Tuesday 18 June 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 18/6/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Andrew Mueller

The world leaders’ Ukraine summit quietly signalled a potential turning point in the war

By the time the Ukraine Peace Summit convened in Switzerland over the weekend, it’s likely that more than one journalist attending had noted the metaphorical possibilities of the clouds clinging to the peaks around the Bürgenstock resort. There was a prevalent feeling that this conference would be a dud – or that it could have all been done by email. With Russia, China and other equivocators not attending, what could it amount to but countries who already agreed with each other further agreeing with each other? But it turned out to be far more interesting than that.

When more than 100 heads of state or government gather for a single cause, that’s a statement in itself. And the pointed lack of an invitation for Russia wasn’t necessarily a barrier to useful things being decided – it’s worth remembering that nobody invited Germany to Tehran, Yalta or Potsdam during the Second World War either. What emerged is a minor masterpiece of bluff-calling, despite the disappointing reluctance of a few attendees to sign up to the proposals entirely. The plan is to proceed to another summit with a focus on three areas on which nobody – not even doggedly recalcitrant Russia – could reasonably disagree: nuclear security, food security and the return of those taken prisoner on the battlefield or, in the case of many thousands of Ukrainian children, abducted. If Russia won’t come to the table to discuss these topics, it cannot claim to be trying.

On the eve of the summit, Vladimir Putin pitched his peace plan. It was predictably maximalist and quite rightly rejected. However – though optimism isn’t always wise where Russia is concerned – perhaps it was deliberately staking out a position from which it can later climb down. There is, or should be, no doubt about why this war started. In a seizure of absurd revanchist hubris, Russia attacked a neighbour that posed it no threat and meant it no harm. It remains uncertain when this war will end but this past weekend might have given us some inkling of how.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and the presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Image: Getty Images

Politics / South Africa

The African National Congress strikes a power-sharing deal with the Democratic Alliance

After late-night negotiations, the African National Congress (ANC) has agreed to enter into coalition with the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). Three other smaller parties have also joined the unity government. Despite emerging as South Africa’s largest party in last week’s elections, the ANC lacked sufficient votes to form a majority government. This marks the end of the party’s undisputed 30-year rule and is the biggest shift in South African politics since Nelson Mandela’s victory for the ANC in 1994.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa consulted the history books and chose to form a government of national unity similar to the one that ended apartheid,” Ferial Haffajee, associate editor at South Africa’s Daily Maverick, tells The Globalist on Monocle Radio. “We hope that this second transition works.” But the outlook remains unclear. The ANC’s decision to work with the white-led DA has boosted support for a newly formed opposition grouping that counts former president Jacob Zuma among its supporters. “Zuma maintains that the votes were rigged and his rhetoric is already raising concerns over potential post-election violence in his native KwaZulu-Natal province.”

For more on South Africa’s politics, tune in to Monday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.

Tourism / Greece

It’s not all plain sailing as Greece plans to curb cruise-ship numbers

Though tourism is one of the Greek economy’s greatest assets, there’s a risk of having too much of a good thing. According to the latest figures, cruises to the country’s islands generated €847m for the economy in 2023, more than double the previous year’s amount. But the enormous footfall that they bring is putting ports and the hospitality sector under strain. To deal with overtourism, the government is considering either a cap on the number of ships that can dock at Mykonos and Santorini or a system in which cruise operators must bid for a limited number of port slots.

Prospective tourists have welcomed these plans – after all, a visit to see Santorini’s undisturbed sunsets or the pristine waters of Mykonos would be ruined by huge crowds of other holidaymakers. The idea of placing limits on cruise-ship numbers is becoming popular across Europe, with Venice, Mallorca, Barcelona and Amsterdam all taking similar action.

Image: Getty Images

Art / USA

Renovation of Anish Kapoor’s ‘Bean’ sculpture in Chicago nears completion

Chicago’s Grainger Plaza, the site of British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor’s sculpture “Cloud Gate”, is expected to reopen at the end of this month. The 20-metre-long work, which Chicagoans have affectionately dubbed “The Bean”, has been inaccessible since last August as a result of maintenance work on the square in Millennium Park. First unveiled in 2006, the polished stainless-steel sculpture has become one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. The public installation plays an important role in Chicago’s social fabric.

To reflect this, authorities are investing in modernising the plaza and are working to preserve the sheen of the sculpture. The work has involved rebuilding the plaza’s podium, the installation of a new waterproofing system and upgrades to accessibility, including the addition of stairs and ramps. Almost 20 years after it was built, Kapoor’s sculpture continues to be a shining example of art’s ability to bring people together and act as a powerful tool for urbanism. Future-proofing its appeal with some careful upkeep is a wise decision.

Beyond the headlines

Image: Rik Pushinski

Q&A / David Lane

Peek inside the ‘The Gourmand’ founder’s zesty new book

David Lane is the founder and creative director of The Gourmand. The food, arts and culture journal is currently on hiatus but Lane has recently published the second in his series of books themed around a single ingredient. Where the first focused on the humble egg, the latest looks at the delights of lemons. Lane speaks to Monocle about The Gourmand’s Lemon: A Collection of Stories and Recipes.

What’s going on with ‘The Gourmand’?
The magazine hasn’t died – the plan is to resurrect it at some point. But we’re now focusing on publishing books in partnership with Taschen. We concentrate on a single ingredient and look at it from a wider cultural angle, through the lens of film, fashion, art, music, photography and philosophy.

Why did you choose lemons for your latest book?
We originally considered doing one on citrus but then decided against it because that’s just too big a topic. Tonally, the series is a bit tongue in cheek, riffing on the style that The Gourmand has developed over the years. For example, part of the book explores the relationship between lemons and music, from Beyoncé’s album Lemonade to the band The Lemonheads.

What do you think of today’s food magazines?
The scene is brilliant. When The Gourmand started, there weren’t many independent food publications. But now there are several titles using food as a jumping-off point to discuss interesting cultural topics. It seems to be a very healthy area of publishing. Maybe that’s unsurprising, as everybody eats, right?

You can listen to our full interview with David Lane on this week’s episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Thomas Brémond

Monocle Radio / On Culture

‘Bye Bye Tiberias’, artist Zanele Muholi's new exhibition and a novel by Gabriel García Márquez’s grandson

We hear from Lina Soualem about her new film, ‘Bye Bye Tiberias’, which documents the life of her mother, the actress Hiam Abbass, and four generations of Palestinian women. Plus: we head to Zanele Muholi’s new show at Tate Modern and find out about the darkly funny debut novel by Mateo García Elizondo.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00