Tuesday 23 April 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 23/4/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Intractable problems: Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, in Belgrade in February

Image: Alamy

Politics / Guy de Launey

Whatever next?

Someone somewhere must be laughing at the farcical nature of Serbia-Kosovo relations. Last weekend, Serbs in predominantly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo boycotted a referendum to remove cherry-picked mayors in four majority-Serb municipalities – even though they had campaigned for such a vote to be held. The mayors in question are only in office as a result of the Kosovan government’s decision to appoint them after another Serbian boycott at last year’s municipal elections. The weekend’s vote was supposed to resolve a clearly untenable situation and reduce tensions between Kosovo’s government in Pristina and the Serb minority. Instead, it has created yet another problem to solve.

Yesterday the leaders of Serbia and Kosovo faced each other at the UN Security Council, where the latest UN report on the situation in Kosovo was presented. The botched recall election provides both sides with ammunition. For Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, it is evidence that Pristina is determined to drive Serbs out of Kosovo, which many Serbs consider to be the birthplace of their nation. Meanwhile, Kosovo’s prime minister, Albin Kurti, cited the boycott as proof that Belgrade still wields a malevolent influence in majority-Serb areas.

Such rhetoric might be useful for stirring up their respective voter bases. Vucic repudiated Serb nationalism when he co-founded the Progressive Party in 2008 but still plays the old tunes when they are useful to him. Kurti leads the Albanian-nationalist Vetevendosje party and does little to hide his loathing of Serbia. Somewhere in the middle, both Serbs and Albanians are struggling to live their lives. Increasingly, they are voting with their feet and leaving Kosovo and Serbia for places where they are not treated as extras in somebody else’s drama. Frankly, who can blame them?

Guy de Launey is Monocle’s Balkans correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Time for a reset: Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan (on left) and Iraq’s prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, at a welcoming ceremony in Baghdad

Image: Turkish Presidency/Handout

Diplomacy / Turkey & Iraq

Turning tides

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, paid a rare visit to Iraq’s prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, this week for talks on security and trade – the first meeting of its kind in 13 years. It marks a significant turning point in the countries’ relations, which have been strained by frequent fighting between the Turkish military and Kurdish PKK militants on Iraq’s northern border.

Following the meeting, Baghdad offered to support Ankara in its spring offensive against the separatist group. Drought-stricken Iraq has also secured a greater share of water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, both of which originate in Turkey. This thaw in relations is good news for both countries – but Turkey, which controls Iraq’s main water source, still holds the reins.

Transport / Japan

A room of one’s own

More than 20 years since they were phased out, Central Japan Railway has announced plans to reintroduce private compartments to its bullet trains in 2026. The one- or two-seat options will be a step up from the Green Car (First Class), offering adjustable chairs, wi-fi and their own lighting and air conditioning. Food carts and smoking rooms will be removed from some N700S series trains to accommodate the change. Ticket prices have not yet been announced but the compartments will appeal to business passengers and those who want extra privacy when they travel. Occupants of the standard-class seats might mourn the loss of the food cart but they can still buy supplies at Japan’s well-stocked stations.

Frozen assets: a gelateria in Milan

Image: Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek

Society / Italy

Brain freeze

Authorities in Milan have proposed a ban on the sale of takeaway food and drink after midnight – a crackdown that would affect the city’s beloved late-night gelaterias. The rule, which would also force restaurants and bars to close their outdoor areas at 00.30 on weekdays (and at 01.30 on weekends), would be applied from May to November in 12 bustling areas. Predictably, the proposal has been met with dismay from customers and business owners alike.

The measures were drawn up in response to residents’ complaints about drunken disturbances. For many Italians, however, a takeaway gelato is a key part of their post-dinner passeggiata through their neighbourhood on warm summer nights. Previous attempts to regulate nocturnal gelato consumption have proved hard to enforce. A similar measure was withdrawn in 2013 following protests and an “Occupy Gelato” sit-in. Striking the right balance between feeding the night-time economy and appeasing noise-sensitive residents can be tricky but the city council’s ban doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Taylor Bruce

One for the road

Founded in 2012, Texas-based travel brand Wildsam has gained a loyal following for its field guides. The company has now launched a magazine of the same name that is dedicated to roadtrips, recreational vehicles and the great outdoors. (Monocle’s Portland correspondent, Zach Dundas, is its editorial director.) Here, The Stack speaks to Wildsam’s editor in chief, Taylor Bruce, about the new title.

When you founded Wildsam, did you imagine it becoming a magazine?
Before Wildsam I was in the magazine world: I was a staff editor at a lifestyle and culture publication for three years and worked as a freelancer for a host of others. Our travel guides have a magazine-like quality but, no, I never envisaged actually making one. The brand was 10 years old before the idea even occurred to us.

Your magazine feels like a love letter to the roadtrip. Why?
It’s a big part of American culture and Wildsam has a series of roadtrip guides, so it made sense to launch the magazine from that angle. In the US, it’s a nostalgic form of travel and there has been a return to it in the past five years or so.

How many issues will you publish a year?
We will have eight printed issues, interspersed with seasonal digital issues. Consistency is a priority. Part of the beauty of magazines is that they show up on your doorstep within a few weeks of each other. I understand the business challenges that the industry faces but we’re well equipped and used to having multiple things going at once.

Listen to our full interview with Taylor Bruce of ‘Wildsam’ magazine on this week’s episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

River Shannon

Sarah Grice recalls a fishy tale about the longest river in the British Isles, the Shannon in Ireland.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00