Thursday 20 June 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 20/6/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

All in hand? Ursula von der Leyen with Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Nina dos Santos

The far-right has been kept out of the EU’s top jobs – but can centrists maintain the status quo?

EU leaders gathered in Brussels this week for an informal summit to take stock of the changing political landscape after the recent European Parliament elections. Following a relatively strong showing for her centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), Ursula von der Leyen looked relatively secure in her attempt to win a second term at the helm of the EU’s most important body, the European Commission. Indeed, when I last saw her team in Brussels, it appeared confident that an agreement could be rubber-stamped during a formal session of the European Council on 27 June.

Yet all did not go to plan. The so-called supper summit ran late into the night. Reports suggest that Von der Leyen’s party got greedy and demanded three out of the four top jobs, including the presidency of the European Council, the Commission and the Parliament. In the end, they all went home empty-handed and the horse-trading will continue another day.

The EPP should be happy with what it has. Von der Leyen outperformed expectations during her first term, steering the bloc deftly through the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis. Though initially focused on her signature Green New Deal, she has since pivoted towards security, with plans to create the position of defence commissioner to better co-ordinate the EU’s ability to repel foreign threats.

Meanwhile, Estonia’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, is tipped to become the EU’s next foreign minister, while the role of Nato secretary-general seems destined for former prime minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte. Despite the far-right’s gains in the polls, it seems as though it will be kept out of the top international posts for now. But centrists will have to prove that they have what it takes to keep it out in five years’ time – by which point crucial nations such as France and Germany might have far-right governments themselves.

Nina dos Santos is a Monocle Radio contributor, international broadcast correspondent and formerly CNN’s Europe editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Estifanos Abraham from Eritrea completes a two-month basic training programme at Volkswagen

Image: Alamy

Migration / Global

World Refugee Day is a chance to help displaced people to integrate into society

According to the latest Global Trends report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are now more than 120 million people across the globe who have been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict and human-rights violations. To help solve the crisis, the agency suggests that governments and businesses should look for longer-term solutions.

“Employment, for example, provides powerful social and economic integration opportunities,” Kelly Clements, the UNHCR’s deputy high commissioner, tells The Monocle Minute. The agency has been working with companies such as Ikea, Uniqlo and Volkswagen to provide refugees with jobs. “Global opinion indicates an eagerness to embed displaced people into workforces so that they can contribute,” says Clements. “That’s also what refugees want the most. And World Refugee Day, which takes place today, offers a chance for the business community to embrace these new ways of thinking and stand in solidarity with displaced people and those helping them to lead dignified lives.”

Hear more from Kelly Clements on today’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio.

Aviation / Switzerland

Packing a punch: How Zürich Airport’s new baggage system speeds up travel

Travellers passing through Zürich Airport will be in and out faster than ever, thanks to a new baggage-sorting system that was unveiled this week. The system, which took seven years to build, incorporates cutting-edge technologies to improve baggage-handling efficiency. It’s part of the airport’s biggest renovation project in recent years and, among other things, helps it to comply with EU security regulations by ensuring proper screening of the estimated 30,000 bags that pass through its doors every day. Further renovations are expected to continue until 2027. By then, Zürich will be equipped with 25km of conveyor tracks, 5,500 motors and 5,600 sensors for a total cost of about CHF450m (€473m). Airports across the globe that want to up their baggage-handling game should pay Zürich’s new setup a visit.

Running smoothly: Additional plumbers keep the Pittsburgh’s public services running

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / USA

Pittsburgh opens the legislative taps to plug the city’s plumber shortage

Legislation tends to get deadlocked in an election year in the US but Pittsburgh lawmakers cleared their schedules yesterday for a vote on contracting additional plumbers to keep the city’s public services running. Prior to the vote, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city was down to just one full-time plumber, despite money being allocated for three earlier in the year.

The city council’s new legislation will allow the hiring of contractors to plug the gap and ensure that all of its pools, spray parks and water fountains are operating smoothly over the sweltering summer months. Decisions that normally take three weeks were pushed through under emergency rules. It’s a reminder that city employees carry out the mundane but essential tasks that affect our everyday lives. Next time you see a city plumber toiling away in your neighbourhood, be sure to thank them for their service.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Getty Images

Cinema / Middle East

A new film shines a light on the lives of Palestinian women

Lina Soualem’s Bye Bye Tiberias documents the life of her mother, actress Hiam Abbass, and four generations of Palestinian women. She sat down with Monocle’s Robert Bound for the latest episode of Monocle on Culture to discuss her mother-daughter working relationship and the importance of women’s stories in the history of Palestine.

Do you remember when you first heard your mother’s stories about her childhood in Palestine?
It’s difficult to date it precisely. The stories were a kind of background music during visits to my mother’s Palestinian village. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I really grasped their experience of displacement. It’s only when I started digging into these stories and writing the film that I became conscious of the intensity of what people had gone through.

‘Bye Bye Tiberias’ combines historical footage and personal family stories. Why did you decide to weave it all into this film?
It was really important for me to give back memories, history and a sense of place to the women in my family. For me, having so many different layers, timelines, archives and sources of images was not an aesthetic choice. It was a necessity because this is a story that is full of holes and ruptures. It was like solving a puzzle.

Among the film’s highlights are the intimate reaction shots of your mother. How did you set those up?
As a fiction actress, it was hard for her to share her personal experiences. We got to her core emotions by asking her to re-enact moments from her youth, bringing her back to the feelings that she had felt at the time. It allowed her to share things with me that she wouldn’t have been able to if I had simply asked her directly about them.

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs

Severan Wines

Record label boss and serial entrepreneur Dumi Oburota talks about his career, from selling lollipops on the playground to playing a key role in the rise of prominent artists and starting multiple businesses. Plus: we taste the Blanc de Blancs Brut from his latest venture, Severan Wines.


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