Monday. 4/2/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Defence

Taking flight

Germany plans to buy three news planes from Airbus – to avoid any further air-travel embarrassment.

Germany’s Ministry of Defence has its eye on an Airbus – or three. Defence minister Ursula von der Leyen has plans to purchase an A350 by the end of 2019 to bolster the government’s flagging fleet. The A350, which will cost an estimated €150m, could be the first of three that the ministry buys from Airbus. The prospective purchase follows Angela Merkel’s aviatory mishap in November: she arrived late at the G20 summit in Argentina after being forced to take a commercial Iberia flight to Buenos Aires via Madrid because several electronic systems on the ageing A340-300 she was travelling on failed. She missed a meeting with Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping.

Image: Shutterstock

Media

News flash

The stand-off between the Kremlin and the BBC continues as Moscow accuses the British broadcaster of wrongdoing.

Moscow’s state-run media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has accused the BBC of “certain violations” while operating in Russia. While the organisation gave no further details, it is curious that it only decided to launch its investigation after Britain’s media watchdog, Ofcom, found the Kremlin-backed RT network guilty of breaching impartiality rules in the UK. So what should we make of it? “The Kremlin sees Ofcom’s decision as politically motivated and some senior politicians are even openly accusing the BBC of peddling fake news,” says James Rodgers, BBC’s former Moscow correspondent. “Roskomnadzor’s response could depend on whether Ofcom acts over RT.” The broadcast media – it seems – has become an essential part of Moscow’s information war.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy

Hue and cry

The Pope’s arrival in the UAE is a historic event but he’s unlikely to challenge the status quo.

Since his papacy began a little under six years ago, His Holiness Pope Francis has proved a divisive figure. His liberal approach has won him fans but alienated conservative Catholics who view his reformist attitude as a threat. Yesterday he arrived in the UAE, the first pontiff ever to visit the Arabian Peninsula, on the invitation of Abu Dhabi’s crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Nominally an exercise in interfaith dialoguing, his visit sends a powerful message. However, admirers of his outspokenness in the face of injustice may find the trip disappointing: a 2017 visit to Myanmar saw him studiously avoid mentioning the beleaguered Rohingya. While he’s demonstrated a willingness to use his platform as a soapbox in the past, in the face of the UAE’s human-rights record his silence is likely to be deafening.

Image: Getty Images

Politics

Scores on the doors

This year’s Corruption Perception Index shows progress in West Africa but also the worrying effects of populism.

Last week saw the release of the 2018 Corruption Perception Index. The survey scores 180 countries on their transparency and democracy, tallying the events of last year and offering a glimpse into what to expect in 2019. Denmark, New Zealand and Finland took the top spots, all scoring in the high-80s (on a 0-100 scale). It’s glad tidings for West Africa too, where Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire continue their rapid ascent (scoring 35 and 45 respectively) but the Sub-Saharan region remains the most corrupt. Hungary’s score is perhaps one of the most worrying figures in Europe: Viktor Orbán’s right-wing government has earned the country one of its lowest scores on the index (46) since the end of communism there in 1989. Unsurprisingly the US and Brazil have been placed on the list of “countries to watch”, as their populist leaders threaten to undermine their respective democratic institutions and legal frameworks.

Venezuela: a solution at last?

The Foreign Desk

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has long outstayed his welcome – and it appears that the world’s patience is wearing thin, as countries and institutions begin recognising a rival leader. Is his time finally up?

The high life, Lower Engadine

Each Swiss valley has its own culture – even language. Locals make the most of their isolation but also know how to sell their skills. The Lower Engadine has perfected this lost-world vibrancy.

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