Tuesday 4 June 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 4/6/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Leader of the CDU, Friedrich Merz, has reformed the party in his image

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Christopher Cermak

Germany’s centrist politicians should rediscover their voice or pack their bags

Angela Merkel was widely considered a leader of the pro-democracy movement both within Germany and across Europe. But it’s less clear what Olaf Scholz, her successor as chancellor, stands for. His more muted approach to leadership is unfit for this era of loud and proud autocrats, extremists and even centrists such as Emmanuel Macron. Voters want to know what their elected representatives stand for.

Ahead of the European parliamentary elections this week, Scholz’s governing coalition is woefully unpopular. His party, the Social Democrats, and its partners, the Greens and the Free Democrats, are polling at between 30 to 35 per cent. The gap left by Scholz has been filled by more outspoken leaders; for example, Friedrich Merz, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has reshaped Merkel’s erstwhile party and given it a more hardline edge.

This year’s elections have also been dominated by the trials and tribulations of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AFD). Its leading candidate, Maximilian Krah, has been suspended from campaigning after suggesting that not all members of the SS during the Second World War were criminals. Krah’s views have led other European far-right parties, including France’s National Rally, to distance themselves from the AFD. The party’s popularity, however, hasn’t diminished; it is currently the second-largest German grouping in the European Parliament, with polls showing support at between 15 and 20 per cent.

These more outspoken politicians are voicing the country’s frustrations about the cost-of-living crisis and an international community that expects Germany to step up to its military and economic leadership as the war in Ukraine continues. The European election comes at a crucial time for Germany as it works out its place in Europe. But to make the case for why that matters to ordinary citizens, the country’s saner middle ground needs to rediscover its voice.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s senior news editor. Tune in to ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio throughout this week for our dedicated series on the upcoming European parliamentary elections. And, for more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Switzerland

Swiss Air Force transforms highway into runway

Today sections of Switzerland’s A1 motorway, the main east-west artery connecting St Margrethen and Geneva, will be temporarily repurposed as a runway for the Swiss Air Force. Central guardrails have been removed in a French part of the country between Payerne and Avenches and eight F/A-18 Hornet jets will practise takeoffs and landings on the road. The exercise, named Alpha One, will assess the combat jets’ ability to land and take off in times of crisis or when airfields are unavailable.

This marks the first time that strips of the Swiss highway have been used for military operations since 1991. Switzerland is surrounded by friendly, democratic neighbours but the country – which will host a peace summit for Ukraine next week – is evidently keen to make a statement. With Alpha One, it is demonstrating to both its citizens and the world that its highway network is capable of serving more than just commuters, tourists and goods. The exercise will be broadcast live on television.

Media / Portugal & Brazil

Portuguese newspaper launches a monthly for the country’s Brazilian community

Diário de Notícias, one of Portugal’s newspapers of record, launched a new monthly print supplement yesterday designed to help members of the country’s Brazilian community to navigate daily life. DN Brasil will be accompanied by a news website, a weekly newsletter and a podcast. Brazilians are Portugal’s largest and fastest-growing immigrant demographic. “Quality information is essential, especially for communities who don’t see themselves represented in the news,” Amanda Lima, DN Brasil’s editor in chief, tells The Monocle Minute. “We will also have stories about immigrants who contribute to Portuguese life, whether that’s through entrepreneurship, in universities or schools, or in industries such as hospitality and construction.” The move comes as Diário de Notícias turns 160 this year. It’s an encouraging sign that it’s never too late to adapt to an evolving landscape.

Moe Kudo takes stock in new role as CEO

Image: Shutterstock

Business / Japan

Japanese firms are minding the gap after the introduction of gender pay legislation

More women are taking on high-profile positions across Japanese industry – including Moe Kudo, who is currently pregnant with her second child. This spring, she was appointed as the first female CEO of Soup Stock Tokyo, a company that reported more than ¥10bn (€59m) in sales across its 67 branches last year. Kudo joins Makiko Ono, CEO of drinks giant Suntory Beverage & Food, and former flight attendant Mitsuko Tottori, CEO of Japan Airlines (JAL), at the top of the corporate ladder.

Since 2022 firms in Japan with more than 300 employees have been legally obliged to reveal their gender pay gap and about 18,000 companies have done so over the past two years. Many hope that this new transparency will inspire Japanese business leaders to improve their country’s position in global rankings of the gender pay gap. There’s plenty of work still to be done but the tide could finally be turning.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / ‘Framelines’

Take to the street with a photo journal that puts print first

Shane Taylor and Josh Edgoose founded street photography magazine Framelines with the aim of presenting the work of the genre’s best artists on beautifully printed paper instead of social media. Monocle Radio’s The Stack speaks to the duo about their magazine and what attracted them to the medium.

What drew you both to street photography in the first place?
Josh Edgoose: I learned about it in college and then forgot about it for a long time until, during a trip to New York, I stumbled across Daniel Arnold’s photographs. When I came back to London I started walking around with my camera and started to understand the power and immensity of street photography.

Shane Taylor: I discovered it in design college. It had a huge photography library with all of these books by Garry Winogrand and William Eggleston. I previously had no idea that people took photos in the street like that. I tried it myself in Dublin and got hooked.

You don’t release the digital versions of your magazine on your website until 3 months after the print issue is out. What makes you so dedicated to print?
ST: Among the reasons why we started the magazine was to have an alternative to Instagram. Most people are consuming street photography there, on a tiny phone, and the details are lost. The audiences are missing out on the real art. We want to convey that in a big, printed magazine.

How do you want the magazine to grow? Is there anything that you’re experimenting with?
ST: For the latest issue we have introduced commissioned writers. Until now, Josh and I wrote all of the content but there are many voices out there who we value. That’s how we want to grow. This approach makes the magazine a more inspiring, useful tool for people who want to get into the genre but don’t quite know how.

Listen to our full interview with Shane Taylor and Josh Edgoose on the latest episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Culture

Franz Kafka’s inescapable influence

On the centenary of his death, we reflect on the legacy of Franz Kafka. With literary critic Chris Power, we celebrate the author by way of his unexpurgated diaries, which have recently been translated into English for the first time. Then Charlie Kaufman discusses his story in A Cage Went in Search of a Bird, a collection of new short stories inspired by Kafka.


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