Angela Merkel is expected to deliver a passionate call for unity when she addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg tomorrow. With populists at home and abroad circling, it might appear that Europe’s Iron Lady has run out of steam; ambitious members of her Conservative bloc are already desperate to stake their own leadership credentials. But in spite of trouble at home, Merkel still commands considerable respect from her continental allies – and her intention to stand aside in 2021 has, quite rightly, made them nervous. However, according to Politico’s chief Europe correspondent, Matthew Karnitschnig, the chancellor still has a lot to offer European politics: “Merkel is very well liked”, he says. “She has a strong reputation and the continent’s leaders look up to her for guidance. We shouldn’t write her off just yet.”
Singapore will be on high alert this week as the region’s leaders arrive for the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit. The biannual affair will be the third major event held in the country this year: the other two came in the form of the first 2018 summit and Donald Trump’s historic June meeting with Kim Jong-un. While the Asean summit doesn’t require quite as many military personnel to beef up security in comparison to the Trump and Kim show, it still presents a considerable logistical challenge. Singapore will be expected to guarantee the security of Southeast Asian leaders as well as US vice-president Mike Pence, who will be in attendance. The agenda is likely to be dominated by China’s activities in the South China Sea; that will certainly be on Pence’s mind following a recent near miss between American and Chinese warships.
Ungoverned shantytowns are a well-recognised problem across Africa, with the means of forming them poorly managed – or not in place at all. Ghana is seeking to address the issue by releasing the country’s first construction rulebook. Authored by Ghana’s Ministry of Works and Housing, and Ministry of Trade and Industry (among others), the 1,700-page document has set parameters on everything from fire safety to plumbing and electrical standards. It won’t fix the wider housing problem but if it’s administered properly it is a step towards providing safe habitation for those who have to endure these living conditions – and may inspire other nations to offer a similar service.
As the world's most literate country, it makes sense that Finland would make its public libraries a high priority. The country sees them as engines of democracy, community and engaged citizenship, which is why, in celebration of 101 years of independence, the Finnish government will be opening a new one in the heart of Helsinki next month. Designed by homegrown ALA Architects, the €98m Central Library will house (soundproofed) recording studios and a maker space alongside its literature. We're looking forward to finding out whether this new piece of architecture can encapsulate Finland’s astute national values.
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