Europe at a glance in the first week of December 2020
Berlin Covid measures: Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed with the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states to extend and tighten coronavirus restrictions until at least 20 December. Germany has been hit far harder by the second wave of Covid-19 than it was in the spring. Last Friday, it recorded 426 deaths, its highest one-day total […]

Berlin Covid measures: Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed with the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states to extend and tighten coronavirus restrictions until at least 20 December. Germany has been hit far harder by the second wave of Covid-19 than it was in the spring. Last Friday, it recorded 426 deaths, its highest one-day total of the pandemic. In France, cases are falling, and shops reopened on Saturday after a month-long lockdown. Shops, hairdressers, museums and libraries have also reopened in Ireland. In Belgium, the country’s health minister admitted that the closure of shops at the end of October had been enforced as a “psychological shock tactic”, at a time when the country was facing the worst second wave in Europe. Frank Vandenbroucke said that “shopping does not really involve any risk”, provided people use masks and distance properly. Shops reopened this week. Austria has begun a programme of mass-testing, in an effort to make it easier, and safer, for people to meet at Christmas. The Netherlands has become one of the last European countries to make mandatory the wearing of face masks in indoor public places. Turkey has introduced its strictest lockdown measures yet in response to a spike in cases. These include overnight curfews and total lockdowns at weekends.

Paris Glottophobia: France is set to outlaw discrimination against people on the grounds of their accent, under a legislation proposed by the centrist En Marche party and overwhelmingly approved by MPs last week. France’s many regional dialects have all but died out since the 16th century, owing to efforts by the state to impose the French spoken in the Île de France area around Paris. However, strong regional variations in accents remain. According to a recent survey, a quarter of French people have been mocked for their accent, and 16% have been victims of “accent discrimination” at work or elsewhere. Efforts to outlaw glottophobie have been given fresh impetus by the appointment of Jean Castex as PM. He speaks with the distinctive sing-song twang of the southwest, and his speech is often described as “a bit rugby” – a reference to the sport’s popularity in his home region.

Ankara Mass life-terms: Hundreds of people accused of taking part in an attempted coup against Turkey’s President Erdogan in 2016 have been sentenced to life in prison following a mass trial. The 475 defendants were military and civilian personnel from the Akıncı airbase, outside Ankara, who were accused of directing the coup and bombing government buildings. Some were charged with murder. In total, 337 were given life terms; most were “aggravated” – meaning there is no possibility of parole. Seventy defendants were acquitted. The government blamed the uprising, in which 265 people died, on supporters of Fethullah Gülen, a former Erdogan ally now living in exile in the US. In its wake, 292,000 people were arrested over their alleged links to Gülen; some 150,000 civil servants were sacked or suspended; and 20,000 members of the armed forces were also dismissed.