Sinan Ozdemir - Brussels
The European Union entered the year of 2017 with the Berlin terrorist attack. The security issue as well as the political and economic problems in the new year will keep its place on the agenda. The one side is the elections to be held in France, Germany, Netherlands and maybe Italy and on the other side is the fluctuations that can be caused by the new developments based on Greece and Brexit. As well as relations with its near geographical region, Russia and Turkey, the dialogue with the new American administration which will go into operation on 20th January has great importance. Immigration and security will be on top of the list of topics to be discussed the most although it is among the matters least action is taken about.
In a year when the European Union is questioning its future and preparing to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the treaty of Rome, the beginning of the process of Britain leaving the Union does not only draw borders for the Europe dream but also remodels the boundary of its political geography. Although the announcement of Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May that the process will start in March will comfort Brussels, the matter moving to the court increases the uncertainty of it. In the first weeks of the new year it will be clear if the last word will belong to the parliament or the ruling. It is possible to imagine that the conservatives will stand behind the government when the time comes, although there are some that believe Theresa May will not be able to provide the majority and they will remain in the Union. It is hard to imagine that the parliamentarians will make a different decision despite the national will, especially on a matter that was decided with a referendum.
Another matter that is most wondered and uncertain in the Brussels' environment is regarding May's strategy. The Prime Minister protecting her silence raises the speculations. The speech she will give in January, in this matter, is being looked forward to. In the negotiation process the things they will ask for and accept will determine the boundaries of the new cooperation. In the backstage it is said that UK will suggest a new model of cooperation. Although Brussels is open to all proposals, the right of free movement is considered as a red line. Even though the problem that is triggering Brexit brought back in front of them as a red line is responded by London, it is vital for the economic circles.
London is aware that they will not fall behind of Paris, Berlin and California in a world where competition drives brain migration and finding the best. The reason that the expected fluctuations did not take place after the Brexit can be explained by the fact that the separation has not yet begun rather then its own ability. Considering that the negotiations will last for two years, it is a fact that it allows them to make preparation until that time. However, the positiveness in London does not take place in Brussels. This is because if Brussels facilitate London with an advantageous deal in their expectation, as it will set example for the other Union members, is aware that it will ease the work of the separatists.
However, if it is thought that 2017 will be the election year, London may find it difficult to find a interlocutor. In turns Netherlands, France, and Germany will go to the polls. It has not been decided for Italy yet. If it gets decided four constituent states will go to election. The opponents of Europe are very hopeful of these elections. Especially Donald Trump, who they see as equal in respect to their ideas, being elected to the presidency of the United States is raising their hopes.
The choice of France and Germany is important at this point. Looking at the information provided by Big Data, which gives much stronger results than the polls, the racist populist National Front in France will take part in the second round of presidential elections. (96 percent) It's easier to find out what's missing in this case. It is possible to think that the race will take place between the Republicans and the Socialist. When compared to the republicans the chances of the socialists worn out of the five-year rule are much lower.
Although Francois Hollande not taking part in the elections gives a chance to enter the elections with a new face, it does not seem to be an advantage. But it doesn’t mean surprises will not happen. It makes it possible for all of the scenarios to take place because of the behaviour of the voters are unpredictable.
The situation for Germany is slightly different. The chances of the racist parties are much lower in the elections that Angela Markel will be a candidate for the fourth time. The polls show the Alternative Party as ten percent in Germany. Although terror allows the votes to increase it is hard to make a prediction because the election will be held in september. The certain thing is, after the Berlin attack, the refugee issue has taken the first place on the agenda, while Angela Merkel tried to drop it of the agenda. In this way, we can say that the language of politics will increase to be more violent.
Germany's need for labor to take control of the demographic problem requires the migration issue to be discussed on the correct platform. However terrorist attacks prevents them from taking it seriously. In addition, terrorism being related to Islam and Muslims strengthens the racist parties and movements. The Issue of immigration not being conjectural, it will occupy the European Union in the coming years, requires a change in the discourse as well as the vision.
It is a fact that Angela Merkel is the leader who approaches Donald Trump with the most sympathy within the European Union. The reality that Germany is the engine of the Union, requires a strong dialogue with the United States. Economy and security comes at the top of the list of the issues to be discussed with the new American administration. At a time when America is giving signals of closure a deafness dialogue that will take place may have negative consequences. The attitude of the United States, especially on defence issues, can serve as a catalyst in the common defence policy. The assessment of Donald Trump with purely financial concerns will in the first place make its presence in Europe controversial. During the cold war, America taking Europe under its protection, more than cultural concerns succeeding in continental Europe unlike Britain failing, allowing it to maximise the hegemonic power it inherited from it. In this way, Eurasia was taken under control.
Another issue that will keep European diplomacy busy in 2017 will be its relations with Russia. Due to its role in the Ukrainian crisis (annexation of Crimea, alleged to secessionist groups in Donbass), the embargo imposed by Brussels has been extended until July. Compared to the United States, it becomes clear that the main losers are EU, Russia and Ukraine. The siege operation in Eastern Europe, under the NATO umbrella, forces Russia to follow more harsh policies on the Western borders. Security increases their worry. There have been serious violations of air on the Baltic Republics – Russian border. The Anaconda exercise (fighting game) that Poland conducted with the US in June 2016 boosted the tension on both sides of the border. This brought the German Foreign Minister and future President Frank Walter Steinmeier to a great anger. Accused NATO for increasing the tension by “war yelling and boot noises”.
It is a fact that the embargoes applied to Russia affects the German economy negatively. The businessmen are applying intense pressure to the government for the embargo to come to an end. In some parts of the European politics the belief that Donald Trump could make a fresh start with Russia is welcomed. For example in France, that is going to election, the right-wing parties say they will move in this direction.
The Union's Turkey relations will be among the most important points of the agenda this year. Even though the date is not certain, the EU-Turkey summit will take place during the year. It is hard to imagine that the stressed relations due to the refugees and visa liberal disputes will relax. Only with small steps diplomacy, some kind of blockages can be overcome. Opening of new topics during the negotiation process will not change the end result. The fact that its not based on realistic basics makes things difficult. Turkey taking the European Union membership to referendum makes a way out.
The exit negotiation of London with Brussels could be a source of inspiration for the possible “private partnership”. Generally, the negative imagination of Turkey, drawn in the Western European media, is a barrier to communication accidents. In the Syrian and finally Aleppo crisis, criticised for its passive attitude in both humanitarian and military affairs, draws the boundaries of soft power beyond diplomatic failure.
Turkey-Russia relations are vital in this regard. When assessed in the context of risks and uncertainties, the European Union, in its own geography, with its immediate surroundings, its relations with its strategic partners is entering a new year with high amount of uncertainties.
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