“German Groups Shun Russia,” was the headline in the “Financial Times” on 8 April. The article explained that doubts about Vladimir Putin’s real intentions for reform are causing stagnation in direct investments, while overall German investments, including the portfolio ones, are actually in decline. Therefore, east’s cover title is not just an attention grabber: both Europe and the United States share perplexities about the new Russia’s prospects, as was evident in the latest summit between Bush and Putin in Bratislava. That’s why we have dedicated this issue’s Dossier to Russia, asking authoritative experts in various disciplines (from Piero Sinatti to Fernando Orlandi, from Olga Annushkina to Anna Zafesova, from Sergio Romano to Mauro Martini and Ornella Calvarese) to provide analyses that are free of diplomatic tact. The picture they paint is worrying, but not alarming. On the plus side: the economy is slowly picking up; social tensions seem to be under control; the desire for autonomy in the southern republics is on the rise, but has not reached the explosive level of Chechnya; cinema, literature and arts in general are experiencing a new revival. On the downside: perplexities remain about the contradictory way in which the new ruling class is handling the transition, the persistent violation-undervaluing of human rights, and the nostalgia for the strength of the old USSR. One thing is clear, as Romano explains in his interview and as Zafesova confirms in his article about the Russian opposition, Putin must be judged over the long term and, at this time, there is no alternative to his leadership. European themes remain east’s main focus. The magazine addresses them on three levels: first, in an interview with the economist Alberto Alesina on the differences between American and European welfare models; next, by addressing the issues linked to the French referendum on the new Constitution (Enrico Letta); and, finally, by offering further analysis on the Enlargement (from Jean-Claude Trichet to Paolo Gnes, from Fabrizio Coricelli to Franco Botta, from Franco Mosconi to Michele Capriati). Giulia Maria Crespi, Goran Bregovic and Aldo Bonomi make contributions on culture, environment and values.
Yet again, France is at the centre of European history, once more the arbiter of the fate of the integration process. In a few weeks, almost sixty million French will pronounce judgement on the ratification of the Constitution. The alternatives are clear: yes or no, in or out.
Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro constitute an economic area of 55 million people where – economist Franco Botta explains in this interview – about 20,000 Italian companies are already operating. But for the area to be able to put its potential to work, investments are needed. And initially this investments needs to be in infrastructure.
MORE MASCARA, WE’RE CHINESE Is vanity a man’s thing? There is no doubt that in the Far East vanity is becoming the eighth capital sin. The Far East seems to have become the Far West of male beauty products: new perfumes, treatments and massages are invading the market, encouraging oriental customers to follow in the footsteps of the “metrosexuals” (read, men who are obsessed with grooming their bodies and their look but not gay).
Goran Bregovic, born of a Serb mother and a Croatian father and with a Muslim wife, was already a rockstar when Tito was in power. Today he is a world-renowned composer who, out of sound realism, does not have any illusions about the thaumaturgical power of music. But he does believe in the possibility of changing the world little by little – for the best.
CHERCHEZ LA ROCKSTAR 2,700,000 dollars: the total amount paid by Russian millionaire Telman Ismailov to Ricky Martin, Mariah Carey (850,000 dollars each) and Robbie Williams (1,000,000 dollars) for a private performance at his super luxury restaurant in Moscow.