Tuesday. 11/1/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Net loss

The high-profile knock-about between Novak Djokovic (pictured) and the Australian Border Force is proving more riveting (and certainly harder to call) than most tennis matches. The world’s number one ranked player was being held in custody in a Melbourne hotel until yesterday when a judge overruled the visa cancellation and ordered that he should be released immediately, while the government should cover all the costs of his detention. Advantage Djokovic? Not quite. A short time later, immigration minister Alex Hawke said that he was considering using his discretionary powers to revoke the visa again, a threat that will linger as Djokovic takes to the practice courts.

What happens next is perhaps less important than the message this Aussie volley of litigation sends to the world. The sunny image that the nation projects abroad has been damaged by the airing of its heavy-handed border policy and suspicions that it can be bent to the will of the government. “Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders,” thundered prime minister Scott Morrison when Djokovic landed. But are they really if a judge’s ruling can be slapped down by a point-scoring politician? And what hope do regular travellers and genuine asylum seekers have to a fair hearing if a high-profile athlete – his papers seemingly in order – faces detention and the potential of unceremonious deportation?

Like him or loathe him, the Serbian tennis star has shown poise and stamina in this match-up (though a less-than-rigorous grasp of medical science). My call? Game, set, match, Djokovic.

Image: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

Security / Denmark

Watching the watchers

Lars Findsen (pictured), who has served as head of Denmark’s two most important intelligence agencies, has been charged with revealing state secrets. While significant aspects of the allegations (such as the nature of the sensitive information and to whom it was leaked) have yet to be disclosed, what is known is that Findsen was arrested on 9 December and spent both Christmas and New Year’s Eve behind bars.

Findsen was made head of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service shortly after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001; he took over as chairman of the Defence Intelligence Service in 2015, making him the only person ever to have led both agencies. “I want the charges brought forward and I plead not guilty,” Findsen reportedly said outside court, where an army of reporters attested to the magnitude of the story in the usually quiet world of Danish intelligence.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Russia

Talking points

Diplomats from Russia and the US today begin the second day of their week-long negotiations in a bid to ease tensions exacerbated by Moscow’s decision to mass troops on its border with Ukraine. The White House hopes that the talks, which formally began in Geneva yesterday and will continue in Vienna and Brussels, will avert a military conflict in eastern Europe and repair the battered relationship between Washington and Moscow, though the former has come under fire from the EU for excluding the bloc from the talks, much to the glee of the latter. So what does Russia’s leadership want? “The Kremlin’s official shopping list, which includes strict security guarantees and a tempering of Nato, is fairly ludicrous but that’s how the Russians like to negotiate,” Mark Galeotti, author of We Need to Talk About Putin, told The Monocle Minute. Though it’s unlikely that Moscow will win its most desired concessions, the fact that proposals such as the removal of all US nuclear weapons from Europe are even under discussion is vindication of its intimidating tactics.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Sri Lanka

Tightening the Belt

Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa (pictured) has appealed to Beijing to reschedule his country’s mounting debt repayments to China. “It would be a great relief to the country if attention could be paid on restructuring the debt repayments as a solution to the economic crisis,” his office said. In the past decade, Sri Lanka has borrowed more than $5bn (€4.4bn) from China, mostly to fund infrastructure projects, as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative. Sri Lanka’s tourism-dependent economy has been hit hard by the pandemic and its severe debt and foreign-exchange crisis has resulted in food rationing at supermarkets. As the country searches for a way out of its worsening financial crisis, authorities plan to take control of basic food items. While China is unlikely to bail Sri Lanka out of this situation completely, the superpower will be inclined to agree to Rajapaksa’s request – and no doubt use the situation to lean on Colombo to grant it more business opportunities.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Fashion / Italy

Careful convention

Pitti Immagine Uomo, the year’s first important event on the global fashion calendar, will swing open its doors later this morning under bright Florentine skies. Organisers expect 550 exhibiting businesses (mostly fashion labels and service providers) to greet buyers, journalists and other industry members. While exhibitor numbers for the menswear-specific event are only half those of its pre-pandemic 2020 edition, Pitti should be praised for braving a go-ahead in a month in which many similar gatherings have been cancelled. “We’re taking a ‘more than careful’ approach in our hosting by enforcing safety measures that are tighter than what is expected by our government,” said Lapo Cianchi, the show’s vice general manager and director of communications. “Without Pitti our community of buyers would lose a real feeling of the market,” Cianchi says. “There is no platform that can replace it in terms of providing a place to see what their peers are doing and what the market is asking – this doesn’t happen online.”

M24 / The Stack

‘McSweeney’s Quarterly’, ‘Karl: No Regrets’ and ‘Isolarii’

This week we speak with Claire Boyle from McSweeney’s Quarterly. Plus: a new biography of Karl Lagerfeld and Sebastian Clark from Isolarii.

Monocle Films / Lebanon

Rebuilding Beirut

After the devastating port explosion of 4 August 2020, Beirut’s creative community is battling to rebuild amid power-cuts and petrol shortages. A year on from the blast, Monocle joins its designers and architects on the streets of the city to see how they hope to make the city anew.

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