Tuesday. 26/3/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Right on the rise

Alongside the tram shooting in Utrecht last week there was another major story from the Netherlands that you might have missed. Thierry Baudet, the leader of Forum for Democracy, saw his relatively new party win more seats than any other in the regional elections that decide the make-up of parliament’s upper house. Baudet is highly conservative and anti-immigration – he’s been likened to right-wing politicians Geert Wilders and Pim Fortuyn.

The rise of this new – arguably more dangerous – form of populism is worrying. Though it’s likely that the highly fragmented Dutch political landscape will render the party largely impotent in terms of policy-making.

But there’s another, closer-to-home concern in all this: Baudet is a vocal Eurosceptic who has openly called for the Netherlands to withdraw from the EU (“Nexit”, in case you were wondering). He says he’s waiting to see how Brexit plays out (not well, in case you were wondering). Such threats felt empty before the UK’s 2016 referendum but it’s now possible that the EU will want to set an example by punishing Westminster for its indecisiveness rather than accommodating it.

Diplomacy / Syria

Delicate debate

This weekend the Arab League Summit comes to Tunisia. While bringing about a final chapter to the civil war in Syria will be high on the agenda, discussions in the run-up to the event have surrounded whether or not to let the war-torn country back into the club. In 2011 its membership was suspended as president Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on opponents intensified. Now, with the conflict abating and Arab nations reinstating diplomatic ties with Assad’s government, some are calling for Syria to rejoin the league. Punishing Assad for eight years of atrocious acts carried out upon his own people sends the right moral message but severing ties with Syria will push him closer to allies such as Russia and Iran. Enabling such powers to gain a better foothold in the region is something that league members will be loath to allow.

Transport / Indonesia

Clearing up congestion

Roads in Jakarta, infamous for smog and gridlocked traffic, may be about to improve. Sunday saw the opening of the Indonesian capital’s first underground train line, which will run about 16km south from the city centre. Its location might be Indonesian but nearly everything else about it is Japanese. The project was largely funded by Japan’s foreign ministry and the line was built with the help of an all-star cast of Japanese companies: Shimizu and Obayashi Corporations bored and built the tunnels, while Sumitomo and Nippon Sharyo built the trains. As well as improving life in Jakarta, the project is a convincing opening gambit for Japan when it comes to the notion of exporting its transport and infrastructural know-how to other countries.

Geopolitics / China

Tricky customer

Today Chinese president Xi Jinping is in talks with European leaders Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker in Paris. Xi is expected to face strong resistance to his designs on European territory; his intentions were made clear by Italy’s participation in the One Belt One Road initiative. Last Friday, Macron announced that “the period of European naivety is over” in economic dealings with China. However, even as he suggests a united front against Chinese expansion, technology giant Huawei will launch its flagship P30 phone in Paris. And while the US is encouraging its allies to ban Huawei’s phones and other technology, Macron is expected to hold talks regarding the future of a 5G Huawei network in France, which is a thorny issue among many EU and American partners. Will the economic benefits coax Macron to overlook Huawei’s transgressions?

Architecture / Qatar

Ivory towers?

An architectural arms race is raging in the Gulf, with landmark buildings as the weapons of choice. States are competing to build grand cultural institutions designed by the world’s most famous architects as lavish symbols of identity and status, which have so far included Rem Koolhaas’s Qatar National Library and Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi. The latest, also designed by Nouvel, will open on Thursday: Qatar’s National Museum. At an estimated cost of €383m, the museum is a futuristic-looking affair made up of interlocking concrete discs built to resemble, we’re told, the shape of a desert rose. The structure may be aesthetically striking but this constant struggle to one-up its neighbours has left the city teeming with monumental, impersonal institutions that seem disconnected from their surroundings.

M24 / The Menu

‘Salt & Time’

Top recipes from Russia, Ljubljana’s ambitious plan to become Europe’s culinary capital, plus how you can help eliminate food waste by drinking beer.

Film / Spain

Entrepreneurs: Casa Bonay

Monocle Films travels to Barcelona to meet 32-year-old entrepreneur Inés Miró-Sans, who is busy shaking up the hotel industry. We check in to Casa Bonay to find the key to its success.

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