Emmanuel Macron cannot be accused of failing to get maximum value out of France’s presidential jet. Even before his trip to Central Asia this week, he had already been to nearly 30 countries in 2023. This recent visit, however, merits particular consideration. Macron has one fairly obvious motivation where Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are concerned: they are respectively France’s largest and third-largest suppliers of uranium. They became even more crucial in July when power was seized in Niger – France’s second-largest supplier of uranium – by army officers who have made a point of their Francophobia.
But even if Macron is doggedly feigning interest in local dance troupes and handcrafts in service of France’s national interest, he is setting an example that could – and should – be replicated elsewhere. Russia is now about 20 months into a protracted reminder, at Ukraine’s expense, of what a dismal and unreliable neighbour it is. The countries on or near Russia’s southern frontier should be as receptive to blandishments from the West as the countries along its western borders were at the end of the Cold War.
This weekend, president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan will welcome his counterparts from Uzbekistan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan for a summit of the Organisation of Turkic States. It should not have been beyond the wit of a few western European leaders to invite themselves along. Even before Macron touched down in Astana, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, had said that the West was attempting to lure Russia’s “neighbours, friends and allies” away from it. It is unclear, at this point, whether many of its neighbours still consider Moscow a friend or an ally – if indeed they ever did.
Following months of negotiations between diplomats and business leaders, Swedish fashion giant H&M has announced that it will reopen its shops in Ukraine. One of many international companies to suspend operations in the country following Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, the mass exodus, which included brands such as Coca-Cola, Ikea and Carlsberg, contributed to the economy shrinking by about 30 per cent. Today, however, as H&M gradually prepares to welcome customers back to its shops, Ukraine’s central bank is reporting positive economic growth, with gross domestic product up by 4.9 per cent compared to 2022. “H&M’s presence is important in restoring a semblance of normality for Ukrainians,” Hlib Vyshlinsky, executive director at the Centre for Economic Strategy, a Kyiv-based think-tank, tells The Monocle Minute. “But there is more to be done. The return of the clothing company Inditex, responsible for Zara, Oysho, Pull&Bear and Massimo Dutti, will be even more important. Though the vacuum has created new opportunities for Ukrainian brands, there is a high level of demand to be met.”
A new US cultural institution is opening this weekend – and in an unexpected location. The Glass National Art Museum will fling its doors wide in Danville, Kentucky, today, more than doubling the footprint of the Art Center of the Bluegrass, a multipurpose space at the heart of central Kentucky’s surprisingly rich cultural scene.
Three galleries will host rotating exhibitions and a permanent collection focused on the work of notable US glass artist Stephen Rolfe Powell, who established a studio in the region and taught many students. The exhibition space will soon be complemented by a top-flight glassblowing facility, which will provide vital infrastructure for the next generation of Appalachian artists. “There’s nothing else like this in our region,” executive director Niki Kinkade tells The Monocle Minute. “We hope it ushers in a new interest in glassmaking.”
Direct flights from Iraq to Denmark and Germany resume next week after an eight-year break. From 10 November, Iraq’s national carrier, Iraqi Airways, will offer seven flights a week from Baghdad to destinations such as Copenhagen, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf. The joint agreement between the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation and the EU ends a ban on Iraqi Airways’s planes entering European airspace.
The carrier was placed on an EU Air Safety List in 2015 and had become notorious for poor service and unprofessionalism, including a fistfight that broke out between two pilots mid-flight in 2018. It has since cleaned up its act and image – an endeavour sweetened by the purchase of 31 planes from Boeing and Airbus earlier this year.
This photo is taken from a new book, The Rice is on the Hob, by British-Pakistani photographer Tami Aftab. It features a series of arresting images of Pakistan alongside recipes written by her father, Tony, who suffers from short-term memory loss.
For every sale of the book, £5 (€5.70) will be donated to Muslim Hands – a charity that works to tackle poverty worldwide – to provide relief to victims of the 2022 Pakistan floods.
We’re in the United Arab Emirates to explore how the business landscape has evolved over the past 15 years and hear about the opportunities that it has for entrepreneurs and start-ups. The president of Emirates airline tells us about the role that the company plays in shaping the nation’s soft power. Plus: we meet the co-founder of Appellation, a brand that blends therapeutic scents and science in pursuit of wellness.