Friday 24 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 24/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

In with the new: Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova

Image: Reuters

Affairs / Guy de Launey

North Macedonia encounters more obstacles on the road to EU membership

In 2018 it was hard not to feel impressed by Zoran Zaev, the prime minister of what was then known as the Republic of Macedonia. He signed the Prespa Agreement with Greece, held a referendum on changing the country’s name to North Macedonia and opened the way to membership of Nato and the EU. It seemed as though a new chapter was starting – but six years later, the picture is not quite as rosy.

The nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party won a commanding victory in this month’s presidential and parliamentary elections and the new president, Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, referred to the country simply as “Macedonia” during her inauguration. The prime minister-elect, Hristijan Mickoski, backed her up, calling the president’s stance “honourable”. On Wednesday morning, the front page of the president’s website made no mention of “North Macedonia” but, instead supplied links for “MK” and “Macedonia”. Athens has been incandescent, labelling the president’s actions a “gross violation” of the Prespa Agreement and warning that it will block North Macedonia’s EU accession ambitions. Brussels has added to the chorus of disapproval.

The whole sorry situation reflects North Macedonians’ feeling that they have been led up the garden path. They took an unpalatable step in changing their country’s name, believing that this would open the door to EU membership. Instead, they found the way blocked by Bulgaria, due to a row over the historical roots of North Macedonia’s language. The country was stuck once again, unless it decided to change its constitution to appease Bulgaria. That required a two-thirds majority in parliament and, unsurprisingly, the nationalists did not play ball. An exasperated electorate plumped for change – and put VMRO-DPMNE in charge.

North Macedonia and its neighbours have turbulent times ahead. Robust backing from Brussels at the time of Bulgaria’s selfish intervention would have prevented this bilateral nonsense from being dragged into the bigger accession picture. Sadly, it failed to materialise.

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

The Briefings

Defence / China

China’s military kicks off ‘punishment’ drills around Taiwan

China has responded to the inauguration of Taiwan’s new pro-independence leader, William Lai, this week with two days of large-scale military drills surrounding the territory. Dozens of fighter jets carrying live missiles conducted mock strikes against high-value military targets in co-ordination with warships, in what Beijing said was a “strong punishment for separatist acts”.

Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

“The problem with these exercises is that there’s always the risk of an accident and we don’t really have measures in place to calm things down if that were to be the case,” China expert Isabel Hilton tells Monocle Radio’s The Briefing. She adds that Beijing has been testing the boundaries. “China thinks that it has a lot of leeway for this kind of escalation of grey-zone warfare, which has an intimidatory effect on the Taiwanese population.”

Diplomacy / Colombia

Colombia pins hopes on Palestinian state with new embassy

Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, has ordered the opening of a new embassy in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, joining the few countries with full diplomatic representation in the administrative capital. This follows a cooling of relations with Israel. Petro had already recalled the Colombian ambassador from Tel Aviv and announced at the beginning of the month that he would break diplomatic relations with Israel over its war in Gaza. The leader has been one of Latin America’s most vocal critics of Israel since the conflict began, having also requested to join South Africa’s case accusing Israel of war crimes at the International Court of Justice. Colombia’s foreign minister, Luis Gilberto Murillo, said that he believes that more countries will follow suit in recognising Palestine as a state. Spain, Ireland and Norway joined that list earlier this week. After decades of stalemate, the number of countries ready to force a two-state solution to resolve the conflict is growing.

Image: Reuters

Aviation / USA

Travelling with a canine companion isn’t always easy but for some, the dog days are over

Bark Air planned to launch its inaugural flight yesterday with an unconventional set of passengers: dogs. The sold-out journey between New York and Los Angeles caters to canines (and their owners) looking for a luxury travel experience. Bark Air offers its passengers a “white-paw service”, with the inclusion of an in-seat button for belly rubs and a First Class dining menu that includes “doggie champagne.”

Canine customers are able to socialise with other dogs onboard as a result of its cabin configuration. Bark Air is chartering Talon Air’s Gulfstream G5 jets for its services, saying, “No dog should fly in a crate.” But with prices at $6,000 (€5,500) for a one-way ticket or $8,000 (€7,000) for the airline’s New York-to-London leg, some dog owners might find that they’re barking up the wrong tree.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: 180strand/Virgil Abloh

Photo of the week / The Vinyl Factory

Why a new London art-and-music exhibition is one for the record

London’s 180 Studios opened a multimedia exhibition called The Vinyl Factory – Reverb this week. The showcase explores the intersection of art and sound, and highlights the record label’s work with more than 100 artists and musicians over the past two decades. The exhibition includes collaborations with Theaster Gates, Es Devlin and Devon Turnbull, as well as an ode to the late Virgil Abloh (pictured). Live performances and talks also run alongside the exhibition.

‘The Vinyl Factory – Reverb’ runs until 28 September.

Image: Les Deux

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs

Les Deux and I Am Volya

We explore how entrepreneurs are creating lasting effects through fashion. Les Deux co-founder Andreas von der Heide stops by Midori House to talk about the inspiration behind his smart menswear collections, the role of physical retail in fostering connections with customers and leaving a meaningful legacy beyond just building a brand. Plus: we meet the founder of I Am Volya, a London-based online boutique that aims to promote Ukraine’s rich culture and support its fashion industry during the ongoing conflict.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00