Wednesday 29 June 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 29/6/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Safety first

Nato summits aren’t usually paid much attention beyond the defence and foreign policy press: for example, the British media wasn’t overinvested in the 2019 summit in Watford (granted that this indifference might have been because it was in Watford, a rather nondescript suburban town). For obvious reasons, however, everyone is paying attention to Madrid 2022 and security for the descending throngs is maniacal.

The schlep begins at a muster station in a commandeered high school in a suburb more or less adjacent to the venue, the Ifema convention centre. Upon receipt of laminate and lanyard, one queues for shuttle buses while police dogs take an interest in one’s bags and grumpy police ask to see the passport that you’ve already shown someone to collect the laminate. Armed officers ride the bus to the venue at a ratio of about one to every six irritable hacks. The police vehicles get progressively larger and more armoured the closer to the venue you get; at one stop, the undercarriage of the bus is searched by a bomb-disposal operative with a mirror on a pole. And when you reach the venue, they get really serious.

This is all understandable for a gathering of many of Earth’s most powerful people – especially now. Most of what this Nato summit hopes to accomplish has been telegraphed in advance: a beefed-up presence in Eastern Europe to deter further Russian predations, the designation of China as a “systemic challenge” (more on this below). It is in support of this measure that the leaders of non-Nato Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan have been invited. The military alliance had been managing expectations in terms of what it really wanted to announce – the formal accession of Sweden and Finland, about which Turkey was being difficult. But by yesterday evening Ankara surprised many by dropping its objections, having apparently grasped that the fun was over, and it was time to send a message of unity. Today, 30 members can become 32.

Andrew Mueller is Monocle’s contributing editor. Check out Monocle 24’s news shows throughout the week and a special edition of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Saturday for full coverage of the Madrid summit.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Global


Iran has applied to join Brics, the trading bloc of emerging markets consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Having been cut off from much of the Western economic system since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the opportunity to join forces with a group that accounts for more than 40 per cent of the world’s population and about 26 per cent of the global economy is hard to resist. Iran’s vast oil reserves – the fourth largest in the world – also make it an attractive member. Iran isn’t the only country hoping to improve its fortunes by joining the group: Russia’s foreign ministry revealed this week that Argentina has also submitted an application. With Russia’s trading options continuing to shrink, the offer of two regionally influential economic allies will be hard to pass up. And it’s a sobering reminder to Western nations that, whatever sanctions they consider, Russia still has willing partners.

Hear more on Iran’s motivations for joining Brics on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Juho Kuva

Design / Finland

Global village

The village of Fiskars is an unusual backdrop for an international art and design festival. But it’s here that Finland’s latest major cultural event has set up shop. Throughout the summer, the Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale will be occupying buildings across town, pairing architecture shows with installation-led exhibitions and bringing a rural touch to the country’s traditionally urban art scene.

“History lends this space a feel that cannot be replicated,” says Anniina Koivu, co-curator of U-Joints: Knots and Knits, one of the biennale’s three main exhibitions that are housed in the town’s galleries. “It’s easy to imagine a craftsman knotting away or sculpting a piece of wood here hundreds of years ago.” Plenty of galleries have been experimenting with going rural in recent years but Fiskars is leading the way. Home to the ceramics museum Kwum as well as the design brand Nikari, the village of 600 is proving that art cities don’t need to be large.

Read more about the Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale by picking up a copy of Monocle’s July/August issue, which is on newsstands now.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / China

War of words

A $600bn (€569bn) infrastructure fund for developing countries, proposed by G7 leaders this week, has been framed by the US as a democratic alternative to China’s multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Beijing’s response? “China always welcomes initiatives that promote global infrastructure,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian (pictured). “Such initiatives do not have to cancel each other out.

What we oppose are moves to advance geopolitical calculation and smear the BRI in the name of promoting infrastructure development.” Chinese state-owned tabloid Global Times was more brazen, calling the G7 fund “a carrot that the US is dangling to attack China”, accusing Washington of “slandering” China and suggesting that the US had too much debt to front a third of the G7 fund itself. Other state media outlets, including Xinhua and People’s Daily, focused on protests against the G7 summit in Germany. The battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of developing nations has been joined.

Image: Alamy

Retail / Switzerland & Italy

Food for thought

Swiss company Dufry, the world’s biggest duty-free operator, and Italian catering multinational Autogrill have confirmed that they are in talks to join operations in a deal that could be finalised as soon as next month. The merger would create one of the world’s largest travel retail and food groups, with a market value of about €6bn. Despite a tough few years of shuttered airports and quiet highways, this bold move speaks of a new-found confidence in the sector and it has been welcomed by stock markets.

It’s not the first time that the two companies have talked business: in 2015, Dufry acquired World Duty Free, a subsidiary of Autogrill’s parent company Edizione, which dealt specifically with its airport retail outlets. Now it’s back for the rest. Nor is it the first time that Dufry has moved into food: in late 2020 it bought North America’s Hudson, which also sells books, newspapers and gadgets. As a summer of revived travel beckons, bigger and more competitive operators are gearing up to greet us.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Culture

Summer soundtrack

Robert Bound is joined by Kate Hutchinson and Christine Ochefu to take you through this summer’s hottest music releases. From the biggest names to the less well-known, find out which artists will provide the soundtrack to your summer.

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 sits 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.


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