Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

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Here are today’s top stories for Europe.

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A shudder rippled through Germany in election week as industrial giant Thyssenkrupp and India’s Tata Steel agreed to merge their European steel businesses to create the region’s second-largest producer, raising fears that as many as 4,000 jobs could be lost. The two have been in tie-up talks for more than a year, during a global steel glut caused by Chinese exports. — Leila Taha

Shoppers return. Retail sales in Britain rose in August at their fastest pace in four months, easily exceeding expectations and providing further evidence of a tentative pickup in consumer spending. The figures signal some improvement in consumer demand after faster inflation led Britons to rein in spending earlier in the year. The pound rose on the news, boosting investor expectations that the Bank of England will raise borrowing costs in the coming months.

Military moves. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates considered military action against Qatar—and the man who talked them down was Donald Trump. The Saudis and Emiratis were looking at ways to remove the Qatari regime, which they accuse of sponsoring terrorism and cozying up to Iran. Trump warned them that any military action would trigger a crisis that would only benefit Iran. A Saudi-led alliance cut ties with Qatar in June.

An employee inside a Siemens gas turbine. High tech--but very 20th-century.
Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi

German  shortcoming. Angela Merkel will seek a fourth term as German chancellor on Sunday, and the strength of the economy is a boon to her campaign. In areas including employment, productivity, and renewable energy, Germany outdoes most of its peers. But those solid 20th century indicators are masking weaknesses in 21st-century benchmarks like broadband and business degrees. The next government will be faced with a costly catch-up effort, whoever’s in charge.

Spreading trouble. Russia’s central bank agreed to bail out B&N Bank, one of the country’s top five closely-held lenders, as the second major rescue in less than a month stoked concerns of a wider crisis in Russian banking. The Bank of Russia will provide B&N with funds to bolster liquidity after the lender asked for the help. Last month, Russia took over Bank Otkritie following a run on deposits at the country’s largest private bank.

Catalan referendum. If you want to stage an illegal independence referendum, you’ll have to be stealthy about it. That’s what activists in Spain’s Catalonia region are learning as they try to deliver a vote on Oct. 1 in defiance of the Spanish authority. Activists are stashing ballot boxes in secret locations across the province and using encrypted messaging app Telegram to communicate. The risks are high, though—on Wednesday police arrested 12 people in raids on offices of the regional government .

Too lean. Ryanair is renowned for its efficient operations and bare-bones cost structure. But Europe’s largest discount airline looks to have cut it a bit too close when it came to pilot scheduling. The company was forced to cancel more than 2,000 flights before the end of October because there weren’t enough pilots to fly them. How did such a major snafu happen?

A Ryanair jet at Dublin Airport.
Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Compiled by Andy Reinhardt and Leila Taha

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