Wednesday. 6/10/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Guy De Launey

Waiting shame

Are the countries of the Western Balkans stuck in an abusive relationship with the EU? It’s a question worth asking ahead of the latest EU-Western Balkans summit being held at Brdo pri Kranju in Slovenia today. The abuse doesn’t take the form of economic sanctions, military action or anything particularly dramatic. And yet, if details of this relationship were published in a newspaper problem page, there’s a fair chance the advice would be, “Run for the hills and don’t look back!”

Brussels says that it remains committed to bringing the WB6 – Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo – into the family. The pledge goes all the way back to the Thessaloniki Declaration at the original EU-Western Balkans summit in 2003 (pictured). And yet, 18 years on, the only participant at Thessaloniki to make it into the club is Croatia.

Montenegro has been slogging away at negotiations since 2012, and Serbia since 2013, with no end in sight despite a target date for accession of 2025. Albania and North Macedonia have received European Commission approval to start negotiations but not the crucial go-ahead from the European Council. The reason: Bulgaria is wielding a veto, demanding that North Macedonia concede that the origins of its language and people are Bulgarian. And to think that North Macedonia already changed its name to prevent a Greek veto. Meanwhile, Kosovo remains unrecognised by five EU member states – and Bosnia is a perpetual basket case.

Despite all this, people in the WB6 still want to join the EU. In a recent poll in Serbia, 57 per cent gave the thumbs up; positive sentiment is even stronger in North Macedonia and Albania. But such faith might not last forever; after all, if you change the name of your country and still don’t get a green light, it’s bound to dent your enthusiasm a little. The EU27 need to show commitment in deeds as well as in words – and make good on their promise to the WB6.

Guy De Launey is Monocle’s Balkans correspondent. You can hear more from him on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Space / Russia

Shooting stars

Space movies are often facilitated by vast sets, green screens and CGI – but could these all be a thing of the past? Russian film Challenge is set to become the first to film a number of its scenes in space. Actor Yulia Peresild (pictured) and director Klim Shipenko left Earth yesterday and will spend 12 days on the International Space Station. Far from just being passengers, the pair have undergone intensive training in preparation. “It was very gruelling,” says space scientist and author David Whitehouse. “They had to learn how to fly the spacecraft and cope with various emergency situations.” With news like this coming off the back of the SpaceX and Virgin Galactic missions, it would be quite easy to normalise space tourism and travel but Whitehouse urges caution. “This is still experimental,” he says. “Space has a habit: once you relax and regard something as routine, it comes back to bite you.”

Listen to the full interview with David Whitehouse on ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Fashion / France

Century of style

The words “100 ans” (“100 years”) beneath a striking Guy Bourdin photograph of a red heart – Vogue Paris celebrates a century in print with a typically bold front cover (pictured). The 420-page magazine, released in time for Paris Fashion Week, which wraps up today, features a selection of everything that has made Vogue Paris special over the years. There are plenty of provocative photoshoots, including more from Bourdin, as well as Helmut Newton.

To coincide with the new issue, Palais Galliera in Paris is hosting an exhibition of some of the title’s most iconic images, including David Bailey’s 1966 photograph of Catherine Deneuve. Vogue Paris is the only edition of Vogue that features a city’s name instead of a country’s. It is a showcase of the importance of Paris to the global fashion industry.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Singapore

Threat from within

Singapore’s parliament has passed a bill nominally aimed at countering foreign interference. The law hands the government powers to compel internet platforms to disclose user information and block social media content deemed to be part of an externally co-ordinated disinformation campaign.

At a time of increasing global concern about online propaganda, home affairs minister K Shanmugam claims that the bill offers a balance “between dealing with the risks and providing checks against abuse”. But Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, tells The Monocle Minute that it will allow the governing People’s Action Party to target domestic opponents “based on vague allegations of involvement with foreigners” and “shut down viewpoints it doesn’t like”. With territorial disputes inflaming regional tensions, Singapore finds itself walking a tightrope between the US, a close ally, and China, its biggest trading partner. Yet in its desperation to prevent interference from the outside world, the country could end up exploiting its own citizens.

Image: Josh Barrett

Cinema / UK

Ones to watch

The BFI London Film Festival kicked off today with an impressive programme of 159 feature films, including 21 world premieres. Running until 17 October, this year’s edition opened with Jeymes Samuel’s The Harder They Fall and closes with Joel Coen’s bold Shakespeare adaptation The Tragedy of Macbeth. Here are three others to seek out.

The French Dispatch: Wes Anderson’s latest comedy-drama tells the story of a literary magazine in an imaginary Gallic town. An homage to the The New Yorker, it follows an art critic (Tilda Swinton), a political correspondent (Frances McDormand) and a rarefied food critic (Jeffrey Wright) as they deal with the recent death of the title’s founder and reflect on the publication’s golden days.

Prayers for the Stolen: Tatiana Huezo’s directorial debut is a coming-of-age story adapted from Jennifer Clement’s novel Noche de Fuego and takes place in a rural community in Mexico blighted by drug cartels. The film follows the lives of three young girls and ultimately offers a tender reflection on friendship in the most difficult of circumstances.

The Souvenir Part II: Taking place in 1980s Britain, a young university student grapples with the death of her lover and the discovery of his secret life. Picking up where the acclaimed first film left off, The Souvenir Part II (pictured) features vintage styling from costume designer Grace Snell and an exceptional cast that includes Tilda Swinton and Richard Ayoade.

Image: Guy De Launey

M24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories 277: Cukrarna, Ljubljana

We visit a new art gallery, which is built in a derelict sugar refinery and forms part of a riverside revival going on in Slovenia’s capital.

Monocle Films / Greece

Keeping the faith

In this digital age, do we need more forgiveness and sacrifice in our lives? And where can we look for direction? Monocle Films sat down with Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to find out how the church strives to address contemporary needs and remain relevant in the Greek society.

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