22 December 2018

POLITICAL AND SECURITY FORECAST-2019 II

Sergiu Medar

Image source: Mediafax

In a series of articles that we are going to publish in Defence and Security Monitor, we will be presenting you the perspective of our team about the possible political and security evolutions around the world, for the following year. Without being exhaustive, these estimations will be based on the data collected from opened sources, on 2018’s reality analysis, in their dynamic and, not least, on authors analytical experience. After a general analysis of global security’s possible evolutions in 2019, we will be presenting the political and security foresights for the main geographical areas and for the main geopolitical actors.

Chapter II

European Union- the political and security situation- 2019 forecasts

2018 was a tense year for the entire Europe. Besides the tensions of the US-Russia relations, there were added the ones inside Europe and even inside its countries. Member states’ will build a consolidated organization remained, for now, just an official statement.

US-EU tensions emerged because after applying the America First principle in the international relations, Trump’s Administration wanted to eliminate the shortfalls which existed in the Europe-US relation regarding trade exchanges. When a state from Atlantic’s side passes from multilateralism to unilateralism, and its other side upkeeps a global or multilateral trade system, it is hard to get to an agreement. Likely, this mediation method will get on track by identifying a common threat, Russia. France did not give up on globalism, meanwhile Germany is approaching only multilateralism regarding states relation. Probably, this is the best compromise between the relations based on collective interest, specific to globalism, and the ones based on nationalism and populism.

The trade aspects on the relations between the US and the European states, will probably be solved, in 2019, by establishing bilateral trade agreements, these states interpreting or respecting, from a national perspective, the EU decisions.

NATO will continue to be the bond of the transatlantic relation as Russia keeps on increasing its offensive military potential in Ukraine or the Black Sea. The lawful denouncement of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) will not make Russia do many changes, as these missiles already exists. The US will probably dislocate, or threat to do it, Tomahawk missiles in states from Eastern Europe.  The dissident aspect about the participation of members states at their own military costs, and Alliances’ also, will no longer be debated in 2019 and both parts will agree on a deadline to reach the 2% from GDP.

EU’s responsibilities repartition, for economical-financial aspects to be on Germany’s charge, and the security ones in France’s, did not had any success, given both countries’ internal issues. 2019 will probably not bring debates about some controversy proposals which are not on discussions’ agenda.

Emmanuel Macron’s proposal about EU developing in concentric circles and with different speeds has nothing to do with member states’ solidarity and cohesion’s increase, the main objectives of the organization. Applying such a principle, perhaps, will not be accomplished in 2019, as it will not solve any issue, economically speaking, but it will raise other disputes, increasing continent’s instability.

Europe states’ internal nationalist and populist tendencies are becoming more and more present. These principles were not coordinated and did not conceptualized yet their evolution, but perhaps in 2019 we will see the first evolutions in this field, which will contribute more and more to European states’ destabilization.

France’s movements were generated by Macron’s government measures to reach some objectives from environment’s protection programme, related to climatic changes. Increasing the fuel taxes came with other complaints also. We have to remark that these movements had no racial tendency, like other movements from France’s past years. The majority of the population who protested in the streets was composed of white people. The manifestations targeted France’s leadership and especially president Macron, whose popularity rate decreased enormously, with an unseen rapidity.

Macron changing the initial proposals was a sign of weakness for the other European states, as he did not actually negotiate with the representatives of the protestants. The intensity of the protests has decreased, but the main issue was only postponed, not solved. 2019 will be a tough year for France and Macron too.  Hesitating to apply the reforms which are completing the governance programme are decreasing European states’ trust in France’s capability to ensure the leadership in security domain, as they have previously committed. We can say that Macron will only have 2019 to change the actual course and make a reform to be approved by the population.

In Germany, the nationalist movements were as violent as the ones in France. Here, randomly only, the manifestations have Nazi tendencies also.  The precarious equilibrium of the political balance from Bundestag will be, in 2019, affected by Mrs. Merkel’s decision not to run for the leader party position of the governing coalition, but especially by her announce about not running anymore for the chancellor position, in 2021. 2019 will be extremely important for Germany’s political evolution. A lot of announced resignations across the CDU, passing to AfD than to SDP, may modify the power balance in Bundestag and hurry Mrs. Angela Merkle’s anticipated elections change from Germany’s chancellor position. If this will happen in 2019, then Mrs. Merkel may remain chancellor until 2021, having enough time to prepare Mrs. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the actual CDU president, for the chancellor position.

European nationalism and populism are showing up in other European states too, like Hungary Poland, Italy, Greece and Croatia. Hungary, for example, left the liberal democracy and allowed anti-democratic manifestations, by calling itself illiberal state. This authoritarian leadership methods, which opposes some EU decisions, will be more intensified in 2019.

The European nationalism was effervescent in 2018 and will, probably, be increased in 2019, being the year wherein the elections for the European Parliamentary will take place. We can say that the number of positions the nationalist parties will occupy will be growing. It is really important for the parties not to have a number of places which could head off Parliament’s vote.

Brexit will be one of the issues whose concerning potential will be decreasing. Germany and France presented their perspective EU’s final stance agreement. Separating the Great Union from the European Union will be more painful for the United Kingdom than for EU, so this subject will slowly leave Union’s concerns agenda.

2019’s major concern will be the continuation of the process related to European army’s foundation. This was a criticized project, for now, by some of the European states, but also by US, which considers it a method to compete with the most trustable alliance in the world, and also to undermine it, because the defence costs managed until now with NATO’s support, could be used for other purposes. The “good” part of this project is that the US, by criticizing the European programme to create and European army, showed its firm position and support on NATO. We expect the American presence in East Europe to be more and more consistent in 2019. 

The most debated issue, which raised contradictory national approaches in 2018 was, again, immigrants’ one. It was initially supported by some European states, but after that, some of them changes their stance, leaving Mrs. Merkel alone in front of the most controversary issue. This was, probably, the main reason of her political collapse (her decrease in the opinion polls and the decision not to participate at the CDU elections, the party wherewith she started her career). She was seen guilty for all the negative actions committed by the immigrants, which definitely lead to her decreased support among the Germans, and this may lead also to chancellor’s credibility on a foreign plan, hence to Union’s instability. However, Mrs. Merkel’s radical change, through anticipated elections will not be good for the Europeans.

The suspicions about the West getting close to Russia were vanished at the end of 2018, after re-imposing the economic and political sanctions against Kremlin. This decision surely did not stop Russia from continuing to prepare for war. 2019 will come with a more aggressive, challenging Russia, ready to act through kinetical actions and especially non-kinetical, in any European country it is interested in.

2018 revealed East European states’ tendency to become more solidary, economically speaking, by developing a critical common infrastructure, as well as by approaching some programs of mutual communications. The “Three seas Initiative”, which is composed of 12 EU member states from East of Europe, is a common programme inside Europe which aims to develop common economic projects. “Bucharest 9 Initiative” was also created to mark the political and geostrategic value of the states from East Europe, aiming to develop some common defence programs. These programs will be continued in 2019 also, when they will have to materialize the promises made in Bucharest.