Friday 4 November 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 4/11/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Man in the middle

It was universally recognised that Angela Merkel, Germany’s former chancellor, would be difficult to follow. That’s not to say that she exuded charisma – the contrary – but she projected competence and professionalism, and an unwavering belief in the European project. Her successor, 64-year-old Olaf Scholz, marks a year in office early next month. On the surface, Scholz (pictured, on right, with Merkel) and “Mutti” seem to share many attributes, with an unflappable and almost teacherly desire to get on with the job. But some key differences in their world views mean that his leadership has been, at times, confused and lacking in dynamism.

The most notable example has been his go-it-alone approach to energy prices. France’s Emmanuel Macron has been pushing for a more cohesive, bloc-wide answer (something that one feels Merkel might have endorsed) but in July, Scholz announced €200bn in funds for German households and businesses to subsidise gas prices.

Of course, Scholz faces problems that Merkel didn’t: a cost-of-living crisis, a war in Europe and the heightened threats of Russia and China. But even in that context, his decision to visit China today – not long after the Communist Party congress highlighted the country’s further descent into autocracy – has proven controversial. While his predecessor made the trip 12 times during her chancellorship (and received criticism for her own business-friendly approach towards Beijing), Scholz’s similar attitude has failed to recognise that the word has changed in a short space of time. Stark questions remain over why he’s undermining the US’s and other European nations’ stronger stance against China.

So will strong German leadership in Europe and the wider world continue? Scholz heads a sometimes fractious coalition and the popularity of his Social Democrats party has plummeted. That suggests he might be more focused on polling figures in 2023 than maintaining Germany’s leadership role in the international community. The world will be worse off for it.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor-at-large.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Ethiopia

Giving peace a chance

Only the most optimistic observers of the brutal, two-year war in northern Ethiopia would have bet on this week’s peace talks in South Africa bringing an end to the conflict. Yet that’s exactly what has happened. The truce is even more remarkable given that fighting between Ethiopian government troops and rebels in the state of Tigray had appeared to intensify in recent weeks and that fighters from neighbouring Eritrea had also been drawn into the war.

So how has peace been achieved? “The African Union [AU] has played a significant role in getting people around the table,” Mark Lowcock, the UN’s humanitarian chief between 2017 and 2021, tells The Monocle Minute. And progress has been made by Africa itself, rather than the customary interjection from outside the continent. “It’s good to see the AU and others pushing an African solution to an African problem,” he adds. “What matters now is whether the men with guns and bombs respect the deal.”

For more on the conflicts and diplomacy reshaping borders around the world, tune in to The Globalist on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Migration / Portugal

End of the golden age?

Portugal’s “golden visa” scheme, which gives residency rights to wealthy applicants and investors, is likely to be scrapped, prime minister António Costa (pictured) said this week. In the past decade, the Authorisation of Residence for Investment Activity has attracted €6.5bn in investment from new Portuguese residents who wanted to obtain a visa. The investments are required to meet certain conditions, such as buying a home for €500,000 or a transfer of capital that amounts to at least €1.5m.

Access to the Schengen area and the option to extend the visa to families has particularly appealed to applicants from China, Brazil, South Africa and, more recently, the UK. Costa told reporters at Lisbon’s Web Summit that the golden visa has “already fulfilled the role it had to fulfil”. Despite the route’s potential closure, Portugal has other broader schemes to welcome immigrants. In July, visa restrictions were relaxed for fellow Lusophone countries, alive to the benefits of cultural exchange and immigration. Other countries should take note.

Image: Arts House

Culture / Singapore

World of possibility

The 25th edition of the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) opens today and will run until 20 November. Since its founding in 1986, the festival has grown into a large international event that brings poet laureates and Booker Prize winners together with emerging southeast Asian writers.

The SWF is also one of the world’s few multilingual literary festivals, featuring novelists and poets who write in all of Singapore’s official languages: Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English. This year’s programme includes US sci-fi author Ted Chiang, British writer Jeanette Winterson and Singaporean poet Cyril Wong, whose poem “If… Else” provided the festival’s theme of future possibilities. “Every festival responds to its time,” said SWF director Pooja Nansi, who believes that the world is currently fraught with conflict and uncertainty. “The word ‘if’ conveys a feeling of hope.”

Image: Andy Massaccesi

Fashion / Italy

Less but better

Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta has been writing a new chapter this year under creative director Matthieu Blazy and CEO Leo Rongone. The latter, a seasoned fashion executive who took on his current role in 2019, envisions the brand becoming “the most elevated name in luxury fashion”. To do this, it will follow its founding principle of “craft in motion” and stand apart from its competitors by favouring timeless style over logos, fast consumption and seasonal trends.

“In a society that pushes you to consume more and more, we want to take a different approach and offer products that are designed to last for ever,” Rongone tells Monocle. To that end, the company has recently introduced a lifetime warranty for its bags, eliminated markdowns and turned its attention to its own shops. A refreshed retail vision will be unveiled at the brand’s flagship in Zürich this December.

To read the full story, pick up your copy of Monocle’s November issue, which is on sale now.

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Volt, Lodes, Sunspel, Space Perspective

We ride e-bikes in London with British manufacturer Volt and visit Italian lighting manufacturer Lodes. Plus: Sunspel’s creative director and interstellar travel with Space Perspective.

Monocle Films / Athens

Meet Europe’s first chief heat officer

Athens is the hottest capital city in mainland Europe and temperatures continue to rise. That’s why Eleni Myrivili was appointed as the city’s – and continent’s – first chief heat officer last summer. We meet her on Philoppapou hill to hear about how urban design can help to build resilience against rising temperatures.


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