Tuesday. 6/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Guy De Launey

Host with the dose

Nobody could accuse Serbia of hoarding coronavirus vaccines. Not content with inoculating its people faster than any other country in continental Europe, it has taken on the role of the vaccine fairy for neighbouring states in the Western Balkans. Late last week, word started to spread that, for a limited time, Serbia was inoculating all comers. The car park at the main vaccination centre in Belgrade quickly filled with vehicles sporting number plates from across the former Yugoslavia and beyond. Bosnian and Montenegrin accents, as well as a smattering of Macedonian and Albanian, could be heard in the orderly, fast-moving queues at the cavernous halls of the city’s World Trade Center.

Some people were clutching printouts confirming their registration on Serbia’s efficient online vaccination portal. Others, without appointments, queued in hope. Medics jabbed the lot of them – not only in the capital but in other cities close to national borders. Serbia’s deservedly renowned hospitality appears to have played a part. “If someone has driven five hours from Montenegro, how could we turn them away?” said one official.

The unlikely catalyst for this vaccine bonanza was the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. It asked the government to make inoculations available for businesspeople from across the region, following similar efforts for other professional groups, including Bosnian medics and journalists from North Macedonia. “We looked at this from a practical perspective,” says the chamber’s co-ordinator, Marko Mandić. “This is good for the economy and it’s good for the economies of our neighbours.” The request coincided with the imminent expiry of a batch of Astrazeneca vaccines and, as the news spread, it was put to good use in inoculating a far wider group than just the chamber’s affiliates. In all, Serbia says that it jabbed 22,000 of its neighbours and it will repeat the trick when they return for their second doses. Now that’s vaccine diplomacy.

Guy De Launey is Monocle’s correspondent for the Western Balkans and is based in Slovenia.

Image: Getty Images

Elections / Greenland

Inner resources

Greenland votes today in elections that are being seen as a de facto referendum on a controversial mining project that has attracted the attention of the world’s major powers. Backed by Chinese investors, Australian company Greenland Minerals holds the permit to explore the Kuannersuit deposit near the southern town of Narsaq, considered one of world’s richest regions for uranium and rare-earth minerals. Supporters say the project could help the autonomous Danish territory gain further financial independence from Copenhagen, boost its economy and reduce its dependence on fishing, while opponents fear pollution and warn that mining would “destroy the serenity of this really beautiful part of Greenland,” says Rasmus Leander Nielsen, assistant professor in social sciences at the University of Greenland. Either way, it’s clear that everyone from Narsaq’s 1,300 inhabitants to world leaders will be watching closely. As Nielsen says, Greenland has become a “really big playing field for a lot of great power rivalries in the Arctic”.

Listen to the full interview with Rasmus Leander Nielsen on today’s episode of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / Mumbai

From the ground up

When it comes to improving a city, municipal authorities can occasionally find it difficult to set the wheels in motion, which is why a citizen-run urban collective in Mumbai is taking matters into its own hands. Project Mumbai, in collaboration with the Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic, is offering a fellowship opportunity (applications close this month) to residents who will be tasked with independently assessing the quality of the city’s public spaces.

Successful fellows will propose solutions for run-down parks and squares, which will then be put to city hall in the hope that they will be implemented. Citizens doing the groundwork can help councils to get moving by showing that they have an appetite for improvement, which in turn should be politically appealing to civic officials. The idea represents an approach to urban change that has the potential to be a boon for Mumbai and its citizens – but only if the ensuing ideas are given serious consideration by decision makers.

Image: Getty Images

Health / New York

Jab well done

All residents of New York state over the age of 16 become eligible for a coronavirus vaccine today. It marks a dramatic stepping up of the state’s efforts to fight surging infection rates, which are currently the second-highest in the US. But eligibility does not necessarily guarantee availability. The vast majority of New Yorkers might be able to book an appointment today but the scheduling process remains frustratingly overwhelmed despite some vaccination centres being open 24/7. About four million people have been vaccinated in New York so far and mayor Bill de Blasio has set a goal of 500,000 vaccinations per week. The fact that all adults are now able to access the vaccine is a noteworthy milestone, particularly after the city has been among the hardest hit in the US over the past year – but New Yorkers shouldn’t let up just yet.

Image: Alamy

Society / Poland

Złoty dogs

In great news for good boys everywhere, Poland’s interior ministry has proposed new legislation that will give the country’s 1,200 service dogs and more than 60 horses paid retirement benefits. Appeals for the law came from across the political spectrum and it is expected to proceed without pause through the Polish parliament. The legislation will cover the costs of food and medical treatment for all retired service animals, whether they are housed with their handlers or by charitable organisations. “These are extraordinary animals,” says Mariusz Kaminski, top dog at the Polish interior ministry. “Thanks to them, many human lives have been saved and many dangerous criminals apprehended. Caring for them is our ethical duty.” The many dogs that have offered much-needed support to Monocle’s London office over the past few months can only wag their tails in agreement.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

Michael Peppiatt: what is a head?

What is a head? That’s the question we’re asking this week’s guest, art historian, writer and curator Michael Peppiatt, who has put together an exhibition at Ben Brown Fine Arts that explores exactly that, through the art of Tony Bevan and Frank Auerbach. Peppiatt chats to Robert Bound about what the head symbolises, the difference between a head and a face, and why it is the greatest challenge to artists.

Monocle Films / Global

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