Charlemagne: Europe’s great alchemist

THE medieval alchemists who tried to transmute base metals into gold shrouded their theories in impenetrable mystic language. By comparison Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, was restrained in his choice of metaphor as he announced his long-awaited investment package this week in the European Parliament. His plan, he said, was a “watering can” that would nurture the European economy back to growth. But he appears to have placed his hopes in the same mysterious forces channelled by the ancients in their gnostic quest.With a hint of reproach to his predecessors, Mr Juncker argues that the EU is facing its “last chance”. Populists and demagogues, he suggests darkly, lie in wait if Europe cannot find the will to tackle its problems of low growth and high unemployment. Sceptics doubt whether Mr Juncker, a longtime prime minister of Luxembourg and consummate Brussels insider, is the man to reinvigorate Europe. But even before taking office on November 1st he signalled that he meant business, streamlining the clunky structure of the commission and promising a clutch of early initiatives.Chief among these was a planned three-year €300 billion…

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