Thursday 28 April 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 28/4/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Annabelle Chapman

Turning off the taps

Poles woke up yesterday to a frosty piece of news: the state-owned oil and gas company PGNIG announced that Russia’s Gazprom had halted all of its natural-gas deliveries. The cut-off is part of Moscow’s standoff with the EU over energy supplies. After Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, the European Commission announced plans to reduce the bloc’s dependence on Russian energy. But in the case of gas, Russia has got there first, halting supplies to Poland and Bulgaria for failing to make payments in roubles rather than foreign currencies as Moscow had demanded.

Poland is a major consumer of Russian gas, importing more than 45 per cent of its supplies from the country. For now, PGNIG has told its customers not to worry, reassuring them that they will continue to receive gas as required. The company has been diversifying its sources of gas and has other options available, including liquefied natural gas delivered to the Polish port of Świnoujście on the Baltic Sea. Even before the cut-off, most Poles were already in favour of ditching Russian energy commodities. A poll conducted in March found that almost 60 per cent believed that the EU should ban imports of gas, oil and coal from Russia, even if it pushes up prices.

With European gas prices surging by as much as a fifth in response to the cut-off, some patriotic belt-tightening is almost certainly in store. Russia appears likely to find out that its attempt to blackmail Poland by withholding gas will backfire – and it might even set an example for the rest of the EU to follow.

Annabelle Chapman is Monocle’s Warsaw correspondent. For more on the effect of Russia’s gas suspension, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Turkey

One step forward, two steps back

Turkey might have rehabilitated its international image by positioning itself as a mediator in the Ukraine crisis but an Istanbul court case this week offered a stark reminder of trouble at home. Prominent rights activist, philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala was sentenced to life in prison without parole in a case seen as a litmus test for human rights in the country. Kavala was accused of bankrolling anti-government protests and being involved in a military coup attempt in 2016, charges that the European Court of Human Rights said lacked evidence. He had already spent four years behind bars without a conviction; Amnesty International has called his case a “politically motivated charade”. Kavala’s sentence and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s wider crackdown on political opponents could undermine the country’s attempts to play mediator and cosy up to Western leaders, says Istanbul-based journalist Hannah Lucinda Smith. “The US and EU are still wary of Erdogan and concerned about the path he is taking Turkey down,” she says.

For more from Hannah Lucinda Smith on Kavala’s imprisonment, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

F&B / Japan

Tall orders

Global inflation is hitting Japan’s drink sector in a manner not seen in more than two decades. Following in the path of major food companies such as Nisshin Seifun Group, Asahi Group Holdings has announced that it will raise the prices of its ready-to-drink products such as beer, chuhai (fruit cocktails) and whiskey by between 6 and 10 per cent from October. Among the affected brands are Asahi Super Dry beer and single malts Yoichi and Miyagikyo; the price increase on Asahi’s canned beer will be the first since March 2008.

The Japanese giant brings in ¥2.2tn (€16bn) in net sales a year. Its reach is wide and deep across homes and izakayas across the country. The rising cost of shipping, raw materials and oil seems to be the main driver of this move but this will be a bitter moment for Japanese consumers and the F&B sector – especially since wages and the cost of living have barely increased here in the past three decades.

Image: ÖBB/Wolfgang Werner

Transport / Austria

Pit of despair

The opening of Austria’s ambitious Semmering base tunnel faces a delay of at least six years and a ballooning of costs after Austria’s rail authority ÖBB unexpectedly discovered a new “geological fault zone”. This comes after a comprehensive study – conducted last year, following water leakages – that was thought to have cleared the final hurdles. Some 23km of the 27km tunnel has already been completed but authorities are getting anxious.

The tunnel, which will now not open until 2030 at the earliest, will shorten train times between Vienna and Graz by only about 30 minutes at a cost that is now approaching €4bn. Ambitious infrastructure projects are important but so is an honest evaluation of costs and benefits. ÖBB has acquitted itself well in recent years with the relaunch of night trains in Europe but the Semmering base tunnel is increasingly looking like a bottomless pit.

Fashion / Denmark & South Korea

Saddling up

Pas Normal Studios, a Copenhagen-based cycling-wear brand, is opening a new flagship in Seoul, the third outpost in its global roll-out. Located in a bright, airy space in the city’s Gangdong district, next to the Olympic Park, the shop (pictured) aims to create a welcoming environment that will serve as a social hub for Seoul’s cycling community. Danish designers Thomas Lykke and Anne-Marie Buemann of OEO Studio collaborated with the brand on the design of the new space.

“The concept reflects the vision of offering technically advanced clothing in a homey space where customers not only buy cycling gear but are just as likely to stop by for a coffee or watch a road-cycling race,” says Lykke, pointing to the interior design’s pure lines and natural materials. “It creates a subtle contrast to the technological clothes and accessories, making them the stars of the space.”

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Monocle Design Awards 2022

We reflect on the 2022 edition of the Monocle Design Awards and meet some of this year’s winners, including Snøhetta, Limbo Accra, Anna O’Gorman and Dorte Mandrup.

Film / Global

Designing the news

How do you unpack stories in the most engaging way while building a credible and comprehensive brand? Monocle Films showcases best design for paper and screen too.


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