The new year: what is the EU looking ahead to?

by Nicolai Santianello

When reading this question there are of course many events in one year that an organization as big and influential as the European Union has to deal with. But, as many might be thinking there are two main events occurring in 2019 that might independently change the EU as we know it. These events are obviously Brexit and the parliamentary elections.

Given that Greenland was (and still is) a territory of Denmark, its 1984 exit from the EEC doesn’t quite count as the first country to exit the EU. This gloomy first place was however happily taken over by the United Kingdom, with its referendum in 2016, and is hence expected to leave the Union on the 29th of March 2019. Since the referendum there have been a series of negotiations involving the exit of the UK from the EU, with a particular focus on their economic relations, rights of Brits living in Europe and vice versa, and question of the Irish border[1].

The latest deal would include a free trade deal between the EU and the UK with the possibility of different trading options for the UK, but would also see the UK leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. The UK and the EU will continue cooperating in matters regarding defense, security, counter-terrorism, and international sanctions. Also there will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Some things have changed, but the deal seems to satisfy neither side of the British political spectrum, and one of the biggest challenges of closing this proposed deal will be getting it through Parliament[2]. As if Brexit wasn’t already unstable enough, the European Court of Justice expressed its legal opinion that the UK could unilaterally revoke Brexit if it decided to, giving new hopes for a second referendum[3].

As for parliamentary elections, this is more of a threat from within for the EU as we know it, and is thus maybe much more dangerous than Brexit. Many populist parties in Europe have in fact obtained huge success in their home countries, and could easily become a main force in the Parliament if they have major success in the 2019 elections, bringing major turmoil to the political scene and starting to implement their own agenda for Europe[4]. Major political parties in Italy, France, Germany, and Austria have already aspired to such a “revolution” to occur at the 2019 elections, but the Hungarian Prime minister Viktor Orban has been the most directly outspoken about the future of the EU[5]. We might think these populist parties are claiming victory ahead of time and might be getting ahead of themselves, but we can’t forget we live in a continent where one out of four people votes populist[6].

The EU will have a long and eventful 2019, which will start to be defined more clearly with its two first challenges: seeing through Brexit in the best way possible, and trying to contain the populist parties for the upcoming elections. Brexit in the end seems to be in the hands of the British Parliament and the British people right now, and the situation progresses day by day. For the elections however there seems to be a lack of motivation on the non-populist political spectrum, a problem which the EU and the parties which support it need to address before it’s too late.


Sources used in this article:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0xGHf8o-9
  2. Elgot, “Theresa May postpones Brexit deal vote,” last modified December 10, 2018
  3. “European Court of Justice Rules Britain Free to Revoke Brexit Unilaterally,” RT International, last modified December 10, 2018
  4. Maia De la Baume, “Populist Plan for 2019 Election Puts EU in Crosshairs,” POLITICO, last modified June 5, 2018
  5. Angela Dewan, “Hungary’s Orban Warns of Backlash Against Immigration in European Parliament Vote,” CNN
  6. Josh Holder et al., “Revealed: One in Four Europeans Vote Populist,” The Guardian, accessed December 10, 2018
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