Thursday 1 February 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 1/2/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Emmanuel Macron joins Queen Silvia of Sweden (on left) and Crown Princess Victoria at Stockholm Palace

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / Ed Stocker

Brothers in arms

France and Sweden aren’t obvious bedfellows. Though Sweden has been part of the EU since 1995, it has maintained a certain distance from other member states, notably choosing not to adopt the euro. France, on the other hand, has long been a proponent of collective action. Emmanuel Macron recently called for greater co-operation within the bloc, pushing for a stronger military presence in Europe. Surely a historically non-aligned country would struggle to find common ground with the Gallic member state? Think again.

The relationship between the two nations has been given new importance since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Yesterday, Macron wrapped up a two-day state visit to Stockholm and Lund, during which he met Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, and King Carl XVI Gustaf. Because of Sweden’s application to join Nato, which was recently approved by Turkey, defence discussions suddenly make much more sense.

Both Sweden and France believe in the idea of strategic independence and have developed impressive autonomous defence industries. The Scandinavian nation has rolled out the hi-tech Gripen fighter jet, developed by Saab, while France has produced the Dassault Aviation Rafale combat aircraft. Alongside Germany and Spain, France is also part of the Future Combat Air System initiative, a programme that Sweden could join in the future.

Europe seems increasingly aligned on issues of defence, as illustrated by the news that Stockholm-based security firm Saab and Paris-headquartered missile developer MBDA will be strengthening their collaboration. Sweden and France signed a letter of intent this week to establish long-term co-operation on arms development, including of the Akeron anti-tank missile. Uneasy bedfellows? Nothing of the sort.

Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Affairs / EU & Ukraine

Money talks

EU leaders will meet in Brussels today to discuss pledging an additional €50bn in aid to Ukraine over the next four years. The bloc is attempting to resolve an impasse caused by Hungary blocking a deal to send the funds to Kyiv in December. The plan is to appease Viktor Orbán by agreeing to an annual review of the funding if he agrees to let the money go through now. In an effort to improve relations between the two countries, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, met his Hungarian counterpart earlier this week to discuss Budapest’s concerns about a Hungarian minority in western Ukraine. Both the EU and the US turned off the taps of financial support sooner than expected and Kyiv is now facing a €48bn shortfall – not to mention a stalemate in the conflict with Russia. The charm offensive towards Hungary might be awkward for EU leaders but it is crucial to Ukraine’s war effort.

Hear more from Ukraine’s perspective on the EU summit on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ from 07.00 London time on Monocle Radio.

Kidding around at Changi Airport in Singapore

Image: Reuters

Tourism / Singapore

Plane sailing

Traffic levels at Singapore’s Changi Airport rebounded to 86 per cent of 2019’s figure last year, with more than 58 million passengers passing through. The recovery was driven by an increase in travel demand from China, which re-entered Changi Airport Group’s list of top-10 markets following a relaxation of travel restrictions.

Airlines such as TUI UK and Air Macau also added routes through the airport, which, at its peak, processed 55,000 passengers a day. The hub is expected to receive a further boost next week, when Singapore and China introduce a new 30-day mutual visa exemption, just in time for the Lunar New Year celebrations. All the signs point to a high-flying year for Changi – and Singapore is ready to reap the rewards.

Watch this space: Daniel Roth’s new Tourbillon ‘Souscription’ at LVMH Watch Week

Image: Danierl Roth

Fashion / Miami

Second-hand information

This year’s first luxury watch event, LVMH Watch Week, wraps up today in Miami. The event’s fifth edition features new collections from six of the group’s watchmaking houses, including Bulgari and Zenith. “There’s a growing unity among LVMH-owned brands,” Benoit de Clerck, CEO of Zenith, tells The Monocle Minute. “Here, we can showcase our new releases alongside those of other houses.”

Among the highlights was the inclusion of celebrated watch brands Daniel Roth and Gérald Genta in the line-up. But how do smaller trade shows stack up against industry giants such as Watches and Wonders? “While bigger events have a wider reach, LVMH Watch Week caters to more niche audiences,” says De Clerck. “The two complement each other.”

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Shutterstock

Q&A / Jeffrey Wright

Double life

Actor Jeffrey Wright has been nominated for this year’s best actor Oscar for his leading role in Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction. Here, he tells Monocle about the book that inspired the film and the art of satire.

Had you read Percival Everett’s novel ‘Erasure’ before you took on the role of its protagonist, Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison, in ‘American Fiction’?
My first introduction to the character was when I read Cord’s script, which was wonderfully drawn. Then I picked up the book, which is set in my hometown, Washington. So I read it later in the process. My focus was on Cord’s script and the book of my life, because there were overlaps between Monk’s circumstances and my own.

The film is a satire but also very emotive.
In some ways, I think that satire is tragedy in disguise. For me, the portrait of Monk’s family was the heart and soul of this film. The satirical aspects show a character leading a double life that could be seen as ordinary – but it’s extraordinary at the same time. He keeps fighting perceptions from the outside world of who he is. It’s a portrait of a family that is messy and beautiful, functional and dysfunctional. There’s a universal element to it.

Tell us about the experience working alongside Leslie Uggams, who plays Monk’s mother in the film.
Like all of us, she was so passionate about this story and about being in this film. She was a pro. There’s a scene that we filmed together at night, near the ocean. She was very cold and I was concerned about her getting sick but she was happy to do as many takes as we needed. Leslie was an absolute joy to work with.

For our full interview with Jeffrey Wright, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Monocle Weekly’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Yoongeun Shin

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs

Matilda’s Bloombox and Sowvital

We meet the founder of a San Francisco-based flower-delivery service that sources blooms from farmers in California. Emily Boschetto tells us about the origin of the business, which started in a Bay Area garage, and how it blossomed into a multistate brand. Plus: Jack Lewis returns to discuss growing his plant-care business with a line of gardening tools designed to be cherished for generations to come.


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