“The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be” Idioms and idiosyncrasies in 2017
Among other memorable utterances, American baseball legend Yogi Berra once said “it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future”. I would counter this and say that there is nothing easier, since most predictions will be long forgotten by the time they should be checked to see if they have stood the test of time. It is for the best, since many experts would be anything but expert, should we make it a point to check their forecasts for accuracy.
The likelihood of a tight win for the mainstream parties would allow the French-German engine to continue to function, but will once again bring into the spotlight the urgent need for internal reform of the EU’s institutional structures and mechanisms.
For the European Union, the year will be marked by Brexit and the beginning of the negotiations between London and Brussels in March. Theresa May has said at the beginning of the year that she does not wish “partial membership of the EU, nor associate membership of the EU or anything that leaves the UK half-in, half-out”, adding that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain”. The public statements given so far by different European political leaders show that the negotiation process may turn into a scandalous divorce, in which none of the parties would be the first to endorse a workable compromise. This year’s elections in France (May) and in Germany (September) present a high political stake, against the backdrop of increasing Euroscepticism among public opinion in both countries. Recent scandals, like the illicit financing by the conservative French candidate, Francois Fillon, of a position for his own wife can only score points in favour of the candidate of the Popular Front, Marine Le Pen. In Germany, the Alternative for Germany Party, a party created just recently, in 2013, could obtain very good results at the federal parliamentary elections on 24 September, becoming the third political force in Germany, after the Christian-Democrats and the Social-Democrats. The likelihood of a tight win for the mainstream parties would allow the French-German engine to continue to function, but will once again bring into the spotlight the urgent need for internal reform of the EU’s institutional structures and mechanisms.
In the EU’s immediate neighbourhood, the Western Balkans situation is already overheated: after the wave of violence that plagued Eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of the Crimean crisis, violent clashes in Kosovo have followed, with the risk of growing regional instability. In the Eastern neighbourhood, the newly elected pro-Russian President of the Republic of Moldova will continue to supposedly strengthen his country’s relations with Moscow, slowly defaulting on the idea of closeness with the European Union, while uncertainty and tensions will continue to reign in Ukraine. Putin’s Russia, which made a habit of surprising us during the last years, will keep presenting itself as a regional power and broker, while attempting to influence the outcome of the electoral races due to take place in Europe, as it allegedly did during the US presidential elections.
On the global arena, the seismic waves generated by the beginning of the new White House administration will probably continue to produce direct and collateral damage: after President Donald Trump signed the executive order which pulled the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Administration is also considering a withdrawal from NAFTA. With regards to TTIP, the old saying to “never speak ill of the dead” seems to apply. The US decisions will most likely fuel protectionist attitudes on a global scale, and it seems that we are unfortunately witnessing the twilight of the liberal world order.
Ending on a more positive note, it is worth mentioning that the year 2017 will mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, a special moment in the process of European integration. Any anniversary should contain not only festive manifestations, but also a critical appraisal of the progress achieved and a moment of self-reflection for the Union, confronted with a complex set of challenges and opportunities which it needs to address with the utmost dedication and a fair helping of creativity. One thing is certain for pundits and Yogi Berra alike – “You can observe a lot by just watching”.