For many years, the UK was seen as the EU’s premier malcontent. While it’s true that the country was often a dissenting voice on certain matters, especially those that were budget-related, the portrayal of London as the single impediment to closer integration papered over the bloc’s more dangerous faultlines. The most obvious of these issues is the lack of a common defence apparatus, particularly considering that Russia’s war in Ukraine, the biggest land war in Europe since 1945, continues to be waged.
Brexit robbed the EU of both its largest military power and its most convenient excuse for stalling security integration. It’s easy to forget just how seismic Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was. A European nation embarking on a war of territorial expansion against another seemed like something from the age of the telegram, not the internet. If a country is prepared to so flagrantly upend the norms of statecraft once, it must be assumed that it will do so again. Precarious times call for steadfast measures – and it is another former EU malcontent, Poland, that holds the key.
The return of Donald Tusk to government might have been lifted from an EU bureaucrat’s dream. Warsaw, however, had already shown its commitment to the future of European security before Tusk’s election victory. In September the country’s outgoing defence minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, reaffirmed a commitment to assemble the continent’s largest land army by 2026. By then, Europe might be even less stable. A second Trump-led White House might have withdrawn the US from Nato and ceased military support for Ukraine, causing a weakened Kyiv to seek unfavourable peace with an emboldened Moscow. The EU often claims that its strength is in its diversity but when facing an irredentist dictatorship, it helps to have a centralised command. In 2024 the bloc must start talking seriously about its co-ordinated defence.
Alexis Self is Monocle’s foreign editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.
Amid fears of violence and electoral fraud, voters will head to the polls on Wednesday for the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s presidential election. The vote follows years of political turmoil and will take place against a backdrop of corruption and conflict, particularly in the mineral-rich eastern area of the country. The incumbent president, Félix Tshisekedi, will be up against Martin Fayulu, who claims to have won the 2018 presidential election despite coming second in official results.
For many Congolese voters, the priority is securing peace in their country. “The instability in the DRC has been a major barrier to holding elections,” Phil Clark, professor of international politics at Soas University of London, tells The Monocle Minute. “Voter registration, delivery of ballot papers and campaign rallies have all been disrupted by the ongoing violence. Even after former leader Mobutu Sese Seko was ousted in 1997, Congolese presidents have failed to provide stability. Tshisekedi has been no different.”
Images of Sydney dominate advertising for Australian tourism – and unsurprisingly so. The Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are instantly recognisable landmarks. However, people are becoming increasingly aware of the subtler charms of Melbourne, a city that has long prided itself on being as quirky and cultured as its rival is picturesque. This summer in the southern hemisphere, Melbourne Airport expects international passenger numbers to soar to 1.56 million, 44 per cent higher than in summer 2022. A new Air India service that runs to and from Mumbai three times a week is emblematic of this growth. Many who are arriving in Melbourne for the first time might be bemused to discover that an airport serving a city of five million people has no rail link to the city centre. The good (if overdue) news is that some groundwork has now been laid to build one. The bad news is that nobody expects the project to be completed in the next 10 years.
Looking for the perfect present this holiday season? Then let us inspire you with our Advent gift guide. Every day until Christmas, we will be showcasing one item featured in our Alpino newspaper, which is out now in kiosks and available from our online shop.
Wool scarf by Loewe
A bold touch of red is an effective way to add a pop of colour to your outfit without going over the top. This woolly scarf from Loewe is our top pick this winter.
On the west side of Greece’s largest island, classic Cretan hospitality and cuisine are being revived and reinvented by a new wave of young, passionate producers, chefs and hosts. Monocle set off on a roadtrip from Chania to Sellia to sample their wares.
Monocle’s Paige Reynolds heads to Qube East in London’s Canary Wharf to interview co-founders Amin Hamzianpour and Nicholas Sonuga, who discuss the expansion of their members-only studios for music producers, podcasters and video-content creators. They talk about finding a gap in the market to build a community of creatives who want access to quality studios, as well as somewhere to meet and connect with other artists.