Thursday. 12/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Aaron Burnett

Fractured state

Germany is still in the throes of a debate about migration and racism after dozens of people were arrested in Berlin for attacking police and emergency services on New Year’s Eve. Both the progressives and conservatives have valid points but neither side wants to admit it.

Almost two weeks after revellers fired rockets at police cars and threw bottles at firefighters, television programmes are still preoccupied with questions about why it happened and what to do. Appearing on different talk shows this week, Friedrich Merz, leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, and Franziska Giffey, Berlin’s Social Democrat mayor, offered competing narratives. “We’re dealing with a real problem when it comes to the integration of young people,” said Merz, pointing out that the worst of the violence was clustered in areas such as Berlin’s Neukölln, where many are from migrant backgrounds. “These are kids from the neighbourhood,” said Giffey. “They’re German.”

So who’s right? Both are. Berlin’s police arrested 145 people of 18 nationalities on New Year’s Eve. It’s fair for conservatives to ask whether youths enjoying the protection of the German state are also disrespecting it. But a third of the alleged perpetrators were German.

German youths in Neukölln often come from migrant backgrounds but they go to German schools. Yet the system stratifies students at the age of 11, with teachers largely deciding whether a student will go to a vocational school or an academic one in preparation for higher education. Many young people of migrant heritage end up losing out on academic opportunities at that time. Ugur Sahin, who developed the Pfizer/Biontech coronavirus vaccine with his wife, was only able to go to an academic school after a white German neighbour intervened on his behalf. That’s hardly a success story for German inclusion. Yet conservatives vociferously defend the model despite its inequality.

Germany needs to have an honest debate about integration. But it’s likely to make both conservatives and progressives uncomfortable. That is why they’re likely to keep avoiding it.

Aaron Burnett is a Monocle contributor based in Berlin.

Image: Getty Images

DIPLOMACY / IRELAND & UK

Balancing act

EU, UK and Irish leaders could be approaching an agreement that will resolve one of the knottiest problems caused by Brexit and end months of political impasse in Northern Ireland. Ireland’s taoiseach, Leo Varadkar (pictured, centre), will be in Belfast today for talks on the Brexit agreement’s Northern Ireland Protocol, which keeps the nation aligned with some EU rules. His visit follows a trip by the UK’s foreign minister, James Cleverly, on Wednesday. Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party has refused to sit in Stormont, the country’s devolved assembly, over the issue, preventing republicans Sinn Féin from forming a coalition government, which is a requirement of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. A breakthrough on the sharing of UK trade data with the EU earlier this week has raised hopes that a resolution is near. Time is tight: Stormont must restore power sharing by 19 January or hold fresh elections. The relationship between close neighbours and Northern Ireland’s future stability are at stake.

Image: Getty Images

ENVIRONMENT / CANADA

Not easy being green

A flagship environmental plan of Canada’s government has found itself on hostile terrain. The so-called “just transition” bill, an election pledge that the country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, made in 2019, is an attempt to enshrine in law the protection of workers in Canada’s oil and gas industries by preparing them for new “green” jobs as the energy sector moves to renewables such as solar power (pictured).

While the bill might serve as a test case for other governments that are seeking to ensure that their own heavy-industry workforce isn’t left behind, it hasn’t been without resistance from those who would rather maintain the status quo. Danielle Smith, premier of Alberta, which is Canada’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, has stated that she will refuse to adopt any such federal policy. “It’s a double-edged sword for Trudeau’s government,” says Garry Keller, a senior executive at Toronto- and Ottawa-based consultancy Strategycorp. “His Liberal party is risking a lot and severely underestimating the amount of opposition that there could be.”

Image: Alamy

RETAIL / JAPAN

More, the merrier

Fast Retailing, Uniqlo’s parent company and Japan’s biggest fashion retailer, will boost annual salaries for full-time employees in Japan by up to 40 per cent. It’s a bold move in a country where wages have stagnated and barely increased in decades. From March, about 8,400 Fast Retailing employees from both the company’s headquarters and its shops will receive raises. Starting monthly salaries for those who join Fast Retailing from university will increase from ¥255,000 (€1,792) to ¥300,000 (€2,108).

For president and CEO Tadashi Yanai, the announcement is part of a plan to raise pay in the country to international levels to help improve global operations. This will no doubt help Fast Retailing to recruit international talent and the government should welcome this positive step. Whether other Japanese companies will dig as deeply into their respective wallets remains to be seen.

Image: Reuters

TRANSPORT / INDIA

Driving ambition

New Delhi’s Auto Expo motor show is back after a three-year hiatus. The event takes place at two locations in the greater Delhi area and will run until 18 January. Throughout the week car-makers such as Hyundai, Suzuki and Tata Motors, the parent company of Jaguar and Land Rover, will be showcasing their green technologies and innovations, ranging from electric vehicles (EVs) to hybrid and hydrogen-powered automobiles. Expect all of the trademark auto-show flair – think immersive experiences – with Tata unveiling its electric SUV Sierra (pictured) and Lexus showing off its LF-40 EV.

India is attempting to cut emissions in its cities and reduce its oil imports, offering cash incentives to companies that manufacture clean vehicles locally. The country is currently on course to become the world’s third-largest light-vehicle manufacturer, hopefully bolstered by this week-long extravaganza.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Culture

Is the art world changing?

What does the art world look like today? It might talk about diversity and opportunity but has it really opened up? We look into the recently released Burns Halperin Report, which explores representation in US museums and the international art market. Robert Bound speaks to the report’s co-creators, Charlotte Burns and Julia Halperin, and art critic and author Farah Nayeri.

Monocle Films / France

Escape to la campagne: Côte d’Azur

Nestled in the hills above Nice, Casa Sallusti is a permaculture farm and hotel that was created to show how you can still enjoy the good things in life while taking care of the planet. We visit its founder, Isabella Sallusti, and meet the young folk who are working at the farm, having decided to swap the city for slow-paced living.

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