Thursday. 26/1/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Andrea Pugiotto

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

One too many

Last February the European Parliament rejected proposals to adorn the labels on wine bottles with health warnings similar to those that warn smokers of the dangers of tobacco. Among those especially delighted were Italy’s MEPs, who had interpreted the plan as a dastardly attempt to sabotage one of their national treasures. (French MEPs seem to have been more sanguine; possibly they were still at lunch.)

Ireland, however, has unilaterally resurrected the idea and now plans to add grim messages about liver disease and cancer to all bottles of alcohol, including wine, beer and spirits. Italy is once again furious. (France might be sleeping lunch off.) Italy’s minister of foreign affairs, Antonio Tajani, damned Ireland for “an attack on the Mediterranean diet” and declared, “Our identity cannot be perverted.” It is unclear whether or not Tajani had enjoyed a few swigs before issuing his statement.

This diplomatic stramash is, of course, tremendously good fun and it might, just like a proper alehouse dust-up, spread further, after Ettore Prandini, head of Italian farmers’ association Coldiretti, lobbed a bar stool at Scandinavia’s table and thundered, “It is completely improper to equate the excessive consumption of spirits, typical of the Nordic countries, to the moderate and conscious consumption of quality products with lower alcohol content, such as wine.”

But the Italians have a point. The medical consensus regarding wine can be summarised as: the odd glass won’t kill you. While there might be a case for health warnings on drinks that are more commonly favoured by mannerless yahoos – or, indeed, morose Norwegians – wine is a drink for grown-ups, who should be trusted to make grown-up decisions about when they’ve had enough. If anybody wants to make meaningful changes to the labelling of wine, they could impose fines for label copy that makes especially baroque claims about what the drink inside tastes like.

Andrew Mueller is a Monocle contributing editor and the host of Monocle 24’s ‘The Foreign Desk’.

Image: Getty Images

Cities / Lithuania & Ukraine

Capital gains

It has been a big week for Vilnius. Lithuania’s capital celebrated its 700th anniversary yesterday and that came a day after it was dubbed a “rescuer city” by Volodymyr Zelensky. The honorary title recognises the city’s support for Ukraine since Russia invaded, including hosting tens of thousands of refugees and providing an estimated €1m in aid. Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius (pictured) received the accolade at the 2023 Champion Cities Summit and pledged a further €700,000. But Šimašius tells The Monocle Minute that his city’s support for Ukraine will not stop there. “Discussions are already under way to rebuild destroyed Ukrainian cities,” he says. “We want to share our experience and make sure that Ukraine does not repeat our mistakes in rebuilding its cities and does not continue Soviet urbanism.” He adds that “the new Ukraine must be much better and more liveable and we will do our utmost to make it so”. As the capital of a country that is a member of both the EU and Nato – alliances that Ukraine would very much like to join – Vilnius’s support has value.

For more on the issues shaping geopolitics around the world, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Reuters

Infrastructure / Japan

Breakdown dead ahead

Regulating the gruelling working hours of long-distance lorry drivers might sound like a sensible idea but attempts to do so could leave Japan stuck in a logistics pile-up. A new law that comes into effect in April will reduce drivers’ working hours from 3,516 hours a year to 3,300 hours and cap annual overtime at 960 hours in a bid to improve their health and safety.

According to economic research and consulting firm Nomura Research Institute, however, the measures could also mean that as much as 28 per cent of goods currently moved by road won’t be delivered in 2025. Japan’s logistics industry is heavily reliant on lorries, which carry more than 90 per cent of the goods transported inside the country. The government needs to work closely with the sector to find a solution if it wants to prevent the economy from breaking down at the side of the road.

Image: Benjamin Rasmussen

Business / USA

Way out west

As Colorado’s big urban centres fill up with transplants from across the US, word is spreading about the far smaller city of Grand Junction on the Western Slope of the Rocky mountains. Cheaper labour and land – house prices are 60 per cent that of the state average – are enticing entrepreneurs to put down roots and start businesses here at a time when the largest cities in the US are struggling with population decline and reputations for rising crime and homelessness. Grand Junction is in the Grand Valley, a row of small cities with an Old West backdrop of monumental mesas and mountains. Lance Canfield moved his performance-bike-design company Canfield Bikes from Washington State to the valley in 2020. There’s a growing number of bike parts manufacturers based in town, which makes sense in an area that’s a magnet for the sport, with abundant trails and reliable waves of tourism. “You can’t be a half-assed athlete in this valley and stay safe,” says Canfield (pictured).

To read the full story of the businesses setting up in Colorado’s Grand Valley, pick up a copy of Monocle’s February issue, which is on newsstands now.

Image: European Fashion Alliance

Fashion / Europe

Changing clothes

The European Fashion Alliance (EFA), which represents more than 10,000 companies, has proposed a package of measures to help the industry stick to its environmental commitments. The first items on the agenda are contributing to the EU’s 2019 Green Deal, aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, educating consumers to make better choices and expanding the textile industry’s recycling capacity. However, members agree that the EFA’s proposal, presented in a summit in Gran Canaria, should be made into a more formal plan of action.

Meetings are taking place this week with the European commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, Mariya Gabriel, and members of the European Parliament. The ambition is to turn these proposals into policies that will support the creative industry’s shift to more sustainable business practices – and hold them accountable too. “Change doesn’t happen alone,” says Fashion Council Germany CEO Scott Lipinski. “It requires industry interaction and that’s what the EFA is for.” He’s right; without a proper plan, the scheme feels a little like the emperor’s new clothes.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Menu

What’s on the menu in Davos?

We find out what it takes to cater to some of the world’s most powerful people at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos. Also in the programme: a visit to one of Montreal’s biggest restaurant success stories, and an Austrian winter resort that has become a high-end food destination.

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. Read more in the July/August issue of Monocle.

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