Friday 20 November 2020 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 20/11/2020

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Nic Monisse

Mayor league

A few years ago I toyed with the idea of running for city council. As an urban designer, I knew that the best way to influence infrastructure in my hometown of Perth was as a local elected official. This ambition drew the ire of my friends who were (understandably) more interested in spending their early twenties enjoying a night out with me by their side, rather than having me stuck in an office thinking about new policies for parklets. Part of their bemusement came from the fact that they, like many, didn’t really understand the influence and reach that a mayor (and many civic officials) can have: from slowing traffic and creating more pedestrian-friendly streets to introducing policies that prop up businesses and support the arts.

However, an understanding – and appreciation – of the role seems to have grown this year. With so many national and state governments bungling through the pandemic, mayors have found themselves better placed to respond to pressing issues on the ground within their jurisdictions. From rapidly installing pop-up bike lanes to quickly approving outdoor-dining permits, they’ve ensured that life in urban areas has continued. And it seems that their reach and influence hasn’t gone unnoticed by the electorate.

For proof, look to Melbourne, where the incumbent, Sally Capp (pictured), was reinstated as lord mayor after a record number of voters turned out to council elections this month. In a city that was hamstrung by a state-mandated lockdown, people know that Capp’s ability to offer immediate support to hospitality businesses while championing festivals and events will be key to Melbourne bouncing back. And given how she’s raised the profile of city hall, perhaps Capp has set me up for a mayoral run in 2024, this time without the teasing from my friends.

Image: Shutterstock

Trade / Asia

Gathering strength

It’s going to be a busy weekend for the world’s PMs and presidents. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders’ meeting kicks off today, followed by the G20 summit. The Apec gathering, which will be virtually hosted by Malaysia, brings together representatives from 21 economies across the region and, unsurprisingly, all eyes will be on Xi Jinping (pictured). China is in a comfortable place in the region when it comes to trade, sitting at the centre of Asia’s new major Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) bloc, which is the largest in the world. Ahead of the forum, President Xi announced further plans to sign more free-trade agreements with other nations. Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017, so the US has been sidelined by this new bloc, which might explain why an anonymous US official told Reuters that Trump was planning to attend the Apec meeting, something that he hasn’t done since 2017.

Geopolitics / Russia

Cost of war

Russia pledged $1bn (€845m) towards reconstruction efforts in Syria this week, the largest sum that Moscow has offered since the Syrian civil war broke out almost a decade ago. The investment signifies two things, says Mark Galeotti, senior associate fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute. Firstly that the military stage of the war is drawing to a close, with the Russian-backed Assad regime holding on to power. And secondly that Russia is committed to maintaining its empire.

“Syria is a military investment for Russia,” says Galeotti. “In order to protect that investment, it needs to pay the price.” Pointing to Russia’s role in mediating the recent conflict between ex-Soviet states Armenia and Azerbaijan, Galeotti notes that a similar dynamic is at play. “Putin has installed 2,000 peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh – that’s not cheap. But Russia is learning that if you want to be an international power broker, you’re going to have to stump up.”

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / North Macedonia

Initiation rites

It’s safe to say that North Macedonia’s quest for EU membership has been a long one, having initially been identified as a suitable candidate in 2005. The country’s potential access to the bloc was first used as a political pawn by Greece, which forced Macedonia to add the “North” prefix to its name, to differentiate it from a similarly named Greek region. Now Bulgaria has decided that it’s time to settle old scores: it was the only EU member state to veto the commencement of negotiations this week. Similarly to Greece, its dispute is more over the past than the present. Bulgaria feels that North Macedonia hasn’t accepted the common historical, ethnic and linguistic roots of the two countries. Sofia is expected by some to eventually concede, although analysts predict that the Bulgarian premier, Boyko Borissov, might wait until after March’s elections to do so. Until then, it’s not merely just another bump in the road for North Macedonia’s EU ambitions but also a hit to unity and prosperity in the already volatile western Balkans.

Image: Wonho Frank Lee

F&B / Los Angeles

Stall orders

Dining establishments have had to jump through more than their fair share of hoops this year thanks to the pandemic and, between all the Perspex screens and one-way systems, this new approximation of a cosy meal out has struggled to cut the mustard for many diners. Enter the food hall. Culver City’s new 740 square metre Citizen Public Market opened its doors this week. Its kiln-moulded glass lettering and communal tables formed from salvaged printing equipment offer a nod to the building’s past life as a publishing house, as do its restored art deco and beaux arts features. These adornments aside, Citizen Public Market is a casual, community-minded affair that offers three outdoor-dining options, with five more set to open indoors once coronavirus restrictions lift. But it’s not just Angelenos who are betting on the robustness of the model: Eataly also announced plans this week to open a gigantic 3,700 square metre venue in London’s Broadgate early next year. After a tough year for restaurants, food markets might prove to be just the tonic.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Benriach and Chantecaille

This week we meet two women whose life’s work is inspired by the natural surroundings in which they grew up. Dr Rachel Barrie, known as the “first lady of Scotch” is the master blender of Benriach. We also hear from a beauty-industry pioneer, Sylvie Chantecaille, who worked with Estée Lauder before starting her own label dedicated to conservation.

Monocle Films / Switzerland

Swiss spectacle: Fête des Vignerons

We clink glasses with wine-makers at a once-in-a-generation festival in the otherwise tame town of Vevey. Fête des Vignerons is a parade of Swiss viticulture wisdom complete with cows, costumes and carousing.


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