Happy New Year all the same

Published on 4 January 2010 at 15:40

This time of year we often wish one another a happy new year – and a healthy one, too. Indeed, the EU will need a good doctor in 2010, given its manifold manifestations of fever and fatigue:

- “We can’t expect to put the recession behind us any time soon,” chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned in her New Year’s address to the nation. We are going to hear a lot more talk about unemployment, the decline in living standards, and fears for the future. With Greece struggling to ward off the risk of bankruptcy, and Ireland, Spain and Latvia striving to halt spiralling recession, the future of our common currency could be on the line.

- The deployment of Dutch, French and especially German troops in Afghanistan has irked public opinion to the point where it is beginning to sap government credibility.

- Upcoming UK elections could empower David Cameron’s Tories, amongst whose ranks the Eurosceptics are increasingly gaining sway, and Czech and Polish elections will also weigh heavily on the balance of power in the EU.

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- At the same time, antagonism between Hungary and Slovakia is likely to be aggravated by votes in both countries. Right-wing Jobbik extremists, who have been steadily gaining ground in Budapest, and the Slovak National Party, which is hell bent on keeping its cabinet posts, will both be playing the nationalist card regarding the fate of the Hungarian ethnic minority in Slovakia in national elections.

- Immigration and questions about Islam’s place in Europe will continue to fuel social and political tensions through the national identity debate in France, Italy’s regional elections, where the Lega Nord (Northern League) is out to shore up its strongholds, and the campaign for the 2011 election in the Netherlands, where populist Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party is hoping to make some inroads.

Paradoxically, the failures of 2009 could bring a remission in 2010. The hard-won entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December should give us an opportunity to find a stable and lasting modus operandi between the various EU institutions. In this respect, the first steps taken by the EU Council’s lacklustre president Herman Van Rompuy, notably his efforts to simplify the work of the EU and make it more accessible to the man in the street, are encouraging.

After the let-down in Copenhagen, where the EU was unable to sway the US and China, Europe should respond by pooling its forces to propose and collectively implement an economic and technological model that is equal to the double challenge of climate change and the recession. Now that it is clear that any effort to exert influence will fail without a common will, there is no other remedy for the 27 if they are to weather the new year, let alone the new decade, in good health.

In the meantime, the journalists and translators at Presseurop would like to take this opportunity to wish our readers a happy – and healthy – New Year in 2010.

Eric Maurice

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