Small countries can teach us a thing or two about everything from foreign policy to social cohesion; the Nordics have already shown us that. But what about really small countries? And I mean really small. I recently hopped in a car and embarked on the roughly four-hour drive north from Milan to Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, to find out.
Vaduz is a sleepy place full of chocolatiers and watch shops. On a hillside overlooking the town, a huge schloss houses the royal family that rules over this principality of some 40,000 people, sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. I was there to meet foreign minister Dominique Hasler (pictured) for an article in Monocle’s Alpino newspaper, which is on newsstands on Thursday. Among other things, I wanted to hear about her country taking over the six-month presidency of the Council of Europe for the first time in more than 20 years. I was intrigued to hear what this small, prosperous nation, which has one of the world’s highest GDPs per capita, could be worried about. And what did it have to tell the world? Quite a lot, it turns out.
Conflict might seem to affect important trading nations more than Mitteleuropean microstates but the foreign policy of this neutral country has been built on diplomacy and forging agreements with friendly neighbours. Upset the world order and you upset Liechtenstein’s sense of security.
This is why it called for a General Assembly meeting to be held within 10 days of any veto by one of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members. The resolution was adopted unanimously in April 2022 and is designed to subject permanent members to added scrutiny. “For us, it is important to show that small states can make a difference and bring in new reforms,” says Hasler. Liechtenstein might be small but it doesn’t seem frightened about speaking up.
Emmanuel Macron has criticised Israel’s actions in Gaza by saying that the country “must more precisely define” what it seeks to accomplish in its war with Hamas. In his latest statement, which follows weeks of treading carefully around the conflict’s rhetoric, Macron warned that the “total destruction of Hamas” could lead to 10 years of war. The move follows a US call for Israel to be more careful with military operations in southern Gaza. Though both France and the US have so far offered unequivocal support to Israel, the latest events in Gaza have forced the international community to re-evaluate the conflict. “Macron is aware that the current Israeli strategy is extremely risky and that the mood is changing,” Philippe Marlière, professor of French and European politics at University College London, tells The Monocle Minute. “With no positive outcome in sight, the appetite for war is starting to wane.”
It has been 20 years since the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted by Unesco. This week the 18th session of the Intergovernmental Committee will take place in Kasane, Botswana, to award the status to a fresh batch of crafts, cuisines and carnivals. The event will be closely watched in Thailand where the Songkran Festival, which marks the Thai new year, is poised to join the UN agency’s eclectic list – and the Thai government is sure to make a big splash about it.
Soft power is a big talking point in Bangkok and the administration wants to use the country’s main holiday, famed for its fun-filled mass water fights, to attract more tourists and raise its profile overseas. As a result, next year’s celebrations will be extended from the typical three days to an entire month. It’s unclear, however, whether gaining Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage status will add anything to the party.
Bathrobe by Baina
When winter comes around, a bathrobe is a bathing essential. This chequerboard number from Australian brand Baina is made in Portugal from 100 per cent cotton in a terry-towelling weave. shopbaina.com
Monocle’s winter newspaper, Alpino, is out this Thursday. From St Moritz to Aspen and Niseko, our editors will take you to the businesses that boom when snow falls and provide insight into the affairs shaping the northern hemisphere. Here are five more highlights from this year’s edition.
Who do you call if you take a wrong turn in the Italian Dolomites? We meet the volunteer alpinists who rescue stranded climbers and save the lives of avalanche victims by constantly rehearsing for year-round scenarios.
As Russia’s war in Ukraine continues, Arctic nations are worried about the region’s future. We visit the Arctic Circle Assembly to gain insight into some frosty diplomatic relations.
As Finland’s temperatures drop below zero, the Lapland Chamber Orchestra braves the cold to bring classical music to the country’s most remote villages. Starting from Rovaniemi, the orchestra racks up more than 6,000km by bus every year and visits even the most challenging locations.
Apart from being a great place for budding skiers, St Moritz is also a celebrated art hub. This winter the town’s galleries are hosting an exhibition dedicated to German artist Gerhard Richter, with more than 70 paintings, photographs and art objects.
We find out how a humble workshop established during the 1930s has become Switzerland’s best-loved sledge maker, with steam-bent runners that offer some of the smoothest rides across fresh snow.
To explore these stories and more, pick up a copy of Monocle’s ‘Alpino’ newspaper, which is out on Thursday.
Join Monocle’s deputy head of radio, Tom Webb, as he takes us on a whistle-stop tour of this year’s Monocle Christmas Market in Zürich.