The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 2 May 2017

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Brussels sprouts?

We reflect on signs that the word 'union' isn't misplaced in the EU.

Recent victories for pro-EU politicians seems to suggest that the populist eurosceptic narrative that gripped Europe following the Brexit referendum is shifting. In France, polls predict that EU-friendly candidate Emmanuel Macron will win the presidential election on 7 May. Then there was Matteo Renzi again being named leader of his pro-EU ruling party on Sunday – and that's after stepping down as Italy PM in December after a failed referendum on constitutional reforms, which eurosceptics saw as an indictment of the bloc. And despite populist tension in Germany, political analysts expect an easy win for Angela Merkel in September's general election. Even so, the EU still has much to grapple with. Macron has vowed to push for significant governance reforms in the EU if he wins. Meanwhile, Renzi's party has slipped behind the anti-EU Five Star Movement in polls, which could prove a problem in 2018's election. Then there are those Brexit negotiations to deal with, not to mention the small matter of a refugee crisis. Brussels can't exactly breathe easy.

Transport

Image: Alamy

Roll with it

Ontario is hoping to get swept along by Canada’s economic success and steam ahead with its high-speed rail plans.

High-speed rail in Canada has been a distant dream for successive governments – the distances between cities and varied terrain have made it a challenging, and expensive, prospect. But could plans be picking up speed? Early proposals by Ontario’s government are underway for a high-speed link between Toronto and southern Ontario, home to burgeoning technology and research hubs in Waterloo and London, and the manufacturing base in Windsor. Formal proposals will be unveiled this month as part of a 10-year CA$160bn (€107bn) infrastructure strategy for the province. But the hope is to capitalise on the economy’s current momentum which, like Canada’s finances nationally, have broadly outperformed expectations in the first quarter.

Manufacturing

Turning the clock back

Two Romanian entrepreneurs are relaunching a watch brand in a bid to revive the country’s horological heritage.

Communist Romania was a surprising cache of horological knowledge and Optimef was one of the bloc’s best-loved watchmakers when it launched in 1979. Hoping to bring back some of that knowhow, Romanian entrepreneurs Andrei Morariu and Bogdan Costea have rebooted the Optimef name with a muted modernist design that pays homage to the original watch. The Farazece model (farazece means “it’s ten to” in Romanian) is equipped with a Japanese mechanism and looks as crisp, clean and fresh-faced as when it first came out of the Mecanică Fină factory in Bucharest. Though the initial watches are being manufactured in Asia, there are plans to shift assembly west and rekindle the industry in Romania.

Arts

Making it

A celebration of craftsmanship comes to London but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a craft-friendly capital.

From tomorrow, museums, corporate office buildings, ateliers and studios across the UK capital will be taken over by London Craft Week. The five-day event is a celebration of all things craft – from fashion and jewellery to bookbinding and upholstery – and attracts international as well as British talent. Programme highlights include an exhibition on the relationship between designer Hans J Wegner and Carl Hansen & Søn (until Friday) and a Q&A session with Loewe’s Jonathan Andersen (on Thursday). Yet while extolling the virtues of craft is all well and good, the event should not shirk pressing questions about the future of craftsmanship in our cities. London is a cautionary tale demonstrating how rising property prices and shrinking studio spaces can hamper craftspeople. It would be wrong to pretend the city is a ceramicist’s dream.

From Monocle 24

Browsing for books

Culture with Robert Bound

From London to Milan and Belgrade to Toronto, we showcase the independent bookshops that are thriving around the world.

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