In 2014, the European Union (EU) enters into its 6th year of economic crisis and therefore also into the 6th year of attempts at implementing feasible structural reforms in crisis countries and finding efficient governance solutions to prevent another comparable disaster from occurring in the future. The elections for the European Parliament have so far received most of the attention, but the European Union will face quite a few tasks well before and beyond that.
In fact, the most crucial challenge will be economic: working towards a solution for the financial and economic crisis, by tackling the project of a banking union and managing heterogeneity within the Euro zone.
The project of a banking union has been on the table since Commission President Barroso called for a deeper integration of the financial sector and a single supervisory mandate for the European Central Bank (ECB) in 2012. Ever since, the debate has been controversial, between and within member states, with Germany being the first to express its concerns about the administrative capacity of the ECB and the potential losses of national sovereignty.
With the joining of Latvia on the 1st of January, the Eurozone now counts 18 members - a number which might continue to grow in the upcoming years, as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Lithuania have also expressed the wish to join as soon as the economic and financial criteria are met.
This year will also bring about changes in terms of internal politics, namely mobility and migration. As of the 1st of January, Bulgarians and Romanians finally enjoy free movement within the EU, which has produced a range of controversies in various member states. As for third country nationals and asylum migration, the EU has introduced changes to the system of international protection, which alter the procedure and the criteria for granting people from outside the EU protection by a member state.
The first half of this year is framed by the Hellenic presidency of the Council of the European Union, a promising yet challenging presidency for both Greece and the EU. Indeed, the objectives of the Greek presidency seem to reflect the overall priorities of the agenda and relate to all of the abovementioned salient tasks of the EU.
Last but not least, this year is also a year of European memory. Indeed, in the very period, where the states and people of Europe face a deep crisis of the community, we are commemorating the First World War. All across the continent, people will be reminded of our not so glorious and peaceful common history, a time when we raged military war against each other instead of working together. Hopefully, this will make us more aware of the achievements of the Union and the benefits of solidarity…
Starting from January, the EU has about 5 months to tackle some of the upcoming tasks, before the European voters will reward or sanction EU policy-making over the last few years. Looking closely at the abovementioned topics, it is obvious that the outcome cannot yet be foreseen. However, in the meantime, we can shed some light on the complexity of the issues at stake.
By Isabel Winnwa
Source photo : Flag-map of the European Union (2004-2007) on Wikimedia commons
To go further
Dossier of February :
- Update 2.0: Common European Asylum System plus Dublin III
- The EU budget for 2014-2020: Less expenditure means less accountability
- European Identity in a Transforming Political Space: Eastern Enlargement and its Challenges
- A centralised supervision - a major, but only the first, element of Europe's Banking Union
- Greek Presidency of the European Council: a change in the course of the EU?
- 2014: much more than a year of commemoration, lessons for the future
- Latvia in the euro zone: national economic outlook for 2014