Friday. 5/4/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Nolan Giles

Blue skies ahead?

With currency slides, failed construction projects and an increasingly illiberal leader, Brand Turkey has suffered in recent months – and a long delay in opening what one day may be the world’s largest airport hasn’t helped. But the opportunities that the new high-capacity Istanbul airport presents, both in terms of the economy and its national carrier Turkish Airlines, are immense. The first phase of opening begins today and, fittingly, the last plane to carry passengers from the old Ataturk Airport flies to Singapore this Saturday – arriving at what many dub “the world’s best airport”.   It’s from Singapore that Istanbul should be taking its cue. Later this month Changi Airport unveils, quite literally, the jewel in its crown: Jewel is a sprawling, beautifully landscaped domed restaurant and shopping precinct within the airport’s grounds. Granted, we’re not expecting such mega-plazas at Istanbul Airport in the near future. But we do hope that in eight years – by which time it will have the capacity to handle more people than anywhere else – passengers are being offered pleasing facilities and on-time flights, staff are happy and the nation’s carrier is soaring successfully. After all, these are the factors that have not only made Changi a highly functional airport but also a bona fide national icon – and that’s certainly something that would give Turkey a much-needed lift.

Geopolitics / Canada & China

Tricky questions

The World Uyghur Congress arrived in Ottawa this week with hopes of convincing the Canadian government to ramp up its condemnation of China’s internment of the Uyghur minority group in Xinjiang. But its calls might fall on deaf ears. Canada has gone quiet on the issue since a political row erupted in December, when Canada arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou; the move saw China arbitrarily detain two Canadian citizens in response. Trudeau’s reluctance to further escalate tensions is understandable, especially as his government is dealing with the SNC-Lavalin scandal, relating to claims of government interference in a bribery prosecution. But protecting human rights has long been a central tenet of Canada’s Liberal governments. If Trudeau looks like he’s capitulating to a global bully, it could be a soft spot come election time in October.

Trade / Russia & Germany

Wheels of fortune

Russia has struggled to entice foreign investment amid economic sanctions and political scandals but it appears that Vladimir Putin has found friends in Germany. On Wednesday he unveiled the first of three new Mercedes-Benz factories (this one in Esipovo, a town northwest of Moscow) and took a tour of the facility with Peter Altmaier, Germany’s minister for economic affairs and energy. The plant is capable of producing as many as 25,000 vehicles per year and as the first car came off the production line, the Russian leader signed the bonnet. Altmaier has said that the two nations do not intend to paper over the cracks in their relationship with this deal. German manufacturing has a tried and tested reputation but will carrying a “Made in Russia” origin label backfire on the carmaker?  

Aviation / Istanbul

Welcome aboard

Turkey’s colossal new €7bn airport will open to the public this weekend after months of delays and a labour protest over poor working conditions. It’s one of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s key infrastructure projects and a vital element of the country’s ambition to turn itself into a global aviation hub. The airport will initially have a capacity of 90 million passengers but the government says that this could double by 2027. That would put Turkish Airlines in a much better position to challenge regional heavyweights Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways; already the flagship carrier has plans to add another 138 planes to its fleet. A successful launch could help Erdogan in the short term too, by deflecting attention from his ruling alliance’s poor showing at local elections last weekend.

Defence / Global

Your country (kind of) needs you

Sweden has this year sentenced three conscripted soldiers (not pictured) to serve prison time for dereliction of duty. In 2010 Sweden followed the likes of the UK by discontinuing its policy of conscription, only to reinstate it seven years later in the face of an increasingly aggressive Russia. Military pragmatism isn’t the only reason that states might view conscription kindly: last year French president Emmanuel Macron reintroduced a watered-down national service designed to install civic pride in teenagers. However, for all that a shared experience of military service might develop a sense of cohesion among citizens, Sweden’s sentencing shows that forcing youth into the forces is out of step with the aspirations of many.

M24 / The Golden Age of Aviation

Soaring in Seattle

Monocle contributing editor Tristan McAllister heads to Seattle, the birthplace of Boeing, to find out its role in the world of aviation. He heads to Teague – the design agency responsible for some of the most iconic plane interiors – and the Museum of Flight, and meets the people for whom the industry has unlocked a life of adventure.

Film / Czech Republic

Speciality retail: Prague

Prague butcher Naše maso has married traditional know-how with contemporary design to create a culinary destination in the Czech capital. This month’s specialist retailer tells us about his special cuts and meaty passions.

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