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The eastern shock

Europe's east is less homogenous than it looks—but is united in financial and political worries

Around 18 months ago a Hungarian friend bought a new apartment in one of the smarter districts of Budapest. It was small, but perfectly formed, with a view of the Danube if one craned one’s neck. Ilona fell in love with the flat while looking for a new home after her divorce. The price was at the top end of her budget, but she could just about manage. If the worst came to the worst, she would accept a paying guest.

She thought it odd when her bank recommended a mortgage in Swiss francs. But local interest rates were in…

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