The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 1 May 2017

Politics

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Entente cordiale?

Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin are set to meet. But will the German chancellor’s message sink in?

The first time German chancellor Angela Merkel visited Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin, the Russian president kept her waiting for several hours and then – knowing Merkel’s phobia of dogs – invited his black Labrador Connie into the room. When Merkel returns to Moscow tomorrow, Putin is unlikely to try to intimidate her. While their relationship remains frosty, Putin realises that Merkel is not the sort of leader to be pushed around. Ukraine and EU sanctions will almost certainly be on the agenda – Merkel is a strong supporter of sanctions, even as others in the EU (and some German business lobbies) are urging a softer approach. Merkel won’t back down but her visit suggests she is keen to maintain a dialogue. So long, of course, as there are no dogs present.

Legislation

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High ambition

Canada is about to become the first G7 country to legalise marijuana use.

Legalising marijuana might seem like an easy vote-winning measure in the more progressive parts of the world but as Canada and the handful of US states preparing to legalise the drug are learning, it’s not as easy as it might seem. After Justin Trudeau’s government revealed plans to decriminalise pot, worries about more people driving while high emerged. In response, the government is now looking to overhaul the way roadside sobriety tests are conducted so police can test for THC as well as alcohol. Yet the equipment and training will be costly and there’s no clear idea where those funds will come from. Then there’s the thorny issue of regulation and taxation, which will be especially complicated in the US as it will need to be dealt with on a state-by-state basis: there won’t be a solid blueprint to follow. It’s all a bit of a buzz kill.

Tourism

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Crowd control

Venice desperately needs to find a way to regulate the number of visitors who crowd into its narrow streets.

Venice has often been accused of under-regulation when it comes to dealing with the crowds of tourists who land on its shores every year. But as conservation issues and public-order problems become more acute, the city has had to come up with methods to keep the influx in check. Its latest idea? To install people counters near strategic areas such as Calatrava’s Bridge and the Ponte degli Scalzi by the city’s train station as well as the bridges close to the tourist boat docks. The counters will help monitor the flux and gather data for further regulatory plans. This measure may help control the number of visitors but it won’t help make this city feel any less of an amusement park, especially as its tourism councillor Paola Mar wants to turn the whole of San Marco Square into a ticketed attraction. As long as giant cruises are allowed into the city centre Venice’s dreams simply won’t come true.

Retail

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Watch this space

Swiss watches are still de rigueur in Hong Kong – and sales are finally on the up.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s largest markets for luxury Swiss timepieces so it will come as a relief to Geneva’s watchmakers that exports to the Asian city increased in March for the first time in more than two years. Switzerland shipped watches worth a total of €192m to Hong Kong, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, although it’s still too early to call it a turnaround. An oversupply of watches and a drop in demand from mainland Chinese consumers contributed to a 10 per cent decline in global sales last year – and plenty of glum faces at the industry’s recent annual gathering, Baselworld. But demand in Hong Kong for so-called “important watches” is ticking along nicely. A rare Richard Mille pink-gold chronograph was the top lot in a recent Sotheby’s watch auction. Collectors will be watching out for a vintage Rolex Paul Newman Daytona being auctioned at Christie’s later this month.

From Monocle 24

Image: Gage Skidnire

Trump’s first 100 days

The Foreign Desk

We look at five key days that have defined Donald Trump’s presidency so far: from healthcare, to the relationship with the media, turning against old allies, imposing a travel ban and the ongoing investigation into links with Russia.

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