Thursday 28 May 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 28/5/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Tyler Brûlé

Going up?

Switzerland knew it was in for good news yesterday afternoon when the president of the Swiss confederation, Simonetta Sommaruga, sat down in front of the mic in a cerise jacket with lipstick to match. In earlier press conferences where the message was more stern (rewind to early March when the country introduced its unique approach to lockdown), Sommaruga favoured more neutral tones but yesterday was a moment for celebration. After a few words of introduction and high praise for the country’s control of the virus, she told the nation that “Switzerland has blossomed”.

With daily new cases now hovering at fewer than 20, the government in Bern decided that it was time to make its biggest leap to date in what’s already been an aggressive approach to reopening the nation. From Sunday groups of 30 will be able to gather; from 6 June zoos, bathing clubs, campgrounds and gondolas will also be able to swing into action. Shortly after, the borders with France, Austria and Germany will reopen. One month after that, at the latest, all of Schengen should be open so the Swiss can jet off to Spain and Sweden for sun and sailing, and other Europeans can make their way to St Moritz and Locarno.

With many think-tanks agreeing that Switzerland has done a good job in managing the pandemic, the country seems to be working hard to ensure that it can maintain its enviable position as a home to global corporate HQs, UN agencies, sporting bodies and cows that get chopper airlifts when they sprain an ankle.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Italy

Return for the worse

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi (pictured) is elbowing his way onto the main stage of Italian politics again, despite leading only a very small party in the current governing coalition. This week senators from his Italia Viva party declined to back a motion to put Matteo Salvini on trial; the former interior minister is accused of “kidnapping” migrants on an NGO boat that he forbade from docking at an Italian port. It’s the latest episode in a string of moves by Renzi that are aimed at tipping the balance of power; his party, however small, still props up the current government and can threaten to withdraw its support at any time. The current prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, enjoyed a rise in popularity as he led Italy through the worst months of the pandemic. Now that the lockdown has been eased, it seems that Italian politics is wasting no time in getting back to its normal turbulent state.

Image: Getty Images

Business / France

Lonely road

Emmanuel Macron this week announced an €8bn investment in car-makers and a €5bn state loan to Renault. The money will subsidise electric-vehicle production as well as the purchase of new petrol and diesel cars if they are cleaner than existing models. Since French car-makers have already moved aggressively into electric vehicles, such conditions are unlikely to be of concern, says professor Jim Saker, director of the Centre for Automotive Management at Loughborough University. But there was another, more worrying aspect to Macron’s speech.

“The bombshell in the statement is: ‘no car model currently produced in France should be manufactured abroad’,” says Saker. Though this is only rhetoric for now, Saker adds that “it could lead to a strong nationalistic response from other countries – with consolidation of manufacturing only in home markets and less investment abroad.” Using the pandemic to demand a greener recovery is one thing; seeking domestic-only manufacturing at the heart of Europe is quite another.

Urbanism / Japan

Building the future

Japan passed a new law yesterday aimed at building smarter cities by creating zones where regulations on advanced technological experiments (particularly autonomous ones) will be relaxed. This will clear the way for experiments with big data and technologies such as autonomous driving and drone deliveries. The government will open registration to regional governments this summer and hopes to kick-start the pilot project in five places across the country later this year. The “super city” concept is aimed at helping Japan solve critical problems arising from an ageing population and decreasing workforce. Two companies have already taken the lead: Toyota and the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation sealed a ¥400bn (€3.3bn) partnership in March to create an experimental smart city: Woven City (pictured) in Shizuoka. Privately built smart cities have had mixed reviews; a plan for one by Alphabet in Toronto was recently shelved. Can Japan find a better way forwards?

Image: Lorne Bridgman

F&B / Toronto

Message in a bottle

Some good news has emerged from Toronto for those seeking to clink their glasses to the arrival of summer. The premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, intimated on Monday that temporary changes to the province’s alcohol-sales laws, which were loosened during lockdown, might be made permanent. The selling of such drinks in Ontario is rigidly controlled: the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, established in 1927, is one of the world’s largest government-run buyers of alcohol and its brightly lit, well-stocked off licences are ubiquitous in neighbourhoods across the province. But as dining rooms and watering holes closed during the pandemic, restaurants and bars were allowed to become temporary liquor shops, allowing Torontonians to pick up a bottle or two from some of the best wine lists in the city. The measure has been a lifeline for many hospitality spots. Making the change permanent? We would certainly raise our glass to that.

M24 / On Design

Back to work

Linda Morey-Burrows, principal director of architecture and design firm MoreySmith, on how lockdown has changed the world of work. Plus: Canadian designer Jamie Wolfond on staying lively in a lockdown and Brisbane-based commentator Lindy Johnson on getting architects back to work.

Monocle Films / Culture

The secret to buying a painting

Alexander Gilkes, co-founder of online auction house Paddle8, unveils the alchemy that surrounds the world of collecting art.


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