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military – germany

In the basket: All at sea

In the basket: Five Boeing p-8a Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft
Who’s buying: Germany
Who’s selling: USA
Price: $1.75bn (€1.5bn), including training and parts
Delivery date: From 2024

The Boeing p-8a Poseidon is essentially a 737 repurposed as a hunter of naval menaces. Aside from its surveillance capabilities, it can be armed with torpedoes, missiles and other weapons. Germany is buying the Poseidon to replace the propellor-powered Lockheed p-3c Orions. It had been working with France on developing a submarine-hunting aircraft – a project that could now be kiboshed.

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POLITICS – NORTH MACEDONIA

What’s the problem now?

Guy De Launey heads to the capital of North Macedonia as Bulgaria becomes the latest nation to turn on the country.

Bright colours and concrete. Sunshine and sopska salata. Wine and joie de vivre. These are a few of my favourite things about North Macedonia’s capital, Skopje. Over the course of many visits, I’ve seen optimism emerge from the turmoil of violent protests. Voting to add “North” to the country’s name ended a dispute with Greece in 2019, opening the door to Nato membership. Autocratic former prime minister Nikola Gruevski is now a convicted criminal and exiled in Hungary. So why are the fun and frolics in short supply as I arrive?

“We give the name, give the history, give too much,” says taxi driver Dragi, as he manoeuvres his Mercedes through the streets. “People want to join the EU but not pay too much.” Flicking through photos on his phone, Dragi brings up an image from 1936, showing Tsar Boris iii of Bulgaria standing alongside Hitler in Berlin’s Olympiastadion. 

Dragi’s research reflects the antipathy most North Macedonians feel towards their neighbours. Just when it seemed that the EU would give the green light for accession talks, Bulgaria wielded its veto. Sofia is demanding that North Macedonia acknowledge the supposedly Bulgarian roots of the Macedonian language and culture. This is an existential outrage for a people who recoil from any suggestion that they might have shared heritage with a Nazi ally like Boris 111.

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The atmosphere is equally gloomy when I meet Blazhen Maleski and Petar Barlakovski on a chilly terrace overlooking Skopje’s main square. Both have been working with North Macedonia’s young people – building international connections that now seem tenuous, thanks to the Bulgarian veto. “If we had the name change referendum again, I would vote against it,” says Barlakovski. Maleski does not go that far but, he says, he is angry. With Bulgaria, the government and the EU itself. “How is it that one member state can block the will of the 26 countries who want us to start accession negotiations?” he asks.

As we drain our coffees, Ivana Tufegdzic joins us. She became an MP in 2016 at the age of 23 but retired from politics after last year’s elections, feeling the same disillusionment. “We’re not in the mood to hear Brussels saying, ‘You’re part of us but you’re out’. It’s melting the credibility of the EU,” she says.

Foreign Investors Council president Stefan Peter confirms that finding staff is a concern; it’s not just highly educated young people heading for pastures new but workers with transferable skills, such as lorry drivers.

Newspaper editor Saso Ordanovski has seen it all when it comes to North Macedonia’s brief independent history but even he seems befuddled by the veto. “At some point Bulgaria will have to accept that we have the right to choose our own identity,” he says.

It seems strange to be leaving Skopje with a cloud hanging over both the city and North Macedonia’s future. But I understand why people are losing hope. They have ousted an autocrat, implemented reforms, even changed the name of their nation. And it hasn’t been enough to get long-promised talks underway. 

If Brussels is serious about bringing North Macedonia into the family, it must show commitment – or those longing to join the bloc might start looking elsewhere.

About the writer: De Launey is monocle’s Balkans correspondent and a contributor to Monocle 24.


POLITICS – BARBADOS

Passing the baton

Barbados will celebrate the 55th anniversary of its independence from the UK on 30 November by detaching itself from the UK entirely and becoming a republic.

It is a low-key transition. Dame Sandra Mason, the current governor-general – as the Crown’s representatives in Commonwealth countries are called – will now be Barbados’s first president. It is the realisation of an ambition of Barbadian prime minister Mia Mottley who, in Barbados’s most recent election in 2018, led the Labour Party to a clean sweep, winning every seat in the House of Assembly. In 2020, Mottley said, “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind.”

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“Generally speaking, there is support for the republic,” says Cynthia Barrow-Giles, senior lecturer in political science at the University of the West Indies. “If there is opposition, it is muted, though there is a segment of the population that does not see any tangible benefits to be derived.”

Of the 15 countries of which Queen Elizabeth II (pictured, on left, with Mason) will remain head of state, eight are in the Caribbean. It remains to be seen whether any of these will follow suit. Barbados has acted without a referendum, but this would be a constitutional requirement in other Caribbean jurisdictions.

“However, I fully expect that the move in Barbados will fuel some much-needed conversations across the Eastern Caribbean,” says Barrow-Giles. 


media – global

And finally...

Journalists often point to the English-language newspapers of a nation as key sources of unbiased, independent information, so the closing of two such publications in November is disheartening. In Lebanon, The Daily Star, the country’s oldest English-language newspaper, founded in 1952, laid off its entire staff. Co-owned by the family of former prime minister Saad Hariri, it played an important role in Lebanon’s once-thriving media scene. 

“We have irritated presidents, prime ministers, general prosecutors, MPs, oligarchs and CEOs”

And, in Ukraine, the Kyiv Post suspended publication after 26 years and its journalists were dismissed. Though its owner Adnan Kivan said that the newspaper will close “for a short time”, its journalists accused Kivan of shuttering the paper in response to their attempts to save its editorial independence. “This is not the friendliest climate for independent media,” says Brian Bonner, the newspaper’s chief editor for 13 years. “We have irritated presidents, prime ministers, general prosecutors, MPs, oligarchs and ceos.” Bonner holds out hope that the paper will come back “bigger and better”, as Kivan has promised. But he stresses that its independence – a key plank of any foreign-language media outlet – must be assured. Otherwise, “it wouldn’t be the Kyiv Post,” Bonner says. “It has to be that way.”

Photographer: Marco Arguello. Images: Getty Images. Illustration: Jack Hudson 

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