How Poland Became Europe’s Most Dynamic Economy

My story on Poland’s unlikely economic success has just been published in Bloomberg Businessweek.

The oldest coffee shop in Warsaw has been in operation nearly without interruption since the end of the 18th century. In the upstairs room, a young Frédéric Chopin played one of his last concerts before emigrating to Paris. During the Nazi occupation from 1939 to 1945, the cafe was strictly for Germans. When the city rose up at the end of the war, the building, like much of the old city around it, was completely destroyed—then reconstructed from photographs in the years following. The cafe was state-owned under communism and privatized in 1989 after the fall of the Iron Curtain, sold to a journalist and a jazz musician. “And now,” says Polish businessman Adam Ringer, sitting in the cafe in early October, “it’s been bought by an international company.”

Ringer, 64, reopened the cafe earlier this year under the name Green Caffè Nero, a coffee chain co-owned by Ringer, another Polish partner, and the U.K.-based chain Caffe Nero. “Here you have the whole history of Poland,” he says. “Look at that wall. Each brick is different. They were gathered from the ruins of prewar Warsaw.” Although they’re always aware of the past, Ringer and his countrymen are charging ahead. Revenue at most of his chain’s locations is up 10 percent from the year before, and the company is in the midst of a rapid expansion. “People are much richer than they were, and you can easily feel it,” he says.

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Even Political Expulsion Can’t Take Berlusconi out of Politics

Bloomberg Businessweek has just published my story on Silvio Berlusconi’s expulsion from the Italian senate.

It wasn’t the first time that journalists sat down to write Silvio Berlusconi’s political obituary, and Italy’s former prime minister was making it clear he’d do his best to ensure it wouldn’t be the last. Even as the Italian senate prepared to expel him, the media mogul was promising a crowd of supporters in front of his house in central Rome that he was far from through with politics. “We’re here on a bitter day, a day of mourning for democracy,” he said. “Now, none of us can be sure of our rights, of our liberty, and so we mustn’t give up the fight.”

Things have never looked so grim for Berlusconi. Sentenced in August to a year of community service for tax fraud, he also faces a 6-year ban from public office. His party suffered a schism last month when his onetime lieutenant refused to join his attempt to bring down the government. Other charges, including a conviction under appeal for paying for sex with a minor and abusing his office to cover it up, are looming ever closer. The loss of his senate seat strips Berlusconi of his parliamentary immunity, opening the possibility that a judge could put him under precautionary arrest.

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