Monday. 11/10/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Eyes on the right

For a time there were many traditional conservatives in Germany who looked to Austria for political inspiration. Sebastian Kurz (pictured) was seen as something of a hero on the right: here was a leader with some gumption, who knew what he stood for, unlike that wearying centrist pragmatism of their own conservative leader, Angela Merkel.

I’ll admit that I was intrigued too: Kurz offered a brand of politics somewhere between populism and traditional conservatism that deserved a hearing; a middle ground that could perhaps help to close the gap in understanding between Western conservatives and Central European leaders in Hungary, Poland or the Czech Republic. Not only that but Austria’s coalition government – a unique experiment between Kurz’s right-wing People’s Party and the left-leaning Greens – could serve as a model for other nations, including Germany.

The trouble is that Kurz keeps getting in the way of that more optimistic telling of his legacy. Dogged by multiple corruption charges, the chancellery was raided last week over the latest allegations that media outlets were effectively bribed to provide positive coverage in the 2016 elections. Though he denies the charges and has vowed to fight them in court, Kurz was left with little choice but to resign over the weekend. Whatever happens next, his legacy appears forever tainted.

As Germany’s conservatives go about their own process of renewal after suffering a historic defeat in September’s elections, they will have few sources of inspiration. Angela Merkel was a political force but offered little in terms of direction for the future; Emmanuel Macron’s own brand of centrist conservatism faces an uphill battle in elections next year. Instead, these past few months have seen a surprising resurgence of the left; Social Democrats in Germany and the Nordics are the new parties of intrigue. Conservatives need to figure out exactly what kind of (corruption-free) alternative they provide if they hope to remain a force in European politics.

Image: Getty Images

Business / Europe & Russia

Fuel to the fire

Governments across Europe are warning that an ongoing energy crunch could lead to a very expensive winter for homeowners from Athens to Amsterdam. More than €10bn has been set aside to offer assistance to households that could struggle to pay their gas and electricity bills as prices threaten to spiral out of control. Enter Vladimir Putin. Last week the Russian leader extended his hand to Brussels by offering to export record volumes of fuel to the continent. The major string attached? German regulators would need to fast-track approval of the Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline, which runs beneath the Baltic Sea from its starting point in Russia (pictured) to Germany. “The Kremlin didn’t cause this crisis and has even helped by increasing exports,” Ben Aris, publisher of the European business outlet BNE Intellinews, tells The Monocle Minute. “But it is taking advantage to push the EU towards signing long-term contracts.” The question for Europe remains: what’s the alternative?

To hear more from Ben Aris, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Tim Macpherson

Culture / UK

Fair city

This week sees the return of London’s biggest art fair, Frieze. And though it will undoubtedly attract large numbers of visitors, it’s not the only event in town worth attending. The Start Art Fair, for one, kicks off on Wednesday at the Saatchi Gallery, showing more than 70 artists from 25 countries.

Founded in 2014 to support emerging and lesser-known artists, Start will present works by the likes of Seattle’s Steinbrueck Native Gallery, which features art made by indigenous communities in the Pacific Northwest, and Colombia’s Mas: Arte Contemporáneo, a gallery mainly exhibiting emerging Latin American artists. Meanwhile, The Other Art Fair, an artist-led initiative that allows buyers to acquire works directly from artists, such as Tim Macpherson’s photographs (pictured), opens on Thursday at the Old Truman Brewery in east London. Art lovers in the UK’s capital should plan for a busy week.

Image: Johnny C Y Lam

Design / Canada

Animal magic

Following a three-year hiatus, one of Canada’s more expansive design awards has returned. The Margolese National Design for Living prize rewards those who have made a notable contribution to Canada’s urban spaces; past winners have included architects, landscape designers, engineers and urban planners. “There are a lot of prizes for iconic architecture or sustainability,” says Claude Cormier, a Montréal-based landscape architect and jury member. “But there’s no other prize that awards the inspiration beneath that beauty.”

This year’s winner is Toronto-based ecological designer and professor Nina-Marie Lister (pictured), who was awarded for her work to boost biodiversity in cities. “We are physically quite likely in our growing cities to intersect with the path of wildlife,” Lister says. “And it begs the question – who belongs where and how do we mediate those spaces? There’s a new language of that relationship to be explored but that needs artful, joyful practice.”

Listen to the full interviews on this year’s Margolese prize on today’s edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ on Monocle24.

Image: BoysPlayNice

Urbanism / Prague

Double vault

As part of a project aimed at revitalising Prague’s embankment, a series of vaults along the banks of the Vltava River have been transformed into new public spaces. Previously, the embankment area served as a car park while the vaults were used as storage units. Under architect Petr Janda, 20 vaults have been given a new lease of life as glass-fronted chambers housing shops and galleries. Many of them feature domed ceilings and impressive elliptical windows with views of the river. Other vaults have steel doors and are now being used as workshops and cafés. The flexibility of the vault spaces is key to their design and the project is an example of Prague transforming existing infrastructure into innovative and sustainable designs that make the most of what the city has to offer.

M24 / The Big Interview

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

Belarus’s exiled opposition leader speaks to Monocle’s Tomos Lewis about the state of the resistance movement and her hopes for the country’s future.

Monocle Films / Global

Media on the move

We visit two bold companies finding canny ways to pivot their product for changing audiences. Transhelvetica, a Swiss magazine, and Spiritland, a London-based hospitality and audio venture, are each shaping the media landscape for the better.

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