Tuesday. 5/11/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Macron’s nativist moment

For a leader who built his soft-power brand on uniting Europe, France’s Emmanuel Macron has had a mixed few weeks. First he angered many EU allies by blocking the start of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Then, in an interview with right-wing French magazine Valeurs actuelles, he said he preferred legal migrants from Ivory Coast and Guinea to illegal “clandestine networks” coming from Bulgaria and Ukraine. The latter two countries – Bulgaria, an EU member whose citizens have a right to live and work legally anywhere in the bloc and Ukraine, a membership hopeful whose citizens were granted visa-free EU travel in 2017 – promptly called their French ambassadors for an explanation.

The brash comments are jarring since Macron has long sought to be Europe’s de facto leader. Bulgarian president Rumen Radev was quick to note the irony, saying Macron “will find it hard to achieve EU leadership with such unmeasured comments”. There is, however, one reading by which Macron’s comments seem less contradictory: could the French leader be quietly developing his own brand of nativism?

The nativist argument runs something like this: a deeper and closer European Union, yes, but only for the EU’s most promising and developed (read: western) members. In some ways Macron has been making this argument for years by pushing for a “two-speed” Europe in which some countries integrate faster than others. Such a stance might also help him at home where he needs to fend off the looming far-right sentiments of Marine Le Pen and her National Rally party. But popularity in France comes at a price: is it worth further dividing Europe to win another election? Apparently so.

Society / India

Not fit to breathe

New Delhi, dubbed one of the world’s most polluted cities by the World Health Organisation, is living up to its title. As an “eye-burning” smog threatens its estimated 29 million people, the Indian capital has been forced to declare a public-health emergency. Delhi’s air-quality index has been registered at more than 900 – significantly higher than the score of 400 said to pose severe respiratory problems to residents. Authorities have cancelled flights, closed schools, halted construction projects, put restrictions on private vehicles and organised the distribution of five million masks. But many are criticising these as stop-gap solutions in lieu of long-term measures. Bringing an end to crop burning is one of them, said Somnath Batabyal, lecturer at SOAS, on Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “The situation is beyond anything imaginable. Unless backed by strong government action, this will not go away.”

Transport / Global

IAG adds to its haul

Yesterday British Airways owner IAG announced that it is buying Spanish carrier Air Europa for €1bn. The airline and its 66 planes will be added to IAG’s large portfolio, which already includes Spanish flag-carrier Iberia, Barcelona-based Vueling and Irish airline Aer Lingus. The purchase of Air Europa, which serves 69 destinations, bolsters IAG’s ability to compete for European travel to Latin America and the Caribbean through Madrid.

The move comes at a challenging time for airlines due to rising fuel costs, the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max fleet and pushback from environmentalists against short-haul flights in particular. Yet Air Europa already serves 11.8 million flyers annually and focuses more on long-haul, for which passenger numbers continue to grow, so IAG could well make a speedy return on its latest investment.

Urbanism / The US

Fairway to highway

Tucked between Interstate-55 and the Mississippi River is an urban area with a curiously high number of golf carts. They’re not on an idyllic golf course but rather in the historic Soulard district of St Louis, where residents have taken to the vehicles to move around the neighbourhood. Although walking is still the ideal and least complicated means of conquering the last mile, could this be the next best option? In many cities, scooters and e-bikes have been deployed (sans regulations) for the same purpose, much to the chagrin and danger of pedestrians. But, as regulations already exist for buggies – Missouri and other states have statutes regulating low-speed vehicles – you’re unlikely to be bowled over by one on a footpath and that’s a big win for pedestrians.

Travel / UK

Trading places

Innovators, businesspeople and forecasters are gathering in London’s Royal Victoria Docks today for the World Travel Market’s (WTM) public opening. Running until Wednesday, the expo is expected to host about 50,000 visitors and thousands of exhibitors, from tourist boards touting their country’s best accommodation (take a look at Italy’s Borgo Riccio Historic House in Cilento) to boat-rental services (Palmayachts is keen to run you through its skippered services). Research is also set to be released to the media throughout WTM’s run, focusing on such issues as China’s booming tourism market and the risk that Brexit poses to the international travel sector. Monocle is ahead of the game on the former: our Cities Series summit concluded yesterday in Chengdu, China, during which we took a look at what the Sichuan capital has to offer the world.

M24 / Tall Stories

Eleftheria Square, Nicosia

We visit Eleftheria Square in Cyprus’s capital, where a redevelopment designed by Zaha Hadid is still in construction 14 years after work started. Nicosia-based architect Charis Christodoulou updates our Athens correspondent, Daphne Karnezis, on the latest.

Monocle Films / Global

The secret to opening a bike shop

In the latest episode of our 'Secret to...' series we talk to Jack Pattison, co-founder of Freddie Grubb, about the key elements that go into creating an outstanding bike shop.

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