Friday. 22/2/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Defence

Barmy army

With a European Defence Fund in the pipeline, will the countries involved decide to take things further?

Should the EU have its own army? Macron and Merkel have hinted that they think it’s a good idea; Russia is becoming more wayward and Washington less helpful. This week the European Commission cut a provisional agreement to create a European Defence Fund: a joint coffer that will enable countries to buddy up on defence research. The move is likely to once again ignite talk of an EU defence force but Dr Ulrike Esther Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, thinks forming one could be impossible. “An EU army is one of those ideas that is meant to inspire,” she says. “But no country is likely to agree to dissolving its individual armed forces and, if there was a united force, would all member states have to agree on where to send it?”

Image: Shutterstock

Society

Happily ever after?

As Taiwan’s government proposes equality for gay marriage, some wonder if it’s just a ploy – and one that could backfire – to attract young voters ahead of the election.

The Taiwanese government is pressing ahead with a plan to legalise same-sex marriage despite the public voting it down in a referendum last year. The new legislation proposes giving gay couples similar legal protections for marriage as heterosexuals. While it’s a progressive step in the right direction, it flies in the face of public sentiment and there is likely to be an outcry. James Chambers, Monocle’s Hong Kong bureau chief, currently reporting from Taipei, thinks it represents a play by Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen (pictured) for the support of young voters ahead of the general election in 2020. “Tsai is hoping that this will help her bounce back after a poor performance in the midterms last year,” he says. “But it’s a risky political gamble.”

Image: Alamy

Transport

All change, please

A plan to bring driverless buses to Stockholm hasn’t got everyone on board.

An effort to introduce driverless buses to the streets of Stockholm was announced this week. Bus-builders Scania and public-transport operators Nobina unveiled plans for two electric-powered, self-driving coaches that would serve a 5km-long stretch on the outskirts of the city by 2020. This isn’t the first time that driverless transport has been planned for the city and Christian Wolmar, author of Driverless Cars: On a Road to Nowhere, is sceptical. “Stockholm will have to create a whole separate infrastructure for the bus, with its own dedicated bus lane. The technology is also expensive – and the fact that the buses will be monitored by a security driver means they won’t even be saving on labour costs.”

Image: Shutterstock

Science

Raining stats and logs

Weather experts convene in Japan today – and Tokyo hopes that their knowledge will be a soft-power asset.

Japan’s unfortunate propensity for natural disasters has an upside: all the earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and heatwaves there mean that nowhere in the world has more expertise on how best to weather the storms. Today the Kansai Resilience Forum assembles in Kobe to discuss all things related to preparing for, and responding to, environmental extremes. With the effects of climate change ever more concerning, the Japanese government is keen to promote its expertise as a soft-power export. Also on the agenda will be discussions around plans to counter risks associated with staging the G20 Summit in June, September’s Rugby World Cup and next year’s Tokyo Olympics. To hear more about what’s on the forecast, listen to the latest episode of The Monocle Daily.

Image: Getty Images

Why is Australia so worried about refugees?

The Foreign Desk: Explainer

How did Australia’s infamous asylum-seeker policies begin? Ben Rylan explains how the Tampa Affair in 2001 radically shifted the nation’s politics.

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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