Monday 25 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 25/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Sky-high ambition: Ursula von der Leyen

Image: Alamy

Politics / Alexis Self

Out of the blocs

This June’s EU parliamentary elections will probably be the most consequential in the bloc’s history. The largest European war since 1945 continues to rage on the union’s eastern frontier; the consequences of rising inflation and a worsening climate are sowing division among its member states; and the candidacy of Donald Trump in this November’s US presidential election presents the looming threat of future transatlantic discord. At such times, decisive leadership is a cherished commodity. Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president and the bloc’s de facto leader since 2019, believes that she is the woman to face these challenges. Her re-election bid promises to create the post of EU defence commissioner, someone who would be tasked with strengthening the continent’s arms industry and co-ordinating procurement between the 27 member states.

As I have argued previously in The Monocle Minute, Europe cannot and should not rely on the military largesse of the US to guarantee its security – with or without a Trump presidency. In the year and a half after the Ukraine war broke out, EU countries spent about 80 per cent of their defence budgets buying from manufacturers outside the bloc, mostly in the US. If the EU wants to become strategically autonomous, this must change. The European Commission was founded to bring the countries of Europe together through improved trade and joint protectionism.

In an age when defence spending is on the rise across the world, it seems only sensible that the bloc should act to improve and protect its own industry. But, as Von der Leyen knows, procurement is only half of the problem. The EU and its 27 leaders, who will ultimately decide if Von der Leyen serves another term, have to decide how and who will use the weapons it hopes to begin producing more efficiently – if it isn’t already too late by then.

Alexis Self is Monocle’s foreign editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Image: Felix Odell

Tourism / Greece & Turkey

Open invitation

Greece is rolling out a new fast-track temporary visa for Turkish visitors to bolster tourism to the country. The idea was first discussed during a visit by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to Athens last December in a bid to improve the nations’ relationship. The first phase of the plan comes into effect this Saturday.

Turkish citizens will be able to acquire a seven-day visa on the spot, instead of facing a lengthy acquisition process via the Greek Consulate in Izmir. The visa will facilitate access to 10 islands close to Turkey’s border, including Kos and Symi, a hotspot for Turkish yacht owners. Turkey has previously demanded the demilitarisation of these islands and challenged their sovereignty. It’s a smart diplomatic move from Greece to open their doors instead.

Urbanism / USA

Clean sweep

Graffiti has surged on Washington roadways since 2020, with tags proliferating faster than road crews can remove them. But the US state has a new secret weapon: drones. Last week, Democratic governor Jay Inslee signed a law establishing a pilot programme that, from June, will use unmanned aerial vehicles to remove graffiti in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. “Tagging is an easy crime to get away with at the moment,” Republican state representative Andrew Barkis, who sponsored the bill, tells The Monocle Minute. “It’s our job as lawmakers to change that and restore the sense of pride that people have in their communities.” Barkis’s other bill, however, which would have required any taggers caught in the act to paint over their unsightly handiwork, didn’t make it through the state senate.

Image: Alamy

Art / Hong Kong

Wealth of material

More than 240 galleries from 40 countries will set up shop at Hong Kong’s Convention and Exhibition Centre this Thursday for the Asia-Pacific’s largest art fair, Art Basel Hong Kong. Textile art is expected to be the focus of the event and 23 galleries will exhibit at the fair for the first time.

London-based art gallery Alison Jacques’ booth will explore US artist Sheila Hicks’s pioneering use of fabric and thread, while Bank from Shanghai will showcase the work of Maryn Varbanov, a key figure of the 1960s fibre-arts movement. As attendance numbers are predicted to return to pre-coronavirus-pandemic levels, exhibitors will certainly have their eyes on young Asian collectors, who have been fuelling the demand for art in recent years.

Beyond the Headlines

In print / Issue 172

Kit for a king

France might have dispensed with royalty but the firm that kits out its official residences reigns supreme. Monocle travels to Paris to visit Mobilier National.

Spinning a yarn

Image: Timothée Chambovet

Perret furniture repository

Image: Timothée Chambovet

Carpet made for Louis XIV when he lived at the Louvre Palace

Image: Timothée Chambovet

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Image: Jack Stauffacher

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Design

‘Typographic Jazz’

An exhibition at the Letterform Archive in San Francisco delves into the improvisational and playful processes of Bay Area printer Jack Stauffacher, who demonstrated the creative potential of the letterpress.


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