Thursday. 25/11/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Pulling together

Italy and France’s relationship goes back a long way – but can we really call it a friendship? An alliance, maybe, but two years ago, when disputes over migrants crossing the Alpine border were anything but amicable, pats on the back were definitely not on the cards. And yet today in Rome, Emmanuel Macron is due to sign the Quirinale Treaty, which many call the “friendship treaty”. This 60-page Franco-Italian co-operation document deals with everything from defence to education and culture.

First announced in 2017, the treaty was put on ice during the tenure of the populist Five-Star Movement administration in Italy but it has been revived since former ECB head Mario Draghi (pictured, on left, with Macron) took the reins of the Italian government. The diplomatic agreement is modelled on the Franco-German one from 1963, which has been shaping European relations ever since. With Angela Merkel bowing out as Germany’s chancellor, Draghi will be looking to find room for himself on the European decision-making stage. The new pact will be handy for both parties, particularly in light of potential negotiations of post-pandemic fiscal reforms in the EU. The new Franco-Italian axis could hold sway against more frugal cousins from the north.

So can this newfound affection overcome historical pressure points such as business competition and migration? If it all sounds a bit opportunistic, that’s because it is. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be productive: haven't we all got some frenemies sticking around that we have no choice but to work with?

Politics / Germany & Sweden

Social mobility

Yesterday was a big day for social democrats in Europe – good and bad. The morning brought news from Sweden that Magdalena Andersson had been approved by parliament to lead a minority government and she became the country’s first female prime minister, only to spectacularly resign eight hours later, after the parliament failed to pass a budget. A coalition that appears more likely to last is that of Germany’s Social Democrats and Olaf Scholz (pictured, second from right), who in the afternoon announced that his party will lead a government for the first time in 16 years. Scholz will head an almost unprecedented three-party coalition in Germany, with the Greens and Free Democrats. Scholz, too, faces an immediate crisis in the form of the fourth wave of the pandemic that is currently facing Europe. In a nod to this, Scholz began his press conference by laying out a new health strategy – before even announcing the coalition deal. While Sweden is in tumult, Germany remains in stable hands.

For a fuller discussion of Sweden’s crisis and Germany’s new coalition, tune in to the latest edition of ‘The Daily’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Crown copyright

Defence / UK & Canada

Force out

After almost 50 years of training its troops in Canada, the British Army is set to move its largest global training base to Oman. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is reportedly expected to announce the move as part of plans to modernise but reports suggest that it is part of a broader ploy to reposition soldiers and hardware closer to potential conflict zones. The British Army Training Unit Suffield (pictured) in Alberta has trained thousands of soldiers, including a young Prince Harry, since it opened in 1972.

While the UK Ministry of Defence later denied reports it would close the facility, a spokesman acknowledged its presence would significantly be scaled back. Outside of the possible hit to military co-operation with Canadian forces, the decision has drawn a sharp reaction. John Petrie, the mayor of Brooks, a city that’s a 45-minute drive from the Suffield base, said that he was “extremely disappointed” to hear the news, and for good reason: the British Army’s presence has been a lifeline to businesses and communities in the region for half a century.

Image: Shutterstock

Transport / Japan

Family line

Christmas is coming early for Japanese train passengers: with the pandemic increasingly under control across the country, railway companies are gearing up to attract young families who want to holiday with their small children and visit their parents for New Year. Yesterday, Central Japan Railway Company and West Japan Railway Company launched a campaign offering free rides on Shinkansen Nozomi for children between the ages of six and 12. The offer will run until 19 December and other perks are set to be rolled out in the following weeks. JR Central, for example, is introducing a car reserved for families with small children on Shinkansens Nozomi and Kodama from 22 December to 11 January. Children will no doubt hope to catch a glimpse of Santa along the route.

Image: Getty Images

Music / Global

Sound decisions

The nominations are in for the Grammy awards and it’s already looking promising for a younger generation of artists such as 18-year-old Olivia Rodrigo, along with a nod to one particular legacy act in Abba, who received their first ever Grammy nomination. The voting process has also been reformed: the anonymous committees that used to select the shortlists have been scrapped, leaving the decisions with members of the Recording Academy, in answer to vocal criticisms from figures including The Weeknd and Drake. The other significant change is the addition of a long-overdue new category, best global music performance, which celebrates international songs. Among the nominees is Nigerian superstar Wizkid (pictured) with his worldwide hit Essence. Other contenders for the new award include Angélique Kidjo from Benin and Femi Kuti. “The new category is a very special opportunity for singles-driven musical movements around the world to get recognition,” Marlon Fuentes, the former head of Grammy Global Music who set up this new award, tells Monocle. “It also reflects the listening trends of today.”

You can listen to the full interview with Fuentes on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

M24 / Monocle on Design

Scotland’s capital of cashmere

We visit Hawick, Scotland’s capital of cashmere, and discuss BMW’s new concept car, which is made almost entirely from recyclable materials. Plus: a new exhibition celebrating Danish architecture firm Tegnestuen Vandkunsten.

Monocle Films / Greece

Keeping the faith

In this digital age, do we need more forgiveness and sacrifice in our lives? And where can we look for direction? Monocle Films sat down with Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to find out how the church strives to address contemporary needs and remain relevant in the Greek society.

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