Wednesday. 1/5/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tyler Brûlé

On the same page

Europe’s newspaper landscape became a bit more varied and, dare we say, promising yesterday with news that INM, owner of some of Ireland’s most high-profile newspapers, will become part of the Antwerp-based Mediahuis Group. With De Standaard, based just outside of Brussels, and Amsterdam-based NRC Handelsblad the crown jewels in the group, the Irish Independent and The Herald can be happy that they’ll soon have some muscular editorial siblings on the Continent. While Belgium doesn’t exactly spring to mind when you think media powerhouses, Mediahuis rival Persgroep (owner of Het Parool and a host of other Dutch and Belgian media assets) has also extended beyond the Low Countries by snatching up Denmark’s Berlingske and Weekendavisen.

Could this be part of a broader exercise that will see the Belgians pick up other European dailies and weeklies? Quite likely. And to this we’d add, why not? The gloom around newspapers needs to lift and it’s high time for some fresh thinking and new business models. The Belgians and Dutch produce some handsome newspapers and supplements and the Irish could use a little Flemish design flair on page.

Politics / Venezuela

On a knife-edge

Anti-government factions took to the streets of Caracas yesterday as Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó claimed that he is “starting the final phase” of his bid to unseat president Nicolás Maduro. Guaidó told the public that Maduro has lost the support of the military but it’s unclear whether that’s true. The developments present a predicament for Guaidó’s international supporters, the most vocal being Donald Trump. If the military brass sticks by Maduro, what next? Will the International community abandon Guaidó, whom they’ve recognised as Venezuela’s rightful leader, or will a hawkish US government escalate the situation further? Initial reports suggest that the White House is reluctant to inflame an already unpredictable situation. The prospects for Venezuela's short-term future are frightening either way.

Geopolitics / Balkans

Bad neighbours

Yesterday the German government announced that Kosovo and Serbia are planning to forge ahead with talks to resolve their long-running conflict. On Monday representatives from the western Balkans gathered in Berlin for a summit – organised by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron – to discuss ways to reconcile the two countries. Time to break out the bunting? Perhaps not. Belgrade is refusing to officially recognise Pristina, which is refusing to remove a 100 per cent tariff on Serbian goods. “The leadership in Belgrade and Pristina do not appear to be in the mood for further negations at this stage,” says professor Kenneth Morrison from the Centre of European Governance at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. “Both continue to adopt tough positions.”

Business / London

Hard sell

RetailEXPO, which begins at London’s Olympia today, intends to convince visitors of the importance of “retail technology”. Expect wall-mounted touchscreens and virtual-reality shopping simulators alongside the usual retina-burning LED installations. Amid the visual noise there are yet more unsettling signs for the future of shops. Inovretail’s Staff Empowerment Solution – already touted as a highlight – will issue commands to hapless sales associates from the top brass via a wearable device. “Retailers are really focusing on personalising the experience,” says the event’s director Matt Bradley. “They want to understand their customers more than ever.” But glorified gadgets will only distract us from a meaningful connection.

Politics / Thailand

Enjoy it while it lasts

Japan is not the only Asian country welcoming a new monarch this week. Thailand is preparing for the three-day coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, which begins on Saturday at the Grand Palace in Bangkok and includes a procession and public holiday. Photos of the king are blanketing the capital and Thais have been encouraged to wear the royal colour, yellow, as a show of support. However, the levity and colour co-ordination is unlikely to last long. Behind the smiles, voters are still waiting to hear the official results of the 24 March general election. With an announcement due on 9 May, the royalist military-backed Phalang Pracharat party is competing to form a government with Pheu Thai, a political party backed by the red-shirted supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

M24 / The Menu: Food Neighbourhoods

Kuopio, Finland

Monocle 24’s Markus Hippi takes us to his home region in Eastern Finland and to its biggest city, Kuopio: a destination famed for its unique local dishes and the locals’ quirky sense of humour.

Monocle Films / Japan

Kyoto: The Monocle Travel Guide

Japan's ancient capital may be full of hushed streets steeped in tradition but don't be fooled: there's plenty of forward-thinking retailers, innovative chefs and modernist architecture too. Our Kyoto guide will help you navigate your way around, as well as setting you off on your own path.

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