2016 has been a turbulent year for the European Union and its member states.  Brexit, the armed conflict in Syria and Iraq, the refugee crisis, terrorism and the Italian referendum; all topics covered by the Peace Palace Library in several Library Specials and Library blogs.

2017 promises to be a defining moment for the continuation of the ever closing Union. This blog touches upon a couple of developments which can lead to discussion within the European Union and its members.

Euroscepticism in Election year

In 2017 inhabitants of (at least) five member states will cast their votes in national elections. In the Netherlands, Czech Republic, France, Germany and Italy (roughly 25% of the Union’s members) elections will be held. It is safe to say that Brexit and the election of President-elect of the United States of America Donald J. Trump spurred the populist movement on the old continent. This can lead to major changes in the political landscapes of the member states of the EU and their attitude regarding the Union. (Carnegie Europe)

Refugee crisis

In correlation with the busy election circle, the ongoing ‘refugee crisis’ is turned into a political theme by populist parties to gain electoral momentum. One saw that already during the Presidential runoff in Austria between mr. Alexander Van der Bellen and the candidate of the rightwing Freedom Party of Austria, mr. Norbert Höfer in December 2016. (The Economist) In e.g. Germany (Alternative für Deutschland ), France (Front National) and the Netherlands (Dutch Freedom Party) the rightwing parties are instigating fear of migrants coming to their respective countries in order to gain electorally.

 with Mr. Timmermans, 1st Vice-President and European Commissioner Better Regulation, Inter-institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, Maastricht, 8 Dec 2016.

Brexit

Moreover, the dissolution of the United Kingdom from the European Union will commence in 2017. Sir Tim Barrow, the newly appointed negotiator on behalf of the British government, will lead the (expected) tough talks. On February 3rd 2017 the 27 heads of state of the European Union members, without British Prime Minister Theresa May, are convening in Valetta, Malta to discuss the exit-strategy of the United Kingdom. Malta is the acting Presidency of the Council of the European Union from January 1st - June 30th 2017 and will be followed by Estonia from the 1st of July - 31st December 2017. The Peace Palace Library will cover 'Brexit' in its Library Special.

Crisis in border regions of the European Union

Syria, East-Ukraine and the developments in Turkey are –unfortunately- also continuing in 2017. Especially the instability in the Middle East will need a firm answer from the European Union and its member states. The European Union, furthermore, needs to define whether or not it can be a partner to authoritarian leader mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. (BBC) In international negotiations between the European Union and Turkey the accession of Turkey into the Union will be discussed. (Delegation of the European Union to Turkey) This process can be complicated when Turkey votes to legalize capital punishment again. (Independent) Moreover, the recognition of the Armenian Genocide can cause troubles in the negotiations between the European Union and Turkey. Therefore, the occurring events and steps in the negotiations process will be monitored by the Peace Palace Library.

NATO

As already mentioned, on January 20th , at noon local time, Donald J. Trump will take the oath of office to become the 45th President of the United States of America. He already promised -via his Twitter account- that Europe needs to prepare to bear the financial burden of being a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The costs for the defense of Europe are, therefore, expected to rise. This can have vast implications how the European Union will shape its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in future.

Russia

Furthermore, the rapprochement by President-elect of the United States of America Trump to President Putin of the Russian Federation has sincere implications for the geopolitical role of the European Union. The European Commission and the governments of the European member states need to find an answer to this shifting international balance of power.

Conclusion

In conclusion, 2017 is going to be a defining moment in the European Union’s history and its geopolitical and strategical role. The European Commission (together with the governments of all 28 / 27 member states) needs to cope with several key developments and this will undeniably lead to academically debate which the Peace Palace Library is happy to further.

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