Friday 3 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 3/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Mary Fitzgerald

Enough Saied

Tunisia might once have been the poster child of the Arab Spring but more recently the country has had a very tough time. Politicians, judges, journalists, activists and business figures have been detained in the latest round of President Kais Saied’s efforts to consolidate his authoritarian rule. Over the past weeks, Saied (pictured) has resorted to peddling racist conspiracy theories relating to migration from sub-Saharan Africa, triggering attacks on black people living in Tunisia. Yet the EU and Washington have responded to these alarming developments with hand-wringing and little else. Given Tunisia’s proximity to southern Europe (and the fact that Tunisian migrants were among the top-three nationalities risking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean last year), a more robust response from Brussels is sorely needed.

Tunisia’s slide to autocracy began in 2021 when Saied dismissed the prime minister, suspended parliament and invoked emergency procedures that allowed him to rule by decree. Casting himself as an anti-corruption saviour, he claimed that he was rescuing the country’s democratic transition. Critics accused him of mounting a coup to install one-man rule but others, including many Western diplomats, preferred to wait and see. Saied subsequently replaced Tunisia’s post-2011 constitution with one that grants him sweeping powers over the judiciary.

EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss Tunisia’s situation when they meet on 20 March. The negotiation of a planned International Monetary Fund loan could offer some leverage and might curb Saied’s excesses. Still, Tunisians, who once appreciated Western support for their country’s cause, now fear that their democratic aspirations are less of a priority for a West that is preoccupied with the war in Ukraine. Abandoning Tunisia – so long emblematic of the promise of democracy in the wider region – would be a grave mistake.

Mary Fitzgerald is Monocle’s North Africa correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / US & Taiwan

Arms intervention

The US has approved the potential sale of missiles and military equipment worth $619m (€584m) to Taiwan. The deal will no doubt further anger Beijing at a time of heightened tensions. According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, China has sent 68 aircraft and 10 warships close to the island this week in a show of military might. Meanwhile, a US reconnaissance plane flew through the Taiwan Strait on Monday. These developments come ahead of the all-important annual “two sessions” gathering in Beijing tomorrow, in which Xi Jinping is expected to announce key policy decisions. “There is no question that the Chinese leadership will see the sale as a direct challenge to the One China principle,” Patricia Thornton, associate professor at the University of Oxford China Centre, tells The Monocle Minute. “It will almost certainly draw a parallel between the US arming Taiwan and the current conflict in Ukraine.”

To hear more of Thornton’s analysis of the tensions between China and Taiwan, listen to today’s episode of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Geopolitics / France

Cause célèbre

European armed independence groups might seem like a thing of the past but not on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. A new troupe has signalled its intent to use violence to challenge French rule. The Ghjuventu Clandestina Corsa (Underground Corsican Youth) emerged last summer and has so far claimed 17 attacks.

The group states that it is picking up from the Fronte di Liberazione Nazionale Corso (Corsican National Liberation Front), which renounced armed struggle in 2014. Emmanuel Macron floated the idea of autonomy for the island ahead of his re-election last April and talks about its status recommenced at the end of February after a pause of almost 12 months. Macron will need to deliver the changes that most Corsicans want or risk allowing others to dominate the narrative.

Image: Lucas Blair Simpson / SOM

Aviation / Kansas City

Flying start

Kansas City International Airport (MCI) has unveiled a new terminal this week that it hopes will attract more traffic to the Midwest. Architecture studio Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the building with accessibility in mind: check-in and departures happen on the same level, there are wheelchair-height desks and nervous flyers are offered the use of simulation cabins.

The airport has invested in solar power for its parking areas and there are plans for the terminal to eventually run on renewable energy. The airy structure is topped by a cantilevered timber ceiling, and features 27 site-specific artworks and a public garden. Kansas City might not be among the busiest airports in the US but, as many hubs seek to capitalise on the return of passengers following the lifting of pandemic restrictions, this welcoming terminal could help to ensure that its visitor numbers soar.

Image: Kitmin Lee

Culture / Hong Kong

Facing the music

The Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival, Hong Kong’s marquee annual music event, begins today on the city’s harbourfront. Having been cancelled four times as a result of political protests and coronavirus, this is the first edition to take place since 2018.

Hong Kong residents and international visitors are streaming in to catch headline acts including seminal hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, indie bands Bombay Bicycle Club and Phoenix, and French multi-instrumentalist FKJ. Smaller stages dotted around the coastline will feature up-and-coming artists. Many attendees were surprised to hear that Hong Kong, one of the last remaining places requiring people to cover their faces outdoors, announced the end of all mask mandates this week, just in time for the festival.

Image: Iris Humm

Monocle 24 / The Menu

Todolí Citrus Fundació and Henrique Sá Pessoa

How the former head of London’s Tate Modern refocused his energy to protect rare citrus fruits. Plus, Joia, London’s new restaurant by top Portuguese chef Henrique Sá Pessoa.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: March issue, 2023

Is the future electric? That’s the question that Monocle is asking in its future of the car special. Our forward-looking report offers our verdict on self-driving cars, the auto industry’s next moves and the companies in pole position to take advantage. Plus: Australian architecture, Spain’s costume-makers and Spam – no, really. Grab a copy today from The Monocle Shop.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00