Monday 13 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 13/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Finding success: Swiss Eurovision entrant Nemo

Image: Getty Images

Eurovision / Tyler Brûlé

This must be the place

The clock is ticking – and what better country than Switzerland to witness the sweep of the second hand counting down the months, weeks, hours and minutes until Switzerland plays host to the 69th edition of Eurovision? Early on Sunday morning, Biel-born Nemo won the jury vote and came top overall at this year’s contest in Malmö with his vaguely catchy tune “The Code”. And how fitting that he hails from the hometown of the Swatch Group – also home to Omega and a host of other brands. A new competition is already under way in Switzerland: which city should host the 10,000 or so fans – not to mention the artists and crews – who will make the pilgrimage to the world’s biggest music competition?

From Monocle’s perch in Zürich, it can only be the city that has been our HQ ever since our sister company, Winkreative, created the branding for the Swiss airline in 2002. While Lausanne, Bern and Basel are perfectly lovely places, and Geneva is even home to Eurovision’s parent organisation, the European Broadcasting Union, Zürich has evolved into the nation’s hub for the creative industries, technology and cultural institutions, not to mention transport. It’s also the coolest city of the bunch, with the cafés, restaurants, bars, shops and hotels to represent the best of Switzerland. Rather than a drawn-out selection process, the state broadcaster and partners should take a confident step to announce Zürich as the host city and get organising – now.

In a year that saw Eurovision at its most politically charged, somewhat neutral Switzerland could set a new course for the competition by hosting side events focused on open, candid dialogue and not engineering airless “safe spaces”. It could use the global forum to promote softer values, such as the power of apprenticeships, self-responsibility, consensus-driven problem solving and pragmatic debate – all traits worthy of export and much-needed in nations trying to tackle youth unemployment and social disengagement. For a country that’s not exactly a global hit factory, Eurovision might also light a spark for Switzerland to create a few fame academies to nurture some musical icons to fill in for Herr Federer.

Tyler Brûlé is Monocle’s editorial director and chairman. To hear about all things Eurovision, tune in to the latest episode of ‘Monocle on Sunday’, on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Diplomacy / Nordics

Safety in numbers

Olaf Scholz will meet the Nordics’ five heads of government in Stockholm today for a two-day summit intended to shore up business and security co-operation between the countries. The meeting will include a presentation by Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson and a discussion about how to improve military support for Ukraine. On Tuesday, Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, will hold bilateral talks with Scholz that are expected to conclude with the signing of an updated strategic innovation agreement with Germany. Both this deal and the wider gathering will send a strong signal to Russia that Europe’s largest economy and the Nordics, which are now all members of Nato, intend to use their geographic proximity and mutual defence agreements to serve as a bulwark against Moscow.

Image: Shutterstock

Agriculture / Greece

Outside assistance

Greece will start welcoming about 5,000 Egyptian agricultural workers this summer as part of a 2022 deal aimed at tackling the European country’s labour shortages. The Greek economy is surging after some 15 years of contraction, with growth forecast at 3 per cent this year – far exceeding the Eurozone average of 0.8 per cent. But during the years of financial crisis, some 500,000 people left the country and this – combined with a shrinking population and restrictive immigration policies – has resulted in huge employment gaps in sectors including farming, tourism and construction.

The deal between Greece and Egypt follows similar attempts by other European countries and regions to fill vacancies with imported workers. Last winter, for example, the Mediterranean island of Sardinia announced that it was seeking shepherds from Kyrgyzstan to address a shortage of homegrown talent. As Europe’s population ages and its rural areas become increasingly depopulated, such deals will likely become more common.

Image: Alamy

Hospitality / Japan

Foreign exchange

Tamatebako, a new seafood restaurant in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighbourhood, has joined a growing list of businesses in global tourist hot spots that charge visitors higher prices than locals. Non-residents must pay about ¥1,000 (€6) more for Tamatebako’s all-you-can-eat buffet, offsetting some of the benefits that foreigners are reaping from a weak yen. The restaurant insists that the policy is, in fact, a discount for “Japanese people and Japan residents”, rather than a levy on sightseers – but the end result is the same.

Higher prices for tourists have become commonplace in other countries. The menus of many beach bars in Phuket, for example, are unashamedly two-tiered. Japanese businesses, however, have been cautious about pursuing such a policy as tourism booms in the country (a record three million people visited in March). It’s too early to tell whether Tamatebako’s approach will succeed – or whether it’ll catch on in Japan’s otherwise generously priced food scene.

Beyond the Headlines

In print / Design Awards

Outside assistance

In India, stars of the screen are often treated as demigods – and statues in landscaped gardens are a popular way to celebrate them. But an imposing brick-and-concrete venue on the outskirts of Mysuru, a city in the southwestern state of Karnataka, offers a new take on such tributes. When a memorial for late matinée idol Vishnuvardhan was proposed, his family insisted that, in keeping with his philanthropic bent, it included a venue where artists could hone their craft.

Image: M9 Design Studio
Image: M9 Design Studio
Image: M9 Design Studio

That’s why Bengaluru-based M9 Design Studio gave the Dr Vishnuvardhan Memorial Complex two distinct structures: a sunken gallery built almost entirely from concrete to showcase the actor’s life and work, and a performing-arts venue, complete with unusual brickwork. Since opening in 2023 the venue has been frequented not only by theatre groups and Vishnuvardhan fans but also schools, who use it as a teaching space. Given the memorial’s intended mission, one could say that it is already playing its role to perfection.

Read more about the Dr Vishnuvardhan Memorial Complex, and the 49 other recipients of this year’s Monocle Design Awards, in Issue 173 of Monocle.

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Food for thought

This week we fire up the grill with Fernando Trocca, one of Argentina’s most accomplished chefs. Also in the programme, we speak to Jon Williams, founder of the Pembrokeshire Beach Company to find out more about Welsh delicacy Laverbread. Plus: Clarissa Wei is in Taipei to learn more about the city’s cocktail scene.


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