Wednesday. 14/12/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Artem Tchaikovski / Airbus

Opinion / Gabriel Leigh

Taking flight

Last week, Air Greenland took delivery of a new Airbus A330neo wide-body airliner (pictured), flying it home from Airbus’s HQ in Toulouse to Greenland’s main international air hub, Kangerlussuaq. Many Greenlanders described it as a proud, even emotional moment. The country’s prime minister, Múte Bourup Egede, was on board alongside other ministers, airline bosses and the heads of Greenland’s major travel and tourism organisations. Residents of the village that surrounds Kangerlussuaq came out to greet the plane’s arrival and join in a kaffemik (a traditional Greenlandic get-together) in the Arctic Command’s hangar.

For many airlines, an aircraft delivery is a regular occurrence but this was Air Greenland’s first time purchasing a new Airbus and it is the only jet in its fleet. “This aircraft symbolises that even though we’re a small country, we can be a player and we can achieve great things,” said Air Greenland’s CEO, Jacob Nitter Sørensen, after landing. “That was the emotion that we all felt. This is a huge moment for us all.”

The airline says that the plane will bring down fuel consumption, costs and emissions and eventually carry many of the new business and leisure travellers who Greenland is hoping to attract in the coming years. Much of that potential is tied to the opening of longer runways in Nuuk and Ilulissat in 2024, which would allow larger aircraft to land at two of Greenland’s major destinations for the first time.

The implications for tourism development are enormous. A direct New York-Nuuk service has been discussed and other airlines are expected to launch routes too. That’s a source of hope as well as concern for some, as a country of about 57,000 people prepares to handle an influx of investment. For the moment, however, the mood here is optimistic.

Gabriel Leigh is Monocle’s transport correspondent.

Image: Getty Images

Law / Brussels

Under the influence

A pre-trial hearing in a scandal that threatens to tarnish democracy in the EU begins today in Brussels. Belgium has charged four suspects, including Eva Kaili, one of the 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament, in an investigation into claims that Qatar had been handing out cash and gifts to influence EU policy debate. Doha denies the allegations. Lobbying is common in Western governments but Suzanne Lynch, chief Brussels correspondent at Politico Europe, tells Monocle 24’s The Globalist that what elevates this into a criminal investigation is “the accusation of bribery by a foreign power to affect decision-making in the European Parliament”. “People in Brussels are very shocked,” she says. “It has shed a light on a need for greater transparency. The EU has a piecemeal approach to auditing but it has very few powers of enforcement.” Whether the trial results in more transparency in lobbying, it is already shaping up to be one of the biggest corruption scandals in the parliament’s history.

To hear more about the trial, tune into ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Fiji

Balancing act

A busy year in the South Pacific is drawing to a close with a hotly contested general election in Fiji. Today’s vote is a rerun of the 2018 contest between two former coup leaders: the incumbent prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, and Sitiveni Rabuka. Bainimarama won the previous battle, his second victory since taking power by force in 2006. This time, however, the 68-year-old is facing a much stiffer challenge, raising concerns that the ex-military strongman might not cede power without a fight.

Western diplomats in the region, many of whom reside in the Fijian capital, Suva, will be closely monitoring developments. The island nation is a leading voice in the South Pacific, where China has been challenging the influence of the US, Australia and other democracies. Should a defeated Bainimarama try to subvert democracy, Washington and Canberra will have to strike a balance between punishing him and pushing Fiji into the arms of Xi Jinping (pictured, on right with Bainimarama).

Image: Reuters

Government / Brazil

Talent pool

Now that the dust has settled after Brazil’s election, the country’s president-elect, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is slowly building his cabinet – and he is listening to supporters who want more women and people of colour in his cabinet. Among his picks, he has named Bahian singer Margareth Menezes (pictured) as culture minister, continuing a tradition established in his previous terms of appointing artists to the post.

Menezes is well known in Brazil as a proponent of axé, a mix of several Afro-Caribbean musical genres, and also the founder of Associação Fábrica Cultural, a non-profit in Bahia that supports cultural projects. Previous culture ministers under Lula include national treasure and singer Gilberto Gil, who enchanted a UN audience with a live performance in 2003. After years of division and a starkly white, male cabinet under Jair Bolsonaro, it’s reassuring to see Brazil’s diverse population and breadth of talent reflected in its incoming government. Perhaps the UN can expect another show too.

Image: Shutterstock

Culture / USA & Spain

Hispanic stations

The Instituto Cervantes, a non-profit organisation responsible for the promotion and dissemination of the Spanish language and culture, opened a new campus yesterday in Los Angeles, the US city with the largest number of Spanish speakers and whose wider county is home to about five million Latinos.

The institute’s latest outpost is near the Hollywood Hills, right at the heart of the US film industry, and will focus on Ibero-American cinema. Housed in the former offices of a company that promoted US film titles for the Hispanic market, it has a cinema and a library named after Pedro Almodóvar, one of Spain’s best-known filmmakers. Among those who have visited already is Queen Letizia Rocasolano of Spain (pictured). The organisation’s director, Luis García Montero, told El País newspaper that the expansion will ensure that the Instituto Cervantes remains “a great centre of Hispanicism”.

Monocle 24 / Meet the Writers

Paul Feig

Georgina Godwin meets US actor, director, comedian and film-maker Paul Feig, best known for directing Bridesmaids, The Heat and Ghostbusters. His latest book is Cocktail Time!: The Ultimate Guide to Grown-Up Fun. It includes 125 cocktails recipes, each served along with a funny insider story about Feig’s Hollywood life and famous friends.

Monocle Films / Husavik

Ísbíltúr: Iceland’s ice-cream road trips

We hit the road with journalist Egill Bjarnason, finding the best spots to grab a cone on a journey into the Icelandic custom of ísbíltúr. It’s one of many Nordic lifestyle concepts that can teach us a thing or two about quality of life. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, available now from The Monocle Shop.

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