Tuesday 28 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 28/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Left foot forwards

Italy’s Democratic Party (PD) has a new leader. On Sunday 37-year-old underdog Elly Schlein (pictured) became the first woman elected to the position in the left-wing party’s history. But can she revive a party that has been deserted by its traditional working-class base and take the fight to the country’s far-right prime minister, Giorgia Meloni? Schlein, who won 54 per cent of the vote, is exciting on paper: an Italian-American born in Switzerland, she is a former MEP and deputy regional governor with an activist bent. She is also in a same-sex relationship, a vocal supporter of LGBT rights and the holder of progressive views on immigration and the environment. As a result, some have billed her the anti-Meloni.

The problem is that we have seen these sorts of left-wing upsets among establishment parties before (think Jeremy Corbyn in the UK) and they have often led to turmoil. Schlein will be overseeing a political machine with lots of different factions; to appease them, she might have to move towards the centre. She will also have to deal with the reality that many Italians are happy with the way that the ruling Brothers of Italy party has performed, with Meloni proving more moderate than predicted. Even the tragic deaths of at least 59 migrants over the weekend doesn’t seem to be enough to make people turn on the government’s hardline immigration stance.

Schlein shouldn’t be thinking about a general election, as one isn’t scheduled until 2027 anyway. Instead, she needs to rebuild a party that won only 19 per cent of the vote last year. The good news is that after years of grey PD politics, her enthusiasm marks an exciting change. She will set about holding Meloni accountable and, whether or not that helps to galvanise the Italian left, it’s excellent news for democracy.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large, based in Milan. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Geopolitics / Kazakhstan

Charm offensive

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken (pictured), is in Kazakhstan today to kick off a tour of Central Asia on which he will meet the foreign ministers of five ex-Soviet states. With Russia and China influential players in the region and the war in Ukraine throwing a spotlight on countries such as Kazakhstan, a key Moscow ally, Blinken’s trip is an attempt to show that the US can be a more reliable partner. “We have something to offer in terms of engagement economically,” Donald Lu, the top US diplomat for South and Central Asia, said at a press briefing. “But we also have something to offer in terms of values that we bring to the table.” Washington knows that Central Asian leaders won’t turn their backs on China or Russia completely but it will be hoping that they might be persuaded that aligning with Beijing and Moscow risks jeopardising trade with the rest of the world.

Image: Alamy

Aviation / Colombia

Aiming high

El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá has surpassed Guarulhos in São Paulo to become Latin America’s second-busiest international hub after welcoming 35.5 million passengers in 2022. While it might not be the most bustling, El Dorado has been recognised as the best airport in South America by airline review site Skytrax. Last year, four new airlines began to fly from it, bringing its roster up to 88 destinations, 46 of which are international.

This is good news for Colombia’s national carrier, Avianca, which is also expanding its number of international routes, including four daily flights between Bogotá and Madrid. A complementary airport named El Dorado II is scheduled to open later this year; this will further increase the city’s flight capacity. The number of passengers flying to Colombia continues to rise. The country received 48 million visitors last year and El Dorado was responsible for 74 per cent of these. The airport is owned by the Colombian government and operated by a consortium that includes Flughafen Zürich AG, which runs Zürich Airport.

Image: Getty Images

Trade / UK

Prevailing Windsor

The UK and EU reached an agreement yesterday in their long-running dispute over Northern Ireland’s customs status. During Brexit negotiations, the EU insisted that any deal should avoid the imposition of a hard border on the island of Ireland, leading to a de facto border in the Irish Sea for checking goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This protocol enraged the nation’s Democratic Unionist Party, which withdrew participation in a power-sharing agreement with Sinn Fein, the main republican party.

Yesterday’s agreement, known as the “Windsor framework” and signed by UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (pictured, on right, with Sunak), is partly aimed at restoring Northern Ireland’s government but also EU-UK relations more generally. Von der Leyen’s trip to Windsor included an audience with King Charles, which could be seen as cynical but also shows the UK’s desire to charm Brussels. After years of rancour, this in itself is cause for optimism.

Image: Shutterstock

Agriculture / France

Farming out

The Salon de l’Agriculture, which began in Paris on Saturday and runs until this Sunday, brings town and country together for a celebration of la France profonde. It’s where you can see elegant Parisians sizing up a parade of prize Charolais cows next to beret-wearing farmers toasting each other with champagne. The Salon is crowded and pungent; more than 600,000 attendees are expected and almost 300 tonnes of manure will be produced (by the livestock). As such, the event is unrivalled when it comes to showcasing France’s relationship with the land.

It has been a difficult year with droughts, inflation and the fallout from the war in Ukraine putting pressure on French farmers. Making the traditional presidential visit on Saturday, Emmanuel Macron acknowledged that the sector is hurting. He called for a water conservation plan and warned of “the end of abundance”. Many seemed unconvinced and there was booing. Like other sectors of French society, it will take more than glib words to keep farmers happy this year.

Image: Sophie Davidson

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Recipe edition, Bre Graham

Food writer and editor Bre Graham (pictured) cooks a breakfast that’s fit for a loved one.

Monocle Films / Vienna

Design tours: the best public housing?

The world is urbanising fast. But how do you accommodate people in cities in a way that offers dignity, affordability and a sense of community? Vienna may have a solution. Explore the enduring legacy of the city’s Gemeindebau apartment blocks in the latest episode of our Design Tours series.


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