Wednesday 5 July 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 5/7/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

Holding fire

Last week in Stockholm, a lone protester stood outside Stockholm’s Central Mosque, burbled through a bullhorn, visited several indignities upon a copy of the Qur’an and then burned it. This is no way to behave. It is graceless, boorish and childish, the fairly self-evident behaviour of an attention-seeking jackass. An attention-seeking jackass, however, who understood his audience. With wretched inevitability, an assortment of governments of mostly Muslim countries decided to pay attention to him, including that of Iran, which has this week harrumphed its intention to delay the dispatch of its new ambassador to Sweden. Iran, therefore, joins a queue at the complaints counter of Sweden’s foreign ministry that already included Iraq, Morocco, Kuwait, the UAE and Turkey – the last of which has grimly hinted that it might use the incident as yet further reason to delay Sweden’s accession to Nato.

But Iran and the other countries could have chosen not to react. The mounting of a high horse is not an involuntary reflex: we all get to decide how we respond to any attempt to annoy or, indeed, infuriate us. Iran and Turkey always enjoy projecting themselves – not without reason – as the custodians of magnificent civilisations; they should be able to rise above the puerile provocations of a random clown who fancies being on the news.

We have been here before. In January, a different attention-seeking jackass burned Qur’ans in Stockholm and Copenhagen. And we will be here again for as long as people heed the inane caperings of grandstanding buffoons and governments opportunistically feign theatrical outrage in the service of political leverage.

In Tehran, meanwhile, protesters have been photographed burning a Swedish flag (pictured) – as always at such moments, it would be riveting to know where they got it. As of this writing, Sweden has expressed no indication that it cares in the slightest.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor of Monocle. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to our magazine today.

Image: Getty Images

Trade / China & Honduras

Changing tide

Yesterday, China announced that it had commenced talks for a bilateral free-trade agreement with Honduras – a country that until recently was firmly within the US sphere of influence. The news comes three months after Honduras severed its formal ties with Taiwan in favour of increased economic engagement and diplomatic relations with Beijing.

The Central American country, which served as a base for US operations in its proxy war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua during the 1980s, still hosts a sizeable American military presence and remains an ally of Washington. But China is now one of Central America’s top trading partners and a major source of foreign direct investment. Unsurprisingly, countries such as the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador have formalised relations with the rising Asian superpower since 2017. As Beijing’s influence grows, Washington might find its grip on the region slipping.

Image: Getty Images


Strengthening ties

Yesterday, Turkey and Egypt appointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals for the first time in a decade in a bid to restore their fractured relationship. In a joint statement by the two countries, Salih Mutlu Sen was named as Turkey’s ambassador to Cairo and Amr Elhamamy as Egypt’s ambassador to Ankara. Relations took a dive in 2013 when Egypt’s then army chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (pictured, on left, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan), toppled former president Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Ankara, in a coup.

“The two countries have taken opposing sides in several conflicts, such as those in Libya, Syria and Iraq,” Valeria Scuto, a Middle East, North Africa and Turkey analyst, tells The Monocle Minute. “A return to full diplomatic relations is unlikely to have a significant effect on Turkey’s foreign policy in Iraq and Syria but it could reduce confrontation in the eastern Mediterranean. There’s also the possibility of a maritime agreement between the two countries.”

For more on Turkey and Egypt’s new ambassadors tune in to Tuesday’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Shutterstock


Progressive rock

In the past month vast deposits of rich phosphate rock, vanadium and titanium have been discovered in southwestern Norway. According to Anglo-Norwegian company Norge Mining, the deposits contain enough minerals to meet the global demand for batteries and solar panels for the next 100 years. The discovery – totalling an estimated 70 billion tonnes of phosphate rock, a non-renewable resource – has the potential to upend the industry.

“Until now, we were dependent on phosphate from Russia, which controlled what were thought to be the world’s largest ultra-pure phosphate rock deposits,” Tessa Szyszkowitz, a distinguished fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, tells The Monocle Minute. “If Norway can now develop batteries for cars and solar panels, it would help Europe to become not only greener but also more independent from Russia.”

Image: Federico Pompeii and Yiorgos Kaplanidis

Fashion / Athens

Ship shape

Last week, Greek fashion brand Zeus+Dione celebrated its 10th anniversary with a runway show at the port of Piraeus. At the event, the label unveiled its new, nautical-themed Resort ’24 Collection, which includes fishermen’s caps from Mykonos and outfits inspired by the wetsuits of deep-sea divers.

The brand’s creative director, Marios Schwab, also showcased his first menswear collection, with a focus on sharp tailoring and crisp-cut shirts in a range of fabrics including iridescent silk and embroidered cotton. Schwab worked with everyone from silk workers in Soufli to master embroiderers from the Peloponnese to create the collection. For Zeus+Dione, the show was an opportunity to put a global spotlight on Greece’s rich artisanal heritage.

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Bold Bean Co, Brina and Italian rosé

This week, Markus Hippi speaks to Amelia Christie-Miller, founder of the Bold Bean Co, about her new cookbook that celebrates the versatility of beans. Also in the programme, Guy De Launey heads to the Brina festival of cocktails and mixology in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Ivan Carvalho meets wine consultants Luca D’Attoma and Elizabeth Gabay to discuss the potential of Italian rosé. Plus: the week’s top food and drink headlines.

Monocle Films / Food & Drink

Inside Portugal’s tinned-fish industry

Tinned sardines are an icon of Portugal. We visit a family-run shop and one of the country’s last artisanal canneries to discover why sardines are cherished by the Portuguese, how the industry started with Napoleon and what is driving the revival of canned fish. Discover more about the country in Portugal: The Monocle Handbook.


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