ECFR: Ten trends for 2013
By Nicholas Walton
2012 saw continuing crisis in the eurozone, growing Euroscepticism and populism in some corners of Europe, faltering transitions in Egypt and elsewhere, more violence in Syria, a new leadership in China, and both Putin II and Obama II. So what will 2013 hold?
The single market unravels. As ECFR’s recent paper – “Why the euro crisis threatens the EU’s single market” – shows, however the EU and eurozone deal with the crisis this main achievement of European integration will be damaged. A full eurozone break up would shatter the single market (and Schengen) while a great leap towards integration would see shrinkage as others (like the UK) withdraw. But even “muddling through” will diminish its depth. In the past months banks in the eurozone have withdrawn from cross-border business. Because of the spreads, even poorly-managed German companies are paying significantly less interest than well-managed Spanish companies. All of these developments create new barriers and will lead to a renewed focus on domestic markets. For Europe, this means less competition, less growth, and higher prices for consumers. Our forthcoming paper on Europe’s “New Political Geography” (based upon ECFR’s 2012 series of 14 National Papers) shows how many EU member states are deeply concerned that differentiated integration is forcing them to the periphery of the European project.
“Small” states lead the EU’s foreign policy. While the biggest countries of the eurozone are focused on the crisis and the UK is increasingly disengaged from Europe, new coalitions of willing members have been leading on the EU’s foreign policy. ECFR’s “Foreign Policy Scorecard 2012” showed that Poland and Sweden were the ones taking the initiative and leading Europe on the world stage. This year’s Scorecard, due to be published later this month, shows that Sweden is taking the initiative roughly as much as traditional large powers like France and the UK, with the Netherlands and Finland also demonstrating that in EU foreign policy size isn’t the only thing that matters.
The end of technocracy. After a year where technocrats took over the countries of the periphery and other leaders, electoral politics will return to European integration. In Italy the vote looks likely to be a referendum on Monti’s reforms, with substantial implications for the rest of Europe. And the German elections could also see a new government elected that has less constraints on what it is able to do – although the danger is that Europe will be largely absent from the campaign.
The British debate over Europe becomes less toxic.Although the UK Independence Party will continue to make gains and force many Conservative MPs towards more Eurosceptic positions, 2013 will see a growing realisation that the UK is sleepwalking towards a disastrous EU exit. Business leaders will lead the backlash, followed by politicians – including many Conservatives who decide that Euroscepticism divides their own party, helps UKIP, and distracts from their own challenges with economic dysfunction and a fractious coalition. The arguments over Scottish EU membership also serve to highlight the tangible benefits of membership.
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