Predicting the future is impossible. If anyone tells you that they know exactly how America’s devolving relationship with the Kim regime in North Korea will or won’t unfold in 2018, you would be well within your rights to call them a fool. Same goes for Russia’s approach to its neighbors or China’s economy. Don’t let the local tarot card reading ‘psychic’ fool you, nobody knows precisely what the future holds. Not even Theresa May, Kim Jong-Un, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, or Donald Trump do.
With that said, we do know with a fair measure of certainty what issues, international relationships, and threats foreign and abroad will reside on each region’s to-do list as the new year emerges from its nascence. As part of an international accounting, ‘The World in 2018’ will roll out the most pressing items on each region’s plate.
Part 4: Europe
Europe, Europe, Europe. Whatever are you to do with yourself?
Out of all the regions on this list, the melting pot that we call the EU is perhaps the most fractured, a once amicable array of nations that, in many cases, have seemingly nothing in common behind their location on the plot of land that we’ve designated as ‘Europe’. Seemingly being torn at its tenuous seams, the path forward for Europe in 2018 is perhaps stickiest of all.
Further Financial Turmoil is Guaranteed
Certain members of the European Union have become the poster children for irreparable financial ruin. Even with the common currency and free trade ‘propping them up’, if you can eve say that, nations such as Greece and Italy have seen decades of anti-work culture, excess, and unsustainable lending catch up. Nearly half of all young people in Greece are unemployed often make less money than the few who are granted access to some form of unemployment payment, a concept which has been virtually phased out.
Germany has always been the centerpiece of the EU. It is the engine that keeps the raggedy old clunker running, with its booming export economy holding together nations that would otherwise be in even further economic ruin than they already are. Their consistency in vocalizing commitment to the EU has always been followed by action, but in 2018 that commitment will face a greater test than Germany has ever seen.
Europe’s economy has been growing, but the sluggish, unsteady pace will not be able to withstanding the strains that an American recession, an event that history tells us is a likelihood in 2018. The seeds of economic dysfunction have been sewn in Europe for decades, and it has come back to bite them in the past. The current generations of Greeks and Spaniards have memories of economic ruin that are far from distant. For Greeks, it’s daily life. Yet, the general attitude of Europeans in terms of borrowing, overstretching their means, and acting as if ‘it couldn’t happen to us’ persists. This attitude, perpetuated primarily by the leaders, has also caused a greater underlying threat to Europe’s unity and stability.
Many European People No Longer Trust their Leaders
Americans have always had a healthy distrust of government, it’s woven into their DNA. But, if Americans have a disconnect with the men and women tasked with running their governments, many Europeans have justifiably taken that idea a step further. It’s not a stretch to say that, after enduring the ills of irresponsible leadership – particularly in terms of national finances – many Europeans have outright disdain for the elites who manage the government’s coffers. The EU, with its unelected, non-native ruling body has become the embodiment of governmental elitism, and the distrust between the middle and lower classes and the leaders of the EU, and even some national governments, is palpable.
It is a problem that all national governments face, but it is even greater in a body as overarching as the EU. When you attempt to impose homogenous policies onto groups of people who vary in ethnicity, culture, and ideology, somebody is going to end up extremely unhappy. And they will react with open disdain and disownment of the body they perceive as disrespectful and uncaring of their long-established culture. In Europe, Germany represents the face of EU compliance. Poland, on the other hand, has elected a government that is pro-nationalist, and who has openly rejected EU migrant quotas at the risk of financial punishment.
And, considering Germany’s outsize role in maintaining order and establishing the policies that eventually become EU-sanctioned mandates, resentment of the EU often means resentment of Germany. As the fractures in the EU deepen, the extent to which Germany is willing to go in order to keep the Union together may become more extreme. Subsequently, anti-German feelings will become more overt, and more impassioned.
In 2018, the fate of the EU will become more clear. Even if Britain continues to drag its feet on Brexit, Poland has proven far less malleable. Austria has elected a government far more closer to Poland ideologically than Germany. More nations will call for their independence, which will warrant a response from the EU, and Germany. Thus far, those responses have been threats of insurmountable exit fees and a never-ending routine of legal hearings and bureaucratic red tape that has, at the end of the year, left the EU fundamentally unchanged. Still, 2018 will be a year when the EU establishes itself as a totalitarian body going any length to maintain the union, or one that finally accepts its own demise.