This week's big questions: Does Ukip have a point on migration, and is Egypt heading the way of Iran?

This week's questions are answered by Anne Applebaum, journalist and Pulitzer-Prize winning author

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Should the UN recognise Palestine’s statehood?

No – though I realise it’s too late to say so, as the vote went overwhelmingly in the opposite direction. But Palestine isn’t a sovereign state – it doesn’t control its own borders – and to pretend otherwise is mendacious. It’s always better to call things by their real names, especially in the smoke-and-mirrors world of diplomacy.


Is Ukip correct to demand restrictions on immigration to the UK from Eastern European countries?

No. Who would sell you clothes, pour your coffee, paint your walls? Immigration is one of the primary sources of economic growth and prosperity in Britain. Besides, Eastern Europeans come and go – huge numbers of them return home every year, where they might set up businesses which might buy and sell from Britain.


Would the United States appoint a Canadian as the head of its central bank?

Never. But then, we don’t have a commonwealth and we never had an empire. We don’t think of Canadians as almost-but-not-quite-really citizens. This might be to your advantage: it’s always good to have an outsider’s perspective.


Could Egypt’s revolution be a repeat of the Iranian revolution of 1979 with President Morsi as a theocratic tyrant in waiting?

Unlikely. Egypt doesn’t have oil, and thus the Egyptian state, whoever controls it, can never be that powerful. He isn’t going to have the resources to keep people quiet, and he doesn’t, so far, seem to have an economic programme that will make them wealthier either, so a totalitarian theocracy is going to be tough to impose.


Does Europe need to ensure the survival of the euro?

Yes, if not for the euro’s sake then for Europe’s sake. Europe needs to prove to itself that it can cope with a real crisis. It would have been better all round if the euro had never been created, but if it falls apart, all kinds of other things may unravel as well. Most Europeans know this – in particular, most Germans know this – and the British have consistently underestimated the German determination to save the currency and save themselves.


How worried should we be about the absence of the rule of law in Russia?

Very worried. Think how much Russian money now sloshes around London, and think what people who aren’t bound by legal or moral scruples are going to try to do with it. You might think Russia is a faraway country of which you know little, but Russians now own half of Mayfair, so they are a lot closer than you think.


Should Britain hold a referendum to resolve once and for all whether to stay in the EU?

Yes, if only to put the argument to rest for good. Everyone is tired of hearing about it. Europe will be sad to see you go, but not as sad as you think.


Would the former Iron Curtain countries of Eastern Europe cope if the EU imploded over the eurozone crisis?

Some would and some wouldn’t. “Eastern Europe”, as we once knew it, no longer exists. Poland is now as different from Albania as Britain is from Greece.

In any case, that’s the wrong question: what I’d like to know is whether the nations of what we used to call Western Europe would cope. The countries that most need EU support and solidarity are Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, and the country that has benefited most from the eurozone is Germany.


Should British universities lower admission standards for applicants from disadvantaged homes?

American universities do that, in practice, and it hasn’t led to intellectual Armageddon. But many beneficiaries of that kind of affirmative action fail because they are poorly prepared, so the policy hasn’t had the desired effect.

It would make a lot more sense to pick bright students from poor families early, and to give them bursaries or extra tuition so that they can compete at the same level as others. Best of all would be to fix the school system so that everyone can get a good education regardless of their income.


Anne Applebaum is an American journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has written extensively about communism and the development of civil society in Central and Eastern Europe. Her latest book is ‘Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56’

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