The problems to be tackled in 2018

Populism, climate change and economic development are high on the long list of challenges that face us in 2018. Commentators call for a more just distribution of the wealth generated and recommend a less alarmist approach to the tasks ahead.

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Die Presse (AT) /

Less alarmism please

Die Presse calls for less alarmism in 2018, criticising the New Year's Eve address by UN Secretary-General António Guterres:

“He declared a 'red alert' for the entire planet (whatever that means), explaining that the world's conflicts had worsened. That may (or may not) be the case, but such secular penitential sermons seem counterproductive because we've long since grown used to them. How often have we been told that 'now' is the last chance to stop climate change? Such alerts seem to numb us more than anything else - like the warnings on cigarette packages which many smokers have got in the habit of hiding. Perhaps in this festive season we would do better to rejoice over the number of disasters (from forest diebacks to nuclear wars) that have not actually materialised.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Growth must benefit everyone

Le Temps calls for a redistribution of proceeds in 2018 in view of the global economic upswing:

“The sacrifices of employees, consumers and taxpayers in the form of dismissals, frozen wages, stagnating buying power and high tax rates helped make this upswing possible. Now it's time to redistribute the benefits that have been reaped. All the more so because the crisis has widened inequalities between the winners and the losers of globalisation - both between states and domestically. ... Without such a redistribution we risk opening the door to intolerance, extremism and political and social instability.”

Politiken (DK) /

Limit the power of the Internet giants

Our new year's resolutions should be geared towards the virtual world, Politiken finds:

“In the coming year civil society and the politicians must focus on the influence the technology giants are having on our individual and social existence. ... Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google are global agents that wield almost monopolistic power. In 2018 the world must set out a clear concept for restricting the power of the technology giants - in the same ways as anti-monopoly laws were put in place in the 20th century to prevent companies from becoming too powerful. The Internet itself must also be secured against dominance by a few companies. ... The new world is beautiful in many respects, but it must be subject to democratic controls.”

Público (PT) /

Populism still spreading

Radical populism will remain one of the greatest dangers also in 2018, Público predicts:

“We are dealing here with a highly contagious, global virus that attacks open and democratic societies especially in times of institutional weakness. In a decade that began in the midst of the economic crisis and is now confronting the effects of accelerated globalisation, populism is falling on fertile ground. Its consequences are tangible everywhere - in particular also in the EU. ... If the Brexit was the direct consequence of a populist option, what is happening now in Austria, Poland and Hungary could have far more serious consequences in the medium term than Britain's exit from the EU.”

El País (ES) /

Declare a Year of Silence

Instead of spreading unrealistic projects for the future the EU should set itself more modest goals and maintain what it has already achieved, historian Timothy Garton Ash writes in El País:

“Our leaders should declare a European Year of Silence. Then, for Christmas 2018, they can give us a single, plainly worded report on what they have actually achieved. ... Many Europeans already have a somewhat conservative attitude to this union. ... They want to defend it against the current wave of populist nationalist attacks. They want to look after the family home, mend the eurozone plumbing and erect a better Schengen garden fence, but they don't want to redesign the whole house. And in these dark times, simply to maintain what has been built since 1945 would already be a great achievement. So here's to a new age of Euro-conservatism.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Putin's strategy is working

2018 will be the year of Vladimir Putin, La Repubblica predicts:

“In the coming months Putin will reap the benefits of his victorious military operations (in Syria) and diplomatic campaigns (in the Middle and Far East). At the same time the sales of foreign currency reserves will give the rouble a high degree of stability despite the fluctuating oil prices and the sanctions. The Kremlin chief will even be able to make a name for himself as a mediator between North Korea and the rest of the world. Putin's post-ideological tactic in this respect always follows the same pattern. Casting himself as the best among all the bad options or as the worst among the good, so as to be the only one in a position to mediate between the fronts. First he creates unrest (like in Georgia, Ukraine, European and other crisis zones), then he offers his help as a liberator and guarantor of peace.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

More must be done to slash emissions

Helsingin Sanomat focuses on the climate, stressing that the EU must define new emissions targets:

“The good news this year was that all the countries of the world adhered to the Paris climate agreement. The last to comply were Nicaragua and Syria this autumn. ... The bad news, however, was that the US president announced in the summer that his country would pull out of the agreement. ... The Paris agreement stipulates that global warming is to be limited to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. To achieve that target all countries must cut their emissions more than they had pledged to in the past. The EU also needs to set higher climate goals for itself. The previously agreed 40 percent emissions reduction by 2030 compared with 1990 levels is not enough. The new targets must be worked out by the Finnish EU Council presidency in 2019 at the latest.”

Le Point (FR) /

Seldom have the circumstances been so propitious

The coming year will decide the future of the EU, Étienne Gernelle, editor-in-chief of the weekly magazine Le Point believes:

“Europe must be decidedly more united in facing the upheavals of the future if it wants to avoid being crushed by them. It's now that everything is at stake. Seldom were its stars as favourable as they are now: the passionately pro-European Emmanuel Macron has been elected in France, a coalition is coming together in Germany that must position itself on Macron's ideas right from the start, the economic upswing is benefiting everyone, and on the other side of the Atlantic the American president is refusing to play the role of umbrella for the Old Continent. ... If the European project hasn't advanced and imposed itself a year from now it will no doubt be a historic setback.”

Landesecho (CZ) /

Brits will remain, French will reform, Putin will lose

Commentator Luboš Palatas takes a humorous look forward at 2018 in the Landesecho:

“After Poland's EU membership has been suspended Britain will change its mind and decide against Brexit. In the European Parliament Theresa May will describe the negotiations as 'just a little variation on dry British humour'. Emmanuel Macron will push through a tough labour law. Working hours will be increased to seven a day and lunch breaks reduced to two and a half. This will trigger meteoric growth. A million refugees will return home where they name dozens of streets and squares after Angela Merkel. Vladimir Putin will lose the repetition of parliamentary elections after his first result of 123 percent is annulled for being a little exaggerated.”