Friday. 15/4/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Trading partners

Russia is rightly the international bogeyman of the moment but governments, in their rush to wean themselves off dependence on its fossil fuels, are signing up with other dubious regimes. The abuses of these new partners might sometimes be hidden from public view and are also on a smaller scale than what is happening in Ukraine. But any claim of moral authority by the powers seeking these agreements is questionable.

Boris Johnson has been wooing countries such as Qatar and in Italy the talk has been all about Algeria, after prime minister Mario Draghi and foreign minister Luigi Di Maio went to the North African nation to sign a deal (pictured) with state-owned oil firm Sonatrach. The choice of its next partner is even more surprising: newspaper Corriere della Sera reports that Italy quietly struck a deal this week to purchase three billion cubic metres of liquified natural gas a year from Egypt.

Italy has had several high-profile disagreements with Egypt, two of which stand out. The first was the killing of Giulio Regeni in Cairo in 2016. Regeni, a doctoral student at Cambridge, had been talking to independent trade unions; Italy claims that his killing was the work of Egypt’s notorious security services. The second is the imprisonment of another postgraduate student, Egyptian Patrick Zaki, who has been detained in Cairo since his arrest in February 2020. Zaki had been studying in Bologna.

Of course, all of this is a clear example of realpolitik. Every nation must make compromises to guarantee its stability and survival. But these unsavoury deals underscore a sobering truth: both Italy and Europe as a whole have proven to be woefully unprepared for a situation that they should have seen coming.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Ukraine

Footing the bill

Ukrainians in liberated towns and cities will soon turn from surviving to mourning those lost and then, eventually, to picking up the pieces. With swaths of the country still occupied or in the midst of fighting, a running tally kept by the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) puts the damage done to Ukraine’s physical infrastructure, including eight civilian airports and more than 37,000km of road, at about $80bn (€74bn). That’s just a fraction of the estimated $600bn (€550bn) of economic damage in GDP decline, lost workers and weaponry costs. But how to pay for the rebuild? KSE president Tymofiy Mylovanov tells The Monocle Minute that 20 per cent of that money could come from issuing bonds, while some could come from allies. Ultimately, he says, Moscow should pay. Confiscating frozen assets is one route, while taxing imports from and exports to Russia is another. He adds that politicians will have more of a role to play than the courts in making that happen.

Image: Shutterstock

Travel / Japan

Out of the tunnel

While much of the Western world sets off for the Easter weekend, Japan is preparing for another holiday: Golden Week, which runs from 29 April to 8 May. While Japan has not yet emerged from the pandemic, the mood is slowly lifting, with spring in the air and regulations relaxing. Surveys this week showed that about a million seats have already been booked on Shinkansen routes across the country for the period, as many Japanese prepare trips (mostly domestic) to see their families, visit the outdoors or just kick back and relax.

That marks a 62 per cent increase on last year, though the figure is still 50 per cent less than it was four years ago. The pandemic has hit the tourism and hospitality industries in Japan hard. Shinkansen bookings are just one barometer but here’s hoping that this is a sign that there is a chink of light at the end of the tunnel.

Image: Schweiz Tourismus Herbst

Transport / Switzerland

Train of scenery

Those travelling between the Swiss town of Vitznau and ski resort Rigi Kulm can now make the journey onboard some of the smartest looking trains in the country. Stadler Rail have delivered six vehicles designed by Zürich-based creative studio Milani Design and Consulting for use by Rigi Bahnen on the Alpine route. The aluminium-bodied cars have been introduced as part of the operator’s plans to expand its fleet, while also increasing comfort and accessibility. The new carriages have sunken windows to allow passengers to enjoy breathtaking views, slightly reclined seats to compensate for mountainous inclines and interiors finished with timber details. The trains also pay tribute to the locomotives that have plied the route for the past 111 years, sharing the same white, black and bronze colourway. The result is a vehicle that is forward-looking but connected to a sense of place and history – a reminder that transit can enhance our enjoyment of the landscapes we move through.

Image: Sam Rountree Williams/Fletcher Trust Collection

Arts / New Zealand

Free for all

Since its founding in Wellington in 2018, New Zealand’s Urban Art Foundation (UAF) has brought art to everyday public places. Now it has a major collection to showcase: its new exhibition features 106 works from the Fletcher Trust Collection, one of the country’s most significant private art collections; among those featured are acclaimed New Zealand artists such as Frances Hodgkins, Rita Angus and Sam Rountree Williams (pictured).

The UAF was created with the aim of increasing access to art by displaying it in bus stops, railway stations, malls and airports instead of confining it to galleries. The foundation will also screen the exhibition on TV channel Artvox, which takes over New Zealand’s Parliament TV when the house adjourns for its winter break. The televised exhibition runs until 3 May, when parliament returns.

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Vuori

Inspired by California’s active, coastal lifestyle, Joe Kudla launched athletic clothing brand Vuori in 2015, aiming to blend the principles of ethical manufacturing, sustainability, community and quality. Here the CEO and founder shares the ups and downs of his career so far and tells us how Vuori secured major investment and a multibillion-dollar valuation by pushing the boundaries of activewear.

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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