Wednesday 15 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 15/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Rayhan Demytrie

Speaking up

Mass protests in Tbilisi last week evoked memories of Georgia’s Rose Revolution in 2003, which saw a pro-Western reformist government catapulted to power. So what sparked the demonstrations and what effect could they have? Prime minister Irakli Garibashvili’s government had attempted to rush through a first draft of a controversial bill dubbed “the Russian law”, which, its opponents argue, copies similar legislation passed in Moscow in 2012 that Vladimir Putin has used to silence civil society.

Now in Georgia, just as in 2003, a dormant segment of society has woken up: students. But there is a major difference this time around. The young crowds that gathered outside parliament are at pains to distance themselves from political parties. Instead, they have simply been standing up for Georgia’s future in Europe, vehemently opposing the possibility of their country sliding back into Russia’s orbit.

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Image: Shutterstock, Getty Images

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Image: Shutterstock, Getty Images

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Image: Shutterstock, Getty Images

The bill was drafted by openly anti-Western MPs who are closely affiliated with the governing party. The bloc has criticised the US and EU, claiming falsely that the West wants Georgia to be dragged into the war with Russia. Since the invasion of Ukraine, Garibashvili’s government has refused to openly criticise Moscow or support the West’s sanctions. Instead, it has reaped the rewards of Russian money flowing into Georgia, with 10,000 émigrés escaping war.

The government insists that it remains committed to joining the EU, a perspective that is written into the constitution. But its actions are damaging Georgia’s chances of being accepted as a candidate state, even if pressure – both national and international – has led to the withdrawal of the controversial legislation. Georgia’s newly empowered youth might have won that battle but there is an election next year and the government is yet to cede key ground, particularly on its strategy to court the West. In his first interview after the protests, Garibashvili adopted a confrontational tone, describing some of the protesters as “satanists”. Clearly, the fight is far from over.

Rayhan Demytrie is a journalist based in Tbilisi. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / South Korea & Japan

Friend request

Yoon Suk-yeol will head to Japan tomorrow for the first state visit to the country by a South Korean president since 2019. Over the two-day trip, he will host a joint summit with Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida (pictured, on right, with Yoon) – the first of its kind in 12 years. Yoon, who assumed office last year, is keen to improve relations between the two countries. Prior to the trip, he dropped South Korea’s pending World Trade Organisation complaint against Japan and proposed that his own nation should compensate victims of forced labour under Japanese occupation during the Second World War. News of the summit has stirred up tensions in South Korea. Over the weekend, thousands protested in Seoul against Yoon’s plan, while one survey has found that nearly 60 per cent of South Koreans oppose it. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, about the same proportion of Japanese support it.) Many victims of Japan’s wartime misdeeds are still alive. A resolution that avoids reopening old wounds is essential.

Image: Getty Images


Last resorts

Spring break has begun in the US and, while Miami Beach remains the top party destination, Mexico follows closely behind. This year, however, Texan authorities have warned Americans against taking holidays across the border following the kidnapping of four students earlier this month in the Mexican city of Matamoros. The US State Department has “do not travel” advisories on five of Mexico’s 32 states, while various degrees of caution are advised in a further 25 states.

Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has responded by claiming a US conservative conspiracy to smear his left-leaning administration. Mexico’s murder rate is among the world’s highest and is significantly above that of the US, and the country remains troubled by civilian and migrant disappearances. While spring break furthers tension between the Mexican president and US officials, López Obrador might be running out of ways to spin it. Both Canada and the UK have now also issued their own travel warnings for the country.

Property / France

Open house

Yesterday marked the start of Mipim, the world’s leading property fair, which takes place in Cannes. While you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is solely an event for luxury developers and premium clients, many of the issues being discussed centre around wider themes such as building sustainably and creating better cities. “People want to stay in a city because of its quality of life,” Niko Kyynäräinen, director of business and economic development for Turku in Finland, tells The Monocle Minute. His city is working hard to step out of the shadow of Helsinki and establish itself as a hub for arts and culture, while delivering ambitious climate goals. Another smaller city leaving its mark at the event is Leipzig in Germany. For Michael Körner, managing director of Invest Region Leipzig, an event such as Mipim “is all about visibility”. With the French Riviera as a stunning backdrop, it’s hard to go wrong.

For a full report from our team at Mipim, tune in to The Urbanist on Thursday at 20.00 London time.

Image: Shutterstock

Culture / UK

The stage is set

Now that all 37 countries have confirmed their acts, preparations for the 67th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest can get under way. The semi-finals and final will take place in Liverpool and tickets sold out in less than two hours – hardly surprising when you consider that last year’s edition attracted 161 million TV viewers. Eurovision fans are already trying to predict the winner of the final on 13 May. Sweden is one of the favourites, represented this year by returnee Loreen and her song Tattoo.

If she triumphs again – after her victory in 2012 with Euphoria – she would be only the second artist to win the competition more than once, after Ireland’s Johnny Logan. The Finns are also in with a chance thanks to Cha Cha Cha by Käärijä (pictured), a song that mixes metal and hyperpop, while extolling the virtues of the piña colada. Worried about navigating your way through it? Monocle’s Eurovision correspondent, Fernando Augusto Pacheco, will be with you every step of the way.

Image: Alamy

Monocle 24 / The Concierge

Miami, Porvoo, Stockholm

Robert Bound and his panel of experts look ahead to travel in 2023. Plus: Petri Burtsoff walks us through the historic city of Porvoo on Finland’s southern coast, Gabriel Leigh on all the aviation news that should be on your radar this week and Tomos Lewis celebrates the renovation of Miami’s South Beach boardwalk.

Monocle Films / Global

Meet the photographers: Rena Effendi

In our latest film series, we meet and celebrate some of the people behind our iconic photography reportage. In our first episode Istanbul-based photographer Rena Effendi (pictured) talks about her process, why she shoots on film and her assignment to Libya in 2021. She had never been to Tripoli before but was soon won over and captured a mesmerising mix of full-blown glamour, oddness and a perhaps unexpected order and calmness. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.


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