Wednesday 28 February 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 28/2/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Swede spot: Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson’s Nato bid is approved

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / Petri Burtsoff

Border of business

On Monday, Hungary’s parliament approved Sweden’s bid to join Nato, clearing the final hurdle for the Scandinavian country to become the alliance’s 32nd member. Turkey and Hungary’s lengthy foot-dragging over approving the nation’s membership exposed the extent of Nato’s internal disarray. Now, with the addition of Sweden to the alliance, Nato can finally project an image of unity and strength.

Hungary’s decision has been widely applauded in Finland, which joined Nato last spring. As a frontline state in a potential conflict with Russia, Finland continued to call for Sweden’s accession with a particular sense of urgency. You don’t need to be a scholar of military theorist Carl von Clausewitz to understand what Sweden’s Nato membership means for Finland. The Baltic Sea is now flanked on all sides by Nato members, which makes Russian posturing in the region less threatening. Sweden is the perfect place in which to station Nato troops and equipment.

But the advantages of belonging to Nato go beyond mere military tactics. Since joining the alliance, Finland has appeared more boisterous and self-assured on the international stage. The country has actively lobbied for a Nato regional command with permanent troops on its soil and has hosted several large-scale land and air exercises with other members of the alliance. When Sweden finally joins Nato later this spring, it will be a boost to its defence capacity – but also to the nation’s self-esteem.

Petri Burtsoff is Monocle’s Helsinki correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Politics / ISRAEL

Back in the box

For the first time since 2018 Israelis have voted in local elections, the results of which are expected later today. More than seven million people were eligible to vote for mayors and council heads in a total of 197 municipal authorities and 44 local councils. The ballot was originally scheduled for 31 October but had to be postponed twice, first as a result of the Hamas attack on 7 October and, then, because of the large number of reservists being drafted into Israel’s army. “Last year there was a lot of talk about how the municipal elections were supposed to reflect people’s discontent with the national government,” Allison Kaplan Sommer, a journalist based in Tel Aviv, tells The Globalist on Monocle Radio. “But since the 7 October attacks, this has quietened down. People tend to stay with what they know, so the incumbents have a great advantage.”

For more insight into Israel’s municipal elections, tune in to Tuesday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’, on Monocle Radio.

Image: Reuters

Economy / Hong Kong

On the money?

Hong Kong’s financial secretary, Paul Chan, will deliver the city’s latest budget today amid economic uncertainty and a record deficit. Property developers faced the steepest real-estate downturn in more than 20 years in 2023 and stopped buying from government land auctions – a key source of public revenue.

A relaxation of property cooling measures is expected, with some officials calling for the removal of stamp duties to better stabilise the market. Chan, however, finds himself in a difficult position. Hong Kong’s business community has opposed the introduction of a capital-gains tax, as well as a departure tax on the land border with China. As city authorities grapple with concerns over investor confidence, Hong Kong will be looking to Chan to rebuild its economy.

Design / Switzerland

Personal touch

The 13th edition of travelling art and design fair Nomad proved that there is a growing appetite in the market for smaller fairs. According to its organisers, this year’s event, which took place in St Moritz over the weekend and featured works from just 24 galleries, had a record number of visitors. Its popularity was an indicator that developing personal relationships with customers can pay off.

Image: NOMAD St Moritz
Image: NOMAD St Moritz

“We created Nomad as an alternative to the usual white-cube show,” Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, co-founder of Nomad, tells The Monocle Minute. “We don’t want to be in big cities and this is why people come to us.” While large numbers of visitors might be drawn to the larger events, only a few of them end up buying the pieces on show. “We have time for longer conversations, which are impossible to have at events in cities such as Miami or Basel,” says gallerist Larkin Erdmann. For the art and design market to thrive, there’s a need for more of this intimacy – and as Nomad has proven this year, it’s the smaller fairs that are turning window shopping into sales.

Beyond the Headlines


Matters of the art

Frieze heads to the West Coast this week for the fifth edition of Frieze Los Angeles. The event will gather creatives, galleries and buyers at the Santa Monica Airport to admire contemporary art from around the world. Monocle picks three of this year’s highlights.

Petzel Gallery
Cuban-American artist Jorge Pardo explores the intersection of function and art through a wide-ranging practice that encompasses everything from sculpture to design. Untitled (set of five lamps) is his latest work. The handblown glass lights, which come in an array of sizes and colours, invite the viewer to reconsider their perception of space and art.

Gagosian gallery
Los Angeles native Lauren Halsey is taking part in this year’s edition as part of a combined selection of works by the Gagosian gallery called Social Abstraction. Her sculpture, “Watts Happening”, is inspired by the black arts movement and community initiatives of the 1960s.

Lisson Gallery
Japanese photographer and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto is best-known for his minimalist images. The large photograph on display, entitled Studio Drive-In, Culver City, was taken at an outdoor cinema in Los Angeles and explores the haunting feeling of presence through absence.

Monocle Radio / The Stack

Fine print

We visit a new café-cum-currency-exchange in London’s Bayswater that also sells magazines. Plus: we speak with the team behind Turkish design studio Sanayi 313’s magazine, Paper, and explore Palm Beach with the founder of online fashion platform Class of Palm Beach.


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