Monday. 15/7/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Stuck in reverse

Sometimes it’s all too easy to think of the evolution of cities along a series of easy-fit narratives: the post-industrial centres being reborn out of their warehouses; the wealthy grand dames resting on their laurels and forgetting to innovate. But what difference does municipal government make to these neat parables?

When I left my beloved hometown of Turin a decade ago, it was a former factory city catching its second wave. The historic home of Fiat was building on its strengths and drawing international acclaim as a centre for culture and commerce. A few things have happened in the meantime, among them the election of a Five Star Movement local government in 2016. In the years since, mayor Chiara Appendino and her team have been resistant to big investment in major events and infrastructural projects. While Turin was forced into a state of inertia, its eastern neighbour Milan was hard at work, bagging itself the Winter Olympics and launching a rival to Turin’s Salone del Libro, the nation’s biggest book fair.

Last week Turin lost another one of its assets: Salone Auto (the automobile fair) will be moving from Italy’s car capital to Milan. The age-old competition between these two northern cities seems to have yielded a winner: if Turin doesn’t take risks and rejoin the race, it will be left in the dust.

Politics / Europe

Magic number

This week the European Parliament will decide whether German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen will succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission. Von der Leyen (pictured) will need to secure 376 votes – an absolute majority of MEPs – to win tomorrow evening’s ballot. But victory is by no means assured. Last week critics from her German coalition partners, the Social Democrats, issued a damning paper to EU peers attacking the defence minister’s record. Von der Leyen will have a last chance to appeal to MEPs in a speech tomorrow afternoon and it had better work: the business of assigning the EU’s top jobs has already gone on for too long. An inconclusive result would see the inertia and horse trading continue for some weeks yet.

Defence / The US & Russia

Meeting halfway

Russia’s first shipment of S-400 anti-aircraft missile launchers to Turkey provoked Washington’s ire on Friday. But this week there is some hope of progress in US-Russia relations: Andrea Thompson, US under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, is scheduled to meet Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov (pictured) in Geneva on Wednesday. Official announcements say that the meeting is about discussing global strategic stability but specifically, the pair will discuss the ways in which they can recover the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty. The clock is ticking: the US will tear up the accord on 2 August unless the Kremlin comes into compliance by destroying its stock of SSC-8 ground-launched cruise missiles.

Society / Japan

Buying votes

Persuading young voters to engage with politics in peaceful, affluent Japan isn’t easy. A recent survey by the Nippon Foundation revealed that fewer than half of eligible voters aged 18 and 19 planned to cast their ballots in the Upper House elections on 21 July. Compare that to the turnout for people in their sixties: 70 per cent at the last Upper House election in 2016. There is a movement in some corners to encourage participation: for example, outdoor-clothing company Patagonia has decided to close its 22 shops nationwide on election day to encourage its (presumably young) employees to cast their votes. The sacrifice is considerable: in Japan, Sunday is the busiest shopping day of the week.

Urbanism / Ottawa

Room for improvement

According to critics, a modern extension to Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier, a grand hotel built in 1912, shouldn’t be built. But late last week city hall shot down a legal effort to halt the Architects Alliance-designed addition. Critics allege that the boxy structure would clash with the look of Ottawa’s downtown and the hotel’s heritage. While residents might be protective of the privately owned hotel, they should be more open minded. Preservationist design isn’t about imitation but enhancement. Chateau Laurier’s new wing, while adding 147 rooms, will preserve sightlines and better integrate the hotel with the neighbouring Major’s Hill Park. It will be built of limestone and copper too, in keeping with the rest of the building. If that’s not respectful, what is?

M24 / The Menu

Discovering Burma

Why Burma is finding its place on the culinary map, top tips for food styling and the week’s food and drink news from Italy.

Monocle Films / Spain

Creative Mallorca

Palma has kept its charm for young creatives despite its tourist-trodden streets. We meet the people keeping this city alive.

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