Cape Verde’s PM tells us why small states have it better, plus Honduran press freedom under threat.
Smaller countries often have to be more creative when it comes to putting themselves on the map. “Our assets are intangible,” says Cape Verde’s prime minister, Ulisses Correia e Silva. “We don’t have minerals or natural resources but we have democracy and social and political stability. And we have distinct cultural assets in particular our literature and music. These help us build influence globally.”
A 10-island archipelago off the west coast of Africa, Cape Verde has a population of just 500,000. But what it lacks in size, it is trying to make up for with cultural esteem. The country is applying for United Nations heritage listing for morna, its unique musical and dance style, which Correia e Silva wants to see up in the echelons of Portugal’s fado, Argentina’s tango or Cuba’s rumba. Cape Verde also hosted Morabeza, the country’s first literary festival, at the end of 2017. The event saw 40 homegrown and international writers convene in the capital, Praia, for a week – a simple way to introduce and promote talent from Cape Verde and beyond.
But given the country’s size and its remoteness, Correia e Silva, who has been prime minister since 2016, knows that Cape Verde must be seen as more than a holiday hotspot that’s home to talent. He has overseen the capital’s urban renewal; today, the pedestrianised centre is dotted with parks and cafés that serve fresh salads, homemade ice cream and refreshing caipirinhas. “We want our cities to be more attractive,” he says. “Psychologically it’s very important; it makes it easier for people to invest. We want people to feel they could build their HQs here and do business with West Africa from here.” He is also rolling out the programme to other cities across the archipelago, selling them on the idea that it’s a benefit of being smaller that infrastructure projects need not be a herculean task.
The government is also taking inspiration from other small nations further afield: Correia e Silva is in talks with Icelandair as his government moves to privatise its own beleaguered national airline. “Iceland faces similar challenges to us,” says Correia e Silva. “It also has a small population and is an island that needs to be connected to the world. It grew the economy by becoming a successful hub and that’s what we are also hoping to achieve.”
Given the consequences of the Catalonian referendum, any election involving a European region championing autonomy now garners apprehension. But nationalist party Pè a Corsica, which won the recent Corsican elections with 56.5 per cent of the vote, insists the goal isn’t independence – for now. “There are similarities between Corsica and Catalonia but there are important differences: economic mainly but demographic and institutional too,” says Pè a Corsica’s leader Gilles Simeoni. His demands are recognition for the Corsican language, an independent taxation system and freedom for political prisoners arrested before the struggle ceased in 2014.
The recent presidential elections impasse in Honduras, and the questionable repeat candidacy of Juan Orlando Hernández, has raised a number of questions about the free function of institutions in the Central American nation. With the 2009 coup that removed Manuel Zelaya from power still fresh in people’s minds, media freedom has been a particular concern. Three freelancers were refused entry to the country for what they say were dubious reasons when trying to cover the immediate aftermath of the contested election.
David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and was the UK’s secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs from 2007 to 2010. His new book is Rescue: Refugees and the Political Crisis of Our Time, published by ted Books. He sits down with monocle to discuss Europe’s refugee policy, populism and finding middle ground.
When formulating refugee policy, should governments take account of populist anti-immigration feeling?
Europe’s choice is either undocumented, illegal, unplanned movements of people or planned, organised and recognised movements of people. Germany is doing an extraordinary job of organising the processing of asylum claims and the integration of people into German society. There has been a political consequence, there’s no point denying that. The centre did hold in the German election, but there was this growth of the AfD – but I fear that the [opposite approach to refugees] would have been far more damaging than [Angela Merkel’s] decision, because the [opposite] is that you ignore the problem, which would have been far more risky.
Is the political centre ground still there for the taking, or has it disappeared?
I think the centre ground does exist, but it has to be understood properly. The left–right spectrum implies a single axis of political division, and a single point of centrality. I think we have to think about politics in 360 degrees. And the centre ground is not static: it moves. We [in the Labour party] came to power as a centre-left government, and we moved the centre ground on issues of equality, public spending and regulation.
Watching from afar, do you believe that Brexit is being incompetently handled?
There is incompetence, but even if you had an incredibly competent government, they would still have problems.