Wednesday 3 July 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 3/7/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

It takes two: Mark Rutte (right) and Dick Schoof

Image: Alamy

Politics / Stefan de Vries

How will Dutch coalition politics fare without Mark Rutte’s stabilising influence?

In July, streets across the Netherlands are festooned with flags and school bags. It’s not a political statement; rather, it’s a long-standing tradition for students graduating from high school. This year, as they picked up their diplomas, they got something extra: a new prime minister. After nearly 14 years in the top job, Mark Rutte, the longest-serving prime minister in Dutch history, bowed out of domestic politics. Nicknamed “Mr Teflon”, Rutte was more a manager than a traditional leader. His boyish charm and willingness to pivot on proposals made him a master of compromise. And despite spending the final stretch of his tenure as a caretaker prime minister, he maintained a firm grip on power.

His successor, Dick Schoof, presents a stark contrast. At 67, this former intelligence chief lacks political experience, a public profile or even party affiliation. As one Dutch newspaper put it, “Nobody knows who he is but he knows everything about you.” Schoof will head a populist, conservative, four-way coalition government. The new cabinet will feature the far-right Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV), which heads five ministries, including trade and migration.

Rutte leaves behind a complex legacy. The Netherlands boasts one of Europe’s strongest economies, yet it grapples with political turbulence and polarisation. The stability of the coalition remains uncertain without Rutte’s mediation skills. In October he will become Nato’s secretary-general, trading his beloved bicycle commute for the challenges of managing Europe’s security from Brussels. As the civilian leader of the world’s largest military alliance, he’ll face crucial challenges in an era of heightened global tensions. He will also have to make difficult decisions over Europe’s security. As for his own security, Rutte will probably have to stop cycling to work.

Stefan de Vries is a journalist and regular Monocle contributor based in Amsterdam. For more opinion, analysis and insight subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Road to success: the BYD Seal in Bangkok

Image: Reuters


Wheels are in motion as Chinese car giant BYD opens latest plant in Thailand

Chinese automaker Build Your Dreams (BYD) will open its first electric-vehicle (EV) factory in Thailand on Thursday as part of a global push to expand its manufacturing capacity. The plant in the eastern Rayong province has been constructed ahead of similar production sites planned for Hungary, Brazil and Indonesia. It will be capable of producing 150,000 EVs a year for both the domestic and export markets.

BYD recently opened its 300th showroom in the Asia-Pacific region, where Chinese cars are already very common. The territory’s importance is likely to grow as governments in the West introduce tariffs on Chinese cars. As sales of fuel-based vehicles in Thailand decline, electric vehicles seem to present a more secure road ahead: in the first five months of this year, EV registrations in the country soared by more than 30 per cent. As BYD’s first cars come rolling off the assembly line in Rayong, however, it can expect fierce competition from the likes of privately owned Chinese car-maker Great Wall Motor – with Tesla and Toyota tailing behind.


Things are looking up for Cuba’s street-to-balcony trading tradition

Havana’s pregoneros – roaming retailers who place their wares in baskets and hoist them directly into people’s homes – have been a fixture of the city’s informal economy for centuries. This street-to-balcony mode of commerce offers everything from brushes, brooms and buckets to television antennae. The pregoneros historically only offered daily necessities but a new generation of Cuban delivery businesses is getting in on the action.

“It’s a fresh version of an old idea,” says Marta Deus, who developed Mandao, the country’s first food-delivery app in 2019. Its couriers, most of whom carry out their deliveries by bicycle, are now a familiar sight here. “Havana has an older population and most of the buildings don’t have elevators, so it’s a much easier way for people to get what they need,” she says. With its balmy climate, Havana is a city that’s perfect for balcony living, which bodes well for the future of this time-honoured trading technique.

For more on the digital makeover of Havana’s retail traditions, pick up a copy of Monocle’sJuly/August issue, which is out now.


Zürich makes space for non-polluting vehicles in new parking legislation

Following four years of consultations, updated parking laws are pulling up in Zürich. The current system stipulates that there must be one parking space per residential unit. However, land shortages have meant that the rule has been unworkable for many building projects; in some areas, it has even resulted in a ban on new multistorey developments. The rule change, presented by the cantonal council commission, will allow municipalities to allocate parking spaces depending on the likelihood of residents owning cars.

It also prioritises spaces for greener forms of transport, including bicycles, e-bikes, bicycle trailers, cargo bikes and scooters. The term “motor vehicles” has even been deleted from the law. Meanwhile, some new housing complexes in the city have started to require guests and residents to sign a no-car pledge. Zürich, it seems, is speeding towards its goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2040.

Beyond the Headlines

Making waves: the ‘Boesch 710 Sunsport’

Image: Boesch


Three boats to make a splash in this summer

Summer wouldn’t be complete without a lap of a lake or a blast around a bay. This week we list three new boats that are worth taking for a spin.

Sterk 31RC, Germany
“Sterk is a brand created by boat users for boat users,” says designer Carlos Vidal, one of the creative forces behind the Sterk 31RC. This 9.75-metre-long craft strikes a balance between high-speed cruising and, thanks to its generous sundeck, leisurely lounging at sea. Its graceful lines also conceal hefty fuel and water tanks, which ensure the need for fewer stops. “We wanted to create a yacht with a sporty hull but that’s elegant and clean for gentleman seadogs.”

Nuva MII Open, Spain
Manufactured in Barcelona, the new Nuva MII Open holds its own against significantly larger launches. The 11.2-metre-long craft’s open-plan deck has foldable platforms on either side of the gunwale that widen the boat from 2.99 metres to 4.2 metres. The additions also leave room for an outdoor kitchen onboard. Below deck, there are two large double beds and a completely closed bathroom, making this the perfect vessel for an overnight stop in a secluded bay.

Boesch 710 Sunsport, Switzerland
With its outer shell made from sipo mahogany marine plywood, this 7.5-metre-long vessel combines a classic profile with quiet cruising, courtesy of its electric engine. These are hallmarks of the Kilchberg-based boatmaker, which has married timeless design with innovation since 1920. The result, says its CEO, Markus Boesch, is “the perfect multi-use boat for cruising or watersports”.

For more recommendations, discoveries and inspiration from across the Med this summer, pick up a copy of our newspaper‘Monocle Mediterraneo’, which is out this week.

Monocle Radio / Monocle on Design

Design Parade

We find out why this international festival in Hyères and Toulon continues to be a boon for young designers.


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