italy's then deputy prime minister, visited France to show support for the yellow vest protesters. The Quirinal Treaty was put on ice and Gozi switched sides, becoming a European advisor at the Elysée Palace. Now he is a member of the European Parliament, representing France.

Draghi's election victory was a stroke of luck for Macron.

"No one in Rome or Paris wants to replace the Franco-German axis, but within the EU we need to strengthen other relationships that complement it and establish new synergies," said Gozi in an interview with Die Welt. He is convinced that "the transformation of the EU will be based on three powers: Germany, France and Italy."

Draghi and Macron looking beyond Maastricht

One thing is certain: Draghi's election victory was a stroke of luck for Macron. In early September, the two had dinner together at a three-star restaurant in Marseille to celebrate Draghi's birthday. They have a lot in common: Both are staunchly pro-Europe, ex-bankers, skilled negotiators and convinced that relaxing the EU's strict national debt policies is unavoidable.

Both were among the signatories, furthermore, of a letter published in the early days of the pandemic in which nine European countries called for a "common debt instrument," which soon became central to discussions around the stability pact.

But Draghi and Macron want to go beyond Next Generation EU, the post-covid economic recovery fund. They think the Maastricht Treaty is no longer fit for purpose and believe that economic and political progress within the EU will only be made possible by relaxing rules around national debt. As the former head of the European Central Bank, which reformed the EU's monetary policy, Draghi seems almost predestined for this role.

With Italy holding the G20's rotating presidency this year, both Draghi and Macron are — or soon will be — in positions of power on the world stage. Rome and Paris hope to finally sign the ambitious Quirinal Treaty before the end of this year.

Gozi believes that close cooperation between France and Italy will ensure these issues will be at the top of the EU's agenda. "It's a response to difficult geopolitical demands," he says.

Carl Karlsson and Clémence Guimier

How Far The No-Vaxxers Will Go To Dodge Vaccine Mandates

Countries are rolling out increasingly aggressive campaigns in an international effort to vaccinate the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two weeks ago, Italy became the first European country to make COVID-19 health passes mandatory for all workers, while others, including the U.S, France and Hungary, have mandated vaccination for federal workers or healthcare staff. Meanwhile, rules and laws are multiplying that require full vaccination to travel or enter movie theaters, restaurants and other indoor activities .

But with the increased pressure comes increased resistance: From anti-vaxxer dating to fake vaccine passports, skeptics are finding new — and sometimes creative — ways to dodge mandates and organize against their governments. Here's how people around the world are getting around vaccination rules:

Diversion and delay

In Italy, where the government recently approved a new measure to make digital vaccine certificates compulsory for all employees, strategies to circumvent the signing of a consent form are multiplying. According to Italian daily La Stampa, skeptics are bringing lawyers to vaccination appointments, demanding the doctor to sign off on guarantees that the vaccine is safe, or demanding that the meeting be videotaped.

Meanwhile, others are claiming to be allergic to vaccines, undergoing immunosuppressive therapies or suggesting they've had previous vaccine reactions like anaphylactic shock. Many are also using delay tactics: calling in sick for vaccination meetings, not responding to appointment requests or claiming to not have received notification.

The mandatory requirement stipulates that any worker failing to present their health vaccine certificate will be suspended without pay for up to five days but will not be fired. The move came shortly after the country reported more than 4.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 130,000 deaths in mid-September.

Protesters for and against COVID-19 mandatory vaccines in Canada— Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/ZUMA Press

Faux vaccine passports

A recent study by Check Point Research shows that fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates as well as test results of 29 different countries are being sold on Telegram. In India, the largest market for the popular messaging app, a fake vaccination certificate sells for $75, with prices having dropped by half since March 2021, India Times reports.

According to the study, counterfeit certificates were at the beginning of the year mainly advertised on the dark web but have since shifted to social media with its much broader consumer base. Since March, Check Point Research has spotted over 5,000 Telegram groups selling fake documents.

In the US too, customs agents in Memphis have seized multiple shipments of low-quality counterfeit vaccination cards sent from Shenzhen, China, to Tennessee. At first glance, the cards looked authentic, but a closer look revealed typos and incorrect translations from Spanish. While Memphis isn't the only place these counterfeits have been intercepted, officers in the city have seized more than 100 similar shipments this year, totaling more than 3,000 fake vaccination cards.

In France, some anti-vaxxers having a change of heart are finding themselves in a pickle. Having bribed health officials an average of $290 to receive a fake certificate, getting an actual jab is impossible as the fake passport is already on file in the person's real name, Liberation reports. As such, the only way to immunity is to confess the crime and risk up to three years behind bars.

Social media warfare in Asia

In Indonesia, one of the first countries to instate a blanket mandate for vaccination, anti-vaxxers are taking to social media to undermine government authority. According to Nikkei Asia, Indonesian authorities have removed 2,000 vaccine-related hoaxes from social media platforms. For example, a TV report with manipulated captions had a scientist saying "our people will be killed by Chinese vaccines" and that jabs "make the virus more savage" — receiving 182,000 shares before Facebook took it down.

In Japan, where a July government report found that only 45% of people in their 20s and 30s were favorable to vaccines, social media has also been riddled with misleading social media posts. Since the beginning of the 2021, 110,000 Twitter posts that were retweeted at least once suggested that getting vaccinated leads to infertility.

Some are claiming to be allergic to vaccines to avoid the jab — Photo: Maxppp via ZUMA Press

Religious exemption

Following U.S. President Joe Biden's sweeping new vaccine mandates covering more than 100 million Americans, Religious objections are becoming a widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot.

Roughly 2,600 employees at the Los Angeles Police Department have already claimed religious objections to the department's COVID-19 vaccination requirement, while in Washington state, some 3,800 workers have requested religious exemptions to the mandate that workers be fully vaccinated by October 18 or lose their job.

The right to religious exemption is landing many employers in a legal gray area. As workers don't have to be part of an organized religion mandate to be considered a valid candidate, employers are rather forced to make individual assessments of the level of religious sincerity.

Of course, faith-based clashes with authorities mandating vaccination isn't a province of the U.S. alone. In Greece, a major source of opposition to vaccination are influential clerics and the power they wield from the pulpit. While the church leadership officially supports vaccination, several influential archbishops and clerics have repeatedly told their flocks not to get vaccinated, while some refuse to let people into church if they are wearing a mask or have had the jab. Last week, Greek daily Alfa Vita reported on a particularly outspoken priest calling the vaccine "the joy of Lucifer."

Unvaccinated dating 

As restrictions for travel, social life and work become increasingly stringent for the unvaccinated, some are trying to create a parallel culture with safe spaces for those who refuse the jab. Mainly proliferating on social media, people around the world are organizing dating and house shares for fellow skeptics. The messaging app Telegram has become a go-to place for anti-vaxxing activists, with the platform working as a cross-pollination vehicle for anti-vaxx, COVID denialism and broader conspiracy theories.

But there are also attempts at creating more particular spaces for anti-vaxx socializing. The dating-and-community app for unvaccinated people, Unjected, was launched in May before being removed by Apple last month in a move the app's owner labeled as censorship. In an attempt to get Unjected back on the App Store, the owner posted on its now-deleted Instagram account that certain features had been removed, including social feed and a blood bank for the unvaccinated.

food / travel
Anne-Sophie Goninet

Rooster, Mon Amour: The Not-So-Quiet Truth About Our Famous French Countryside

To most, the French countryside evokes an idyllic paradise, from the southern Provence region with its lavender fields to vineyard-covered Burgundy to the castles of the Loire Valley. In this postcard vision, you can smell the soft air, see the grazing cows and hear the silence, broken only by the rare tolling of local church bells.

You probably never considered ... the noise.

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Gaspard Koenig

Social Media Ban For Teens? A Free-Market Philosopher Makes The Case

Cyberbullying has gained ground again this school year. For philosopher and free-market advocate Gaspard Koenig, it's simple: social media has the effects of an addictive and harmful drug, and thus forbidden for those under 16.

My daughter, born in 2010, is entering the sixth grade. In the last few days, I have received a series of alerts warning me about the "cyberbullying" that is currently targeting the "2010 generation." Following the video of a precocious French YouTuber, the "2010s" are the object of a mocking, sometimes hateful, vindictiveness on the part of their middle school elders (hashtag #Anti2010).

The affair has gained enough importance for the French National Police to remind us that "digital raiding" is a crime, and for the Minister of Education to denounce this cabal in terms that do not hide his consternation: "It's completely stupid."

It is completely stupid, indeed. But will the "2010s" — whose return to school means joining the ranks of TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram — have the means to acquire the cognitive ability necessary to distance themselves from their phones? How can we not shudder at Facebook's plan to create an Instagram for those under 13?

Let's stop "adultizing" children

Beyond the issue of cyberbullying, I see the perverse effect of social media addiction when I teach "digital native" students, who are increasingly deprived of a basic ability to concentrate (keeping a book in hand for an hour, without tapping a like or a retweet, has become a physiological impossibility for some). I can only share neuroscientist Michel Desmurget's concern about the "digital moron factory."

I'm someone who doesn't like prohibitions.

We must stop infantilizing adults. But as a corollary, let's stop adultizing children. The whole philosophy of public education defined by French philosopher Victor Cousin is to allow a developing mind to be open to an eclectic knowledge. For the adult to become responsible, the child must remain under tutelage.

As much as the state must let adult citizens live their lives, it has all its role to play to socially and intellectually emancipate minors, including through constraint. This is why, as someone who doesn't like prohibitions, I plead without hesitation for the closure of social media to people under 16.

According to a report, "the higher the level of education of the child's representative, the less time spent in front of a screen" — Photo: Tim Mossholder

The age of 16 is the logical age

The sale of alcohol to minors is well prohibited. In the case of the legalization of cannabis, which is dear to me, it will be necessary to strictly protect teenagers, whose maturing brains can be irreparably damaged by this psychotropic substance. It is time for the legislator to put social networks in the same category. Sixteen is the logical age to be the legal threshold to enter the shady world of disinformation.

Because social media platforms are not simple neutral and benevolent intermediaries. Their business model, based on the harvesting and monetization of personal data, requires optimizing the "engagement" of their users, a polite word for addiction.

Jaron Lanier, an internet pioneer, denounced these "siren servers" from the inside. The best neuroscientists, hired at great expense by the platforms, are working to titillate the reward circuits of our brains. Social media must be treated for what it is: a drug distributed after school, free of charge.

I stopped using Twitter and coffee together.

Three years ago, during a research trip to Silicon Valley, I realized I myself was addicted to social media, so I stopped using Twitter and coffee together. I gained self-control, a condition of freedom. And I only resumed in very small doses (LinkedIn from time to time, a cup of macchiato in the morning). Today, I don't allow my daughter to drink caffeine or surf TikTok. She has to make do with a minimalist phone, without access to the internet.

Because she does not have an online presence, my daughter is mechanically spared from harassment. This is a privilege she shares with her classmates from the most privileged working-class. In fact, according to a report from the High Council of Public Health published last year, "the higher the level of education of the child's representative, the less time spent in front of a screen."

Children from working-class backgrounds are more often left to their own devices in front of the screens, while more educated parents deploy various strategies of restriction — let's remember that Steve Jobs banned the iPad from his home. With that in mind, banning social networks for children under 16 would also be a true act of social justice.

Kathryn Graddy

Art For All? You Can Now Own Micro-Parts Of Basquiat Or Banksy

A new platform called Masterworks allows individuals to buy shares of specific artworks in $20 increments. The platform capitalizes on the democratization of online investing, but is also a variation on a model that dates back a century.

In the fall of 2018, a Banksy work, Love is in the Bin, sold for US$1.4 million.

Now the original buyer has put the work up for sale, and it's expected to fetch over $5 million – that would amount to a return of more than 250% on the original investment.

What if, instead of the art market's being the sole purview of the deep-pocketed, everyday people could buy shares of a pricy piece of art and sell the shares as they please? That's exactly what a new platform, Masterworks, seeks to do.

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Alfonso Masoliver

Immigrants Don't Drive Up Crime: Here Are The Facts

Crunch the numbers, or just look around...and we see that immigrants, wherever they may come from, are not a disproportionate cause of crime or cultural degradation across Europe.

Standing outside Hamburg's Arts and Crafts Museum, I observe a little the traffic and bustle of this historic German port, home to two million people. I notice to my right two German women sitting on the grass in the Carl Legien Platz, gaunt but eager as they prepare themselves a syringe full of some drug. To the left, sitting on the museum's steps, is an African man, wearing a pretty checked shirt and white cap. He wipes his face in despair, trying to decipher a manual for a gadget or contraption.

Once they have had their injection, the women recline to enjoy the buzz, until two policemen arrive. They dryly nod at the African and ask the women for their ID. I observed with fascination and must say, no travel journalist should omit to record these little bits of reality. They are as informative to readers as sight-seeing recommendations or dining tips.

Now, where do migrants come from?

The origin story of the current migration situation depends on which historical period you start with. In the first centuries after Christ, most migration in Europe was inside the Roman Empire, with some arrivals from beyond its frontiers. In other words, you wouldn't have found many Chinese shopkeepers in that European Union.

It was habitual then for legionaries — after 25 years of mandatory soldiering — to be given a plot of farming land, but with one condition: They had to move to a zone other than their birthplace. A soldier born in Gaul would likely be given land in Italy or the Iberian peninsula (Hispania). The fall of the Western Empire in the 5th century meant more migration. Germanic hordes moved south and settled where they pleased, while the Muslim conquest of Spain in the 8th century opened the peninsula to numerous Arabs, Moors and Jews.

Today, the answer is not as simple. A globalized world provides as many options for entering your chosen country as there are transport facilities. Official figures give us an overview of the migratory panorama. The European Commission's figures for 2019 cited the non-EU nationalities given the most residency permits were from Ukraine, Morocco and India, with Ukrainians far ahead of the rest. But the top nationalities in terms of asylum applications that year were quite different: Syrians, Afghans, Venezuelans, Colombians, Iraqis, Pakistanis — clearly people from failed states or countries at war.

In 2019, illegal entries into Europe were at their lowest number of the previous seven years

These refugees (for that is what they are), are also mostly illegal migrants. The prize in this dismal category goes to the Syrians, who constituted 17.3% of those who entered Europe illegally, though the vast majority were from Islamic states. Yet in 2019, the 125,100 illegal entries into Europe were at the lowest number in seven years, while 491,000 non-EU nationals were thrown out of the EU.

European Commission figures from 2020 indicate that 37 million EU residents, or 8.2% of its population, were born outside the block. Worldwide, the five countries with the most foreign-born residents are Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Norway and the United States, respectively. They are not Sweden, Spain, France or Germany, as you might think, given the rise of nationalist movements there. Only 10% — or about three million — of the world's refugee population is currently in the EU. Most settle in neighboring states like Turkey. In 2020, the EU registered around 93,700 asylum applications, of which some 49,500 were ultimately accepted.

Does immigration affect crime?

Comparing crime rates from 2012 to 2020 in the five countries with the most foreign-born residents (Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Norway and the U.S.), does not necessarily yield a rise in crime rates clearly and proportionately attributable to immigration. Australia's crime rate of 41.36 in 2012 stood at 40.36 in 2020. The United States' crime rate rose from 47.2 to 64.93, but Norway's fell from 35.43 to 19.07.

The four EU countries with the most foreign-born residents are Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In those same years, Germany's crime rate rose from 21.02 to 34.81, France's rose slightly from 44.76 to 46.79, and Italy's fell from 56.67 to 44.26. Spain's rate also fell.

Denmark, the EU country with the strictest migration policy, has much higher rates of drug use.

The U.S. has so many problems — including the 390 million firearms circulating among 330 million Americans — that blaming migrants for criminality is at best, simplistic. Nor can crime be linked to particular groups, like Muslims, or to regions. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates had the lowest crime rates in 2020 (and numerous migrants), while the Global Peace Index placed several African states like Tanzania, Ghana and Zambia above France as peaceful nations. The idea that migrants export the violence of their home countries is also, debatable.

If we consider drugs instead to be an important cause of crime in European countries, we should know that Denmark, the EU country with the strictest migration policy, has much higher rates of cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy) and amphetamine use, and related deaths, than Spain and Italy. The Netherlands likewise has disturbing ties to drug trafficking in the EU, and is not among the top 40 countries in the world in terms of immigrants. These considerations might even help explain why I found the German girls taking drugs and the African man engrossed in a manual.

A sign in Madrid that says: Refugees Welcome

A building bearing a "refugees welcome" banner in Madrid, Spain

- MariaTeneva

Does immigration crush cultures?

We're likely all familiar with the idea of immigration as a cultural bulldozer. In Hispania, the romanization process (fueled by the legionaries-turned-farmers), meant the systematic eradication of its Celtic and Iberian cultures. After the empire, the northern barbarians descended to set the Roman villas on fire, the Arabs made southern Spain Islamic practically throughout the Middle Ages, and later, the Bourbons brought us their homeland's French fashions and quirks.

Today, can we say immigration crushes cultures? We could, but as an answer, it would be problematic and raise more questions. Where does the 'destructive' migration come from? Do we need individuals to provoke this destruction?

In 1970 there was no McDonald's in Europe. Today it has 6,000 outlets across the continent. In countries like Sweden and France, we find the chilling rate of 22 and 21 McDonald's restaurants per million inhabitants. Every one of them means people will not be eating in a traditional eatery. I must confess now, I lied. I am not in Hamburg. I was in Hamburg last week. Now I'm in Sundsvall, Sweden, and have been looking for days for a place serving a traditional Sami (reindeer) dish. All I can find, though, are Starbucks-style coffee shops, fast-food joints and Asian street food!

Just as a game, you might stroll through your neighborhood one day with the vision of an inveterate racist, looking for the destroyers of culture. If you live in a city, you will find so many it is frightening: foreign clothes shops, Asian and Italian restaurants, youth busy feeding Chinese data banks on their phones, Instagram photo ops. You'll see all this before you find a mosque or a falafel shop. Meanwhile, nations, even the smallest ones with migrant rates like big cities, firmly hold onto their cultural traits.

Is there even a European lifestyle for which we should be concerned?

Might we say that immigration's biggest harm to our culture is in the arrival of ideas, products and lifestyles alien to our own, rather than the presence of foreigners? Can we see at least that the criminal, homophobic and sexist Muslims are really a tiny part of the bigger numbers and percentages? Can we make sense of the contrast between the blond girls dazed in the park and migrants working like mad to make it their new homes?

Indeed, regardless of the Muslim threat to the European lifestyle, is there even a European lifestyle for which we should be concerned? Has it not been devoured by the "Western" lifestyle?

Perhaps, and I am speculating here, the problem is not outside but in ourselves. While we are in decline, mired in excuses, protests, drink, drugs and digital fantasies, migrants are crossing deserts and oceans, and showing the kind of unstinting, mind-boggling valor we have lost in Europe. It is possible, though I would assert nothing. The figures are suggestive enough.

*This article was translated from Spanish with the permission of the author.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Cancel Tintin? Spotting Racist Imagery In Comics Around The World

Some of the world's most beloved comics and graphic novels contain depictions that are antiquated at best and downright racist at worst.

PARIS — From the anti-Semitic children's books of Nazi Germany to the many racist caricatures of Asian, African or Indigenous people in the 20th century, comics have long contained prejudiced, sexist and xenophobic stereotypes.

These publications have been rightfully criticized and, in some cases, replaced with more diverse and accurate narratives created by a broader range of artists and writers. Earlier this year, the publisher of beloved American author Dr. Seuss announced it would no longer distribute six of his books due to racist and offensive imagery of Black people, Asians and Arabs.

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Tobias Kaiser, Virginia Kirst, Martina Meister

European Debt? The First Question For Merkel's Successor

Across southern Europe, all eyes are on the German elections, as they hope a change of government might bring about reforms to the EU Stability Pact.


BERLIN — Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) is the front-runner, according to recent polls, to become Germany's next chancellor. Little wonder then that he's attracting attention not just within the country, but from neighbors across Europe who are watching and listening to his every word.

That was certainly the case this past weekend in Brdo, Slovenia, where the minister met with his European counterparts. And of particular interest for those in attendance is where Scholz stands on the issue of debt-rule reform for the eurozone, a subject that is expected to be hotly debated among EU members in the coming months.

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Cecilia Delporte

Pomp And Pirouettes: When Ballet Stars Bid Farewell

The prima ballerina Eleonora Abbagnato recently bid farewell to the Paris Opera, under the gold roof of the historic Palais Garnier. It's an obligatory passage for Parisian ballet dancers of a certain age, a moment that is often happy, always dreaded and sometimes salutary.

PARIS — With one last look at Chagall's enchanting fresco, at the teachers who watched her grow up, at the stage that saw her blossom, Eleonora Abbagnato took her final bow. Never has a star ballerina's farewell been so dramatic, as her big exit was postponed by three cancellations due to a strike, and then the pandemic.

"I'm always positive, I think that destiny does things well," she says in her dressing room a few days before her "adieu" on June 11. "I knew this evening would eventually take place!" This artist, who wanted to model her last dance on Le Parc by Angelin Preljocaj, ended up dazzling the crowd in a tribute to Roland Petit, which nicely echoed her career.

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