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Vladimir Putin is celebrating a decisive victory in the 2012 Presidential elections in Russia. After four years as Prime Minister, he returns to the highest position of power in Moscow. What can Europe expect from the return of a man who has never minced words?
Putin received more than 60% of the overall votes, although international observers such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have made several charges of fraud. No matter how (un)fair and (un)free these recent elections may have been, Europe has to deal with the return of a well-known political veteran.
It seems that Putin has managed to appease his political counterparts in Europe. While there have been statements from German chancellor Angela Merkel and from the EU's high representative for foreign affairs Catherine Ashton, praising the rise of civic movements in Russia and highlighting the need for political reforms, European leaders are mostly relieved that Russian politics look as if they'll remain stable. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé frames it in a pragmatic way: "The election has not been exemplary. That is the least you can say. Putin has been re-elected by a large majority, so France and her European partners will pursue its partnership with Russia." German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed the hope that Germany would "continue and deepen the strategic partnership with Russia."
This week, two of E&M's best writers share their favourite European reads. From blog posts to essays, it can be anything that amused them, worried them or got them thinking about Europe.
Not only for parishioners
Even though tons of paper were wasted explaining the sources of the current economic and financial crisis we (including the world leaders) still seem to have more questions than answers. Within dozens of narratives, one is especially interesting for me. Remember some of the points which the Archbishop of Canterbury (or "the turbulent priest" to stay in the British context) Rowan Williams made as a Guest Editor of the New Statesman magazine last year? Well, now Pope Benedict XVI has also decided to take part in the discussion and call for global financial reform. The magazine Foreign Affairs gives us a detailed analysis of the Pope's Note, which was presented at the last G20 Summit. Are the world's leaders ready "to cede their own sovereignty in the interests of global humanity's common good?" I'd argue that the Catholic social teaching can still provide us with some rerum novarum ("new things").
Once we've acknowledged that Europe isn't supposed to end up as a cathedral, nor as a cube let's see what's happening in its Southern neighbourhood. Almost a year after the Arab Spring, it's still not easy to assess the outcomes of the revolutionary wave that swept across the North Africa. The elections held in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco led to the victory of Islamist parties. Will they have a pragmatic stance or try to introduce Sharia rules to the law? What kind of problems are they going to face in the near future and what did they inherit from their authoritarian predecessors? And finally, how will the Islamists' electoral triumph influence relations with the EU? Professor Moha Ennaji gives a fascinating response in his article "The Maghreb’s Modern Islamists" at Project Syndicate.