2019 Forecast: Europe
The past usually informs the future, so with that in mind, it’s worthwhile to highlight the most important events in Europe over the past year and then prognosticate where they might be headed. In any given order, these were the UK moving towards a so-called “Hard Brexit”; the Polish-led “Three Seas Initiative” strengthening into a more cohesive US-backed “cordon sanitaire” between Russia and Germany; left-wing and right-wing populist parties forming a coalition government in Italy; France and Germany experiencing different degrees of popular unrest for their economic and migrant polices respectively; and disturbing developments in the Balkans after Macedonia’s Color Revolution government signed a controversial “name deal” with Greece and the NATO-occupied Serbian Province of Kosovo declared the creation of its own “army”.
Beginning with the first-mentioned event, the UK will probably go forward with a “Hard Brexit” despite some speculation that it’s having second thoughts about this. The political instability that emerged over the past few months because of Prime Minister May’s lack of leadership on this issue might lead to regime change in the country, the specific consequences of which are difficult to predict but which might either lead to Labour taking the reins or a more conservative figure coming to power. Across the Channel, the EU will be pressured to resolve its lingering identity crisis and decide whether it will move towards full-blown centralization under German leadership or along the lines of the Polish-led decentralization model being pioneered by the “Three Seas Initiative”.
About that integrational project, Warsaw is working hand-in-hand with Washington to reestablish itself as a significant regional power capable of complicating Russian-German relations. While the Polish-American efforts to undermine Nord Stream II probably won’t be successful, the two countries will probably deepen their energy ties with one another and attempt to extend them all across the “Three Seas” space in streamlining more expensive energy corridors that serve the political purpose of diversifying their economies away from their erstwhile Russian energy dependence. That, however, is what the plan looks like on paper but it probably won’t be implemented that easily in practice once Nord Stream II and Turkish Stream enter into operation. All told, the geopolitical objectives of the “Three Seas Initiative” are visionary but unlikely to be fulfilled anytime soon.
That said, the ideological movement of EuroRealist decentralization that it represents is much more influential in the sense that it’s already creating a sub-regional lobbying bloc of sorts in the Visegrad Group that plans to expand throughout the Central & Eastern European region to more confidently challenge the ruling EuroLiberals in Western Europe. The political processes that were unleashed over the past few years finally spread to Italy in early 2018 and resulted in the unprecedented formation of a left-wing and right-wing populist coalition government that immensely complicated the Franco-German axis’ efforts to centralize European affairs following Brexit’s surprise summer 2016 electoral victory. This development will continue to shape intra-European affairs over the next year and turn Italy into one of the most politically influential states on the continent.
In what is commonly regarded as Europe’s “forgotten corner” of Southeastern Europe, the Balkans are once again mildly rumbling with unrest for a few reasons. Firstly, Macedonia’s Color Revolution government is defying the people’s will by going forward with its controversial “name agreement” with Greece despite this initiative failing to pass the minimum threshold of support during a recent referendum to enter into legal practice. There are also fears that the authorities want to “internally partition” the country by devolving into a “federation” between the Macedonian majority and the Albanian minority. The so-called “Albanian Question” was also in the news once again when Kosovo decided to violate its own self-promulgated “constitution” by creating an “army”, though Belgrade is unlikely to take any tangible action against this.
Altogether, the prevailing trends that will shape European events over the next year are the struggle between the EuroRealists and EuroLiberals in deciding the future of the EU, the rise of the “Three Seas Initiative” as a US-backed “cordon sanitaire” between Russia and Germany, and American meddling in the conflict-prone Balkans. Although unlikely, it’s possible that France and Germany might begin to compete for leadership of the EU if Macron senses that Merkel is too weak to continue ruling it, and there’s also a chance that Ukraine might experience another round of internal conflict. Taken together, the megatrend is that Europe is in the midst of a profound systemic transition that will make this previously stable region of Eurasia all the more unpredictable in the future.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Oriental Review