Will Europe's future be decided in 2019?

An eventful year has begun for Europe: Britain is planning to leave the EU in March and a new European Parliament will be elected in May. Commentators offer their predictions and describe 2019 as a year that could decide the fate of the European Union.

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Sega (BG) /

Shed the anti-liberal ballast

For the blogger Adelina Marini there is a crucial question regarding European policy in the coming year. She writes in Sega:

“What do we do about the autochthonous dictatorships? ... Do we want to keep them in the EU? And what price would we have to pay if we allowed the anti-liberals to leave the EU, or even force them to leave? ... During the protracted Greek crisis several member states worked out what leaving the EU would cost them. Can these calculations serve as a template for estimating the risks if one were to shed the anti-liberal ballast? This is a question no one will actually voice, but it will be on people's minds in the EU in the new year.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Politicians and people out of touch

Democracy is under threat from two sides, political scientist Nadia Urbinati comments in La Repubblica:

“The new political year faces two opposing trends: leaders who refer to themselves as 'the people' and masses who refuse en masse to be represented by politicians. ... Italy is a case in point for the first phenomenon, France for the second. ... Both phenomena are signs of the growing weakness of democracy, which no political power quite knows how to represent any more. ... The politicians and the masses are taking parallel paths on a terrain marked by intolerance for any mediators.”

L'Obs (FR) /

Citizens are getting active

L'Obs counters that new forces at work in society are a reason to be optimistic as the new year begins:

“Over and above the anger of the yellow vests, a growing number of people are stressing the need to rethink our democracy. Above all, more and more citizens, entrepreneurs and people who are active in the non-profit sector are doing more to promote a society marked by greater solidarity and sustainability. In their overwhelming majority young graduates are seeking a meaningful purpose, in agreement with Albert Camus' analysis of the myth of Sisyphus that 'there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labour'.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Fate of EU in the hands of voters

The diplomat and author Sergio Romano outlines in Corriere della Sera the challenges faced by EU this year:

“The British exit will do more damage to the United Kingdom than to the EU, but it could trigger further secessions. ... The EU is under threat from parties that hate 'the system'. But in some cases and contrary to slanderous statements it is acting consistently and remaining true to the principles for which it was created: for example in the negotiations with Britain, on combating global warming and on defending multilateral trade. I hope that these thoughts will be taken into consideration by voters when they vote for the renewal of the European Parliament in May 2019.”

De Standaard (BE) /

May we keep catastrophe at bay

This will be a fateful year for Europe, business journalist Ruben Mooijman comments in De Standaard:

“The elections to the European Parliament are more important than ever because member states are at odds over so many issues and Eurosceptical parties are in the ascendant. ... And then there's the biggest event of 2019: the UK's separation from the European Union. It is not a hopeful sign that there's still so much uncertainty here. We can only hope the British keep a cool head and reflect on the consequences of their decisions. Not just for themselves but also for the rest of Europe. Let's hope we'll be spared the disastrous scenarios some are predicting, and the whole affair will go off smoothly with economic damage kept to a minimum.”

Novoye Vremya (UA) /

Project Europe could come to a sad end

The 2019 European elections will be a showdown between EU integrators and anti-EU populists, Novoye Vremya predicts:

“If the integrators win the EU will have the chance to become a serious force to be reckoned with. But if the populists win it will be the beginning of the end of the European Union. Emmanuel Macron explained some time ago that if a referendum were held the majority of French citizens would vote to leave the EU - as the British did in 2016. The only thing stopping this is that there is no referendum. The coming year must be a year of battle for all those who want to counter the gradual collapse of the EU. Otherwise the project could come to a sad end.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Not much to be optimistic about

Daily Sabah says the new year is too full of uncertainties for people to be in a positive mood:

“Brexit is not only the problem of Britain, it still affects all of the EU. And what about France? Can we talk about a future with French President Emmanuel Macron after France was taken over by 'yellow vests' at the end of 2018? And what are Catalans planning in 2019 in Spain? On the economic front, both Italy and Spain's economic status does not seem to be bright. How about Greece? Everybody has reservations about asking this question. ... 2019 is going to be a tough year for democracy in the EU. Yes, unfortunately, we cannot be very optimistic when we look toward the new year.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Shift to the right continues

El Periódico de Catalunya sees similarities and differences between the various right-wing populist and far-right movements in Europe and the rest of the world:

“All of them, from Trump to Bolsonaro and from Orbán to Salvini, have several things in common: they are restricting civil rights and freedoms, giving carte blanche to racism, torpedoing international trade relations and fuelling the most rancid nationalism. ... With the success of Vox in the Andalusian elections Spain shed one special role only to assume another. Now Spain too has its own far-right party. But unlike the rest of Europe, the right-wing parties here aren't sealing it off but are unreservedly making pacts with it. Whereas in the rest of Europe it is mainly the fear of immigration that is bolstering the populists, in Spain it is the rejection of Catalan separatism.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The storm continues

The image projected by the EU as the year ends is an ambivalent one, the Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“The European Union seems to be trapped. On the one hand it is no longer in the perpetual crisis mode that characterised the middle of the decade, and it no longer looks like it could collapse at any moment. On the other hand it doesn't seem to have made any progress, because the member states show no sign of moving in a common direction. ... And 2019? Judging by the Union's political calender it will be a 'year of transition', meaning it will have more to do with people than with policies: the European Parliament will be re-elected, the Commission will be renewed, and the heads of state and government must choose a successor for Council President Donald Tusk. ... But things won't be cosy in the EU - on the contrary, it looks like more stormy weather lies ahead - if nothing else the domestic crises in Britain and France will take care of that.”

To Vima und To Vima Online (GR) /

EU elections pose a threat to unity

The European elections in May could become the nightmare of the year for the EU, writes professor of politics Panagiotis Ioakimidis on To Vima online:

“These will be the most important European elections since the first ones in 1979. And perhaps they will be the ones that precipitate the EU's downfall. ... Because this coming May several different concepts for Europe's future will come up against each other: the ethno-populist perspective of the right-wing extremists, the toxic version of the far left and the perspective of the democratic political forces that seek unity. ... For the latter, ethno-populism poses a threat not just to Europe's unity but also to democracy as such.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Russia and West on a collision course

The relations between Russia and the West will hardly improve in the new year, predicts Radio Kommersant FM:

“The US will continue to dole out new sanctions packages while Russia will remain a key factor in domestic squabbling. The Democrats will use their newly attained majority in Congress to invent ever new means of putting pressure on the Kremlin, which they are convinced interfered in US politics to help Trump come to power. Europe has been shaken by Brexit and weakened by the crisis in France and the upcoming departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This is making it difficult for it to execute tough and consolidated policies and withstand the growing pressure from the US, including on the subject of Nord Stream 2.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

An innovative year

2019 will be a year of technological upheavals, 24 Chasa predicts:

“It will be the decisive year in the fight against cars with combustion engines. The big manufacturers are under increasing pressure to build hybrid or entirely electric cars. ... Fewer people will use social networks like Facebook. Personal discussions will replace online chats. The time we spend with friends and relatives in the real world as opposed to the virtual one has become a luxury, and as with every luxury good more and more people will try to obtain it. ... And artificial intelligence will definitively become the hottest IT trend and will replace a growing number of human workers. But before that happens we must make sure that the 5G standard for mobile Internet reaches more areas worldwide.”

Landesecho (CZ) /

Czech beer drinkers will switch to soft drinks

As he does every year, commentator Luboš Palata makes the most unlikely predictions for the coming year in the Prague-based newspaper Landesecho:

“Thanks to an anti-alcohol campaign, beer consumption in the Czech Republic - the world's leading nation when it comes to guzzling beer - will drop by 80 percent. The breweries will shift production to apple cider and raspberry lemonade. ... Just to be on the safe side, after Vitali Klitschko - the candidate with the KO punch - wins the Ukrainian presidential elections, Moscow will withdraw from Crimea and Donbass and pay Kiev billions in reparations. The new Kremlin chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky will apply for Russian membership in Nato and the EU. After fast-track negotiations Russia, Ukraine and Britain will join the EU at the end of the year. Theresa May will announce that Britain is turning its back on Brexit with the words 'April fools' day!' ... Donald Trump will delete his Twitter account and read Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. In book form, not as a comic strip.”