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Not least—and this spells trouble for the future—he has signally failed to provide for his succession. Meanwhile, though Mr Nazarbayev would probably win anyway if presidential elections were free and fair, he takes no chances. In late January Mr Nazarbayev set a date of March 20th for parliamentary elections. Supposedly, they are in order to provide a fresh mandate to boost growth. However stage-managed the elections, they may fail to mask the cracks likely to emerge as the economy slows.

Machines are mastering ever more intricate tasks, such as translating texts or diagnosing illnesses. Robots are also becoming capable of manual labour that hitherto could be carried out only by dexterous humans. There are two reasons. First, jobs in such places are generally less skilled.

Acculturation and Assimilation

Second, there is less capital tied up in old ways of doing things. Driverless taxis might take off more quickly in a new city in China, for instance, than in an old one in Europe. Attracting investment in labour-intensive manufacturing has been a route to riches for many developing countries, including China. But having a surplus of cheap labour is becoming less of a lure to manufacturers.

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An investment in industrial robots can be repaid in less than two years. Rich countries have more of the sorts of jobs that are harder for machines to replicate—those that require original ideas creating advertising , or complex social interactions arguing a case in court , or a blend of analysis and dexterity open-heart surgery.

But poorer countries are not powerless. Just because a job is deemed at risk from automation, it does not necessarily mean it will be replaced soon, notes Mr Frey. The cheapness of labour in relation to capital affects the rate of automation. Passing laws that make it less costly to hire and fire workers is likely to slow its advance. Scale also matters: farms in many poor countries are often too small to benefit from machines that have been around for decades.

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Consumer preferences are a third barrier. Mr Burr is hardly alone in hating automated checkouts, which explains why 3m cashiers are still employed in America. When the EU signed a German-inspired deal with Turkey to help stem the flow of refugees late last year, none of this mattered a jot. It was one of the most important European foreign-policy initiatives in years, but there was not a sniff of strategy to it. It reeked of desperation.

Turkey-watchers in Europe and liberals inside Turkey were united in outrage.

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Ideas such as slashing aid to countries that refuse to accept the return of failed asylum-seekers are doing the rounds. Officials in international-development agencies tear their hair out as carefully nurtured relationships in Africa are tossed aside to make way for quick-and-dirty deals to ship back rejected migrants. Southern European countries fret that a plan to open EU markets to Middle Eastern exports to create jobs for refugees will crowd out their manufacturers. Instead, to borrow from the late American neoconservative Irving Kristol, Europeans have started to resemble liberals mugged by reality.

It is easy to bleat about human rights when you are living in a peaceful, postmodern paradise; less so when you have millions of illegal migrants barging through your back door. Europeans are hardly new to Realpolitik the clue is in the word. Larger countries delegated values-based policy to Brussels while they got on with the hard stuff, such as security or access to oil. For every pious expression of support for international justice or condemnation of capital punishment, there was a shabby energy deal or quiet support for a useful dictator.

Even in its soft and fuzzy days, the EU was not toothless.

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Its strongest tool—the attraction of membership—combined European interests and values in one package. Enlargement to the east brought stability to the region while strengthening the rule of law and democratic institutions inside candidate countries. Maintaining them once countries have joined has proved harder, as the recent examples of Hungary and Poland demonstrate.

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Globally, Europeans have, in their gentle way, sought to bolster a rules-based order that has enabled their exporters to flourish. That looked like the future, once. It dithered again last year as the stream of migrants coming through Greece swelled, eventually leaving Mrs Merkel with little choice but to shower gifts upon Mr Erdogan in the hope of an agreement to stanch the flow. The Turkey deal may yet work although Charlemagne is struggling to find anyone who believes that it will. If it cuts the number of refugees and the borderless Schengen area survives, a European ideal will have been saved.

The crisis may also force the EU to look outward again. But these are slim hopes. Some future Qaddafi will be alert to the concessions he might win by threatening to unleash hordes of migrants upon European shores. Finland and Norway fear that Vladimir Putin may decide to do precisely that by waving through a host of Syrians and Afghans.

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  8. As for Turkey, had the Europeans woken up to the coming danger last spring, they might not have found themselves compromising their values so grubbily in the autumn. That would have been the strategic thing to do. Time to dust off some of those far-sighted think-tank reports. Whatever the term, the prediction is the same: that Angela Merkel is on the brink of reversing the generous policy towards asylum-seekers that saw more than a million of them reach Germany last year. Over the past six months she has slowly assembled a hard-headed, coherent migration strategy. But each of its elements is starting to give way. First, numbers. The winter weather has dented the refugee flows to Greece from Turkey, but not as quickly as hoped.

    Over 1, a day have reached Greece this month, a higher rate than last July when the crisis was already in full swing. Border controls erected along the migratory route since then complicate the journey, but determined migrants still make it to Germany. A growing number of Moroccans and Algerians, hailing from poor but peaceful countries, are coming to Germany, exploiting the trail blazed by Syrians and Afghans. Meanwhile the howls from regional officials who must house and feed the arrivals grow ever louder: last week a mayor bussed 31 Syrians to the federal chancellery in Berlin, saying his small town could no longer cope.

    To cut the numbers reaching Europe, Mrs Merkel has turned to realpolitik. German officials aim to strike deals with countries in the Maghreb and Asia to make it easier to return failed asylum-seekers, and are prepared to use development aid as a weapon.

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    Mrs Merkel believes that Turkey can help by disrupting people-smuggling networks and stepping up coastal patrols. But, despite the incentives, there is little sign of Turkish action so far. Without it, the refugee numbers will start to climb again once spring arrives. To deal with the influx Mrs Merkel has backed an EU plan to register asylum-seekers arriving in Italy and Greece and to relocate them around the club, with national quotas calculated in Brussels. A million asylum-seekers should be no great burden for a union of m people. But the relocation scheme has flopped too: many countries want nothing to do with refugees, and refugees have no interest in most countries.

    So the Germans are changing tack, seeking allies willing to help them resettle hundreds of thousands of Syrians directly from Turkey. France is among the countries prepared to take in the same number of resettled refugees it agreed to take under the relocation scheme. But this will work only if the illegal flows fall dramatically, which means the Turkey deal must kick into gear.

    In the meantime, Germany is beginning the difficult work of integrating hundreds of thousands of newcomers. The new-year horrors of Cologne, when hundreds of women were sexually assaulted by marauding groups of men, many of them Muslim asylum-seekers, focused minds on cultural differences. But bringing refugees into the workforce, the main engine of integration, represents at least as big a challenge. Mrs Merkel is racing against time. Her Christian Democratic Union and its coalition partners are increasingly restive.

    The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party is notching up double-digit polling results for the first time.