The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 3 September 2018

Politics

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Right and wrong

The rise of populism is being felt in Sweden as polls suggest the election could usher in radical change.

Campaigning for Sweden’s elections has entered the home stretch – the country heads to the ballot box on Sunday in what could be its most important vote in decades. The centre-left Social Democrats, who are in a governing coalition with the Green party, have been haemorrhaging support in recent years as immigration and security have become heated topics. Meanwhile, the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats – who have positioned the election as a choice between open immigration or protecting the welfare state Sweden is known for – have gained so much traction in polls that analysts believe they’ll prove the kingmaker once votes have been tallied. The rise of the far-right is an echo of a trend that has swept Europe in recent years but in Sweden it could fundamentally transform the country’s identity.

Energy

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Step on the gas

The ongoing US-Russia rumpus has spilled over into the energy industry with both sides vying for European business.

Russia’s flagship gas-pipeline project, Nord Stream 2, which would double the flow of natural gas to Europe, is continuing on schedule despite threats of further US sanctions on Russia and the pipeline’s European investors. Germany’s Uniper and Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell are among the backers of the €9.5bn project, half of which is being funded by Russia’s government-controlled Gazprom. The US worries that Berlin will become dependent on Russian supply but the media in Moscow has been quick to pounce on the fact that Washington is offering to supplement EU demand from its own stores of liquid natural gas, and therefore profit. Nord Stream 2 seems to be a zero-sum game: any political and economic gains for Russia are a lost opportunity for the US.

Industry

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Box clever

Savvy Finnish paper mills have countered the downturn in their primary product by embracing digital shopping’s need for cardboard.

For many decades, paper production was the backbone of the Finnish economy. Entire towns and cities developed around the flourishing paper mills, which employed hundreds of thousands of Finns. Digitalisation then dealt a devastating blow to the industry. The paper companies realised that the globalised economy and the rising trend of e-commerce – including, of course, fashion e-commerce – will create an increased need for packaging. The mills pivoted: producing pulp for cardboard rather than paper. Some, such as the Finnish-Swedish paper giant Stora Enso, went even further and started making packaging themselves. “Packaging and cardboard make up 45 per cent of our earnings”, says the firm’s Carl Norell. According to the Finnish Forest Industries Federation, cardboard production is at an all-time high in the country and is set to grow.

Society

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Game over

China’s premier wants to cut screen time for his nation’s youth over their poor eyesight. Easier said than done.

Chinese president Xi Jinping is worried that his country is becoming too short-sighted – literally. Last week he warned that the state is inching towards a health crisis where a large proportion of the populace is visually impaired. In the days after, the country’s education ministry published a notice to curb the number of new video games and limit the amount of time young people can play online. It seems that the two are connected: instances of near-sightedness are alarmingly prevalent in China’s young people due to extended hours of squinting at backlit video-game screens. While encouraging a bit less screen time and a bit more face-to-face interaction is laudable, no one is sure yet exactly how the state will prize children and teenagers away from their computers.

From Monocle 24

Image: Shutterstock

Is Kosovo's border in the right place?

The Foreign Desk

Previously a red line at the negotiating table, the idea of a land swap between Serbia and Kosovo is now being touted by both countries’ leaders. However, the idea hasn't been received well by the international community – or even by many of those living in the disputed regions.

From Monocle Films

The secret to throwing a dinner party

In our new “secret to” series, supper club host Gabriel Waterhouse shares his tips on organising a friendly feast in your home with great-quality food and (just as important) an entertaining atmosphere.

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