Thursday 11 January 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 11/1/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Fresh faced: Gabriel Attal attends a cabinet meeting in Paris

Image: Reuters

Politics / Agnès Poirier

Tour de force

Any keen observer of Gabriel Attal’s rapid rise will not be surprised by his arrival at Hôtel Matignon, the official residence of France’s prime minister. By appointing 34-year-old Attal to the post, Emmanuel Macron has rebooted his once-trademark brand of headline-grabbing politics, making the Parisian the country’s youngest-ever prime minister and its first openly gay head of government.

Despite his age, Attal has already performed several key roles. Aside from serving as an MP, he has been a spokesperson for Macron’s party, recently rebranded as Renaissance, and a spokesperson for the government, followed by roles as budget and then education minister. In the latter position, he made a name for himself with a number of decisive actions, including banning the Islamic abaya dress in schools, which, though controversial, won him admirers across the political spectrum.

“I owe him absolutely everything,” said Attal of Macron, who promised that France’s new prime minister will do everything that he can to carry out the presidential project of national “revitalisation and regeneration”. Unlike his predecessors, former civil servants Élisabeth Borne and Jean Castex, Attal has both political acumen and a sharp tongue. He has appeared at ease rebuking both the far-left and far-right during heated debates at the National Assembly, where his party lacks an absolute majority. His first test will come in the form of the EU parliamentary elections in June, in which Renaissance faces a tough battle against the far-right. Though Attal’s first few months will be challenging, many believe that he has the skills to deliver.

Agnès Poirier is a French journalist and UK editor of ‘L’Express’. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Affairs / Israel & South Africa

In the dock

Today the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hear the opening arguments in a case brought by South Africa against Israel for what it alleges are genocidal acts committed against Palestinians in Gaza. In a legal brief submitted to the court in December, South Africa accused Israel of contravening the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which both countries are signatories. The move represents the latest deterioration in relations between the two nations, following the withdrawal of South African diplomats from Tel Aviv in November. South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, whose ruling African National Congress party has long maintained a close relationship with the Palestinian authorities, has accused Israel of imposing a system of apartheid on the territories that it occupies. To evaluate the case, South Africa and Israel can appoint two ad hoc judges to join the ICJ’s 15 justices, which could result in an order for Tel Aviv to cease military operations in Gaza. However, while ICJ judgements are legally binding and cannot be appealed, the UN court has no enforceable power.

For more on South Africa’s case to the ICJ, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ at 07.00 London time.

Sea change: an Indonesian boy walks along the wall in Jakarta

Image: Getty Images

Environment / Indonesia

Off the wall

Airlangga Hartarto, Indonesia’s co-ordinating minister for economic affairs, announced yesterday that the country plans to construct a huge sea wall to control the rate at which Jakarta is sinking. While the idea for such a project isn’t new, it has been revived as the metropolis of more than 10 million people quickly becomes one of the world’s fastest-sinking megacities. The wall’s construction is expected to cost at least $10.5bn (€9.6bn) and won’t be completed before 2040. Jakarta is on the northwestern coast of the island of Java and straddles a delta of 13 rivers.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration also hopes to build a new Indonesian capital on the island of Borneo, another multibillion-dollar project. Jokowi might have an eye on his legacy: the two-term leader will soon stand down after a presidential election that is due to take place in February. But without addressing the underlying problems behind Jakarta’s subsidence, including climate change and excessive extraction of groundwater, these initiatives will amount to little more than expensive sticking plasters.

Making the cut: Politicians Rainer Wieland, Karine Lalieux and Rudi Vervoort

Image: European Union 2024

Art / EU

Down to a fine art

The Belgian presidency of the Council of the European Union began with flair as the first art piece in a new series of open-air exhibitions called The Artists’ Parliament was unveiled in Brussels on Wednesday. “L’Aire d’un Souffle” is a work by Belgian artists Ann Veronica Janssens and Michel François. The large metal structure was created to mark Belgium’s presidency, which lasts for the first six months of 2024; it will be on display in the Esplanade Solidarność for the next five months.

The new series of artworks will reflect the rotating presidencies of the council and highlight the diversity of member states’ artistic talents. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, conflict in the Middle East and the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Belgium assumes its role during a time of economic and geopolitical uncertainty for the EU. The Artists’ Parliament, however, optimistically affirms the international co-operation at the heart of its presidency programme.

Beyond The Headlines

Q&A / Harry Jameson

Picture of health

Harry Jameson is the co-founder of luxury wellness brand Pillar Wellbeing and a fitness expert with more than 15 years of experience in the industry. Here, he talks about his brand’s holistic approach to health and how it led to his company’s success.

Image: Ryan Blackwood

Tell us about Pillar Wellbeing.
The brand teaches people about the way that they move, nourish and recover their bodies. These three elements are the core principles of Pillar Wellbeing and an understanding of them can help to improve your daily performance. We’re rolling out private members’ wellness clubs in partnership with some incredible properties around the world. We have taken the concept of recovery suites and spas, which focus on how we move and nourish, and elevated them into gyms that feature restaurants.

How do you mitigate the demands of busy client schedules while encouraging a wellness regime?
Some of the work focuses on damage limitation. For example, if you lead a lifestyle in which you often skip between time zones, have various engagements that involve drinking or regularly make decisions that affect millions of people, you need to be able to put yourself in a position to do well. Expecting these clients to train and eat like athletes six days a week is unrealistic. However, by giving them the framework to succeed, they can boost their energy levels and offset negative effects on their health.

How can we use your principles to improve our sense of wellbeing in 2024?
Wellness is not only for the affluent. This is why we give away as much information as possible on our channels. Stretching, running and bodyweight workouts are free to do. Many people think that healthy eating is expensive but that’s not true. Motivation is difficult for everybody and finding time is challenging but the great thing about wellness is that it’s there for those who seek it.

For our full interview with Harry Jameson tune in to 2024’s first episode of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Stuart Whipps

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Culture

Looking ahead at the year in culture

Ashanti Omkar, Ossian Ward and Chris Power join Robert Bound in the studio to round up the TV shows, art exhibitions and books that you should have on your radar this year.


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