What a year this will be for Europe! 2014 will see a new European parliament elected, and we will just have to hope that the Euroskeptic parties that have sprung up in most EU countries will not gain enough power to paralyse Europe. Germany’s MEP Martin Schulz is standing as candidate for the Social Democratic, and Socialist parties; former Luxemburg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker may be appointed to lead the list of Europe’s centre-right parties.
Whoever carries the parliament – Schulz or perhaps Juncker – will push to become president of the new EU commission which will be appointed later this year. At the EU council, the top jobs are also up for grabs: both President Herman Van Rompuy and the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, will retire this year. Incidentally, across town there will also be a new NATO secretary general.
Clearly, it is of tremendous importance to the future of Europe who will get these jobs: whether they will be filled with independent-minded, reform-oriented, eloquent politicians of a genuine European persuasion, or whether national governments will opt for weak figures that they can hope to dominate.
Yet policy matters, too. 2014 will be a decisive year for Europe to overcome the effects of the Euro crisis and regain the path to growth and employment. An enormous effort needs to be made to keep the millions of unemployed young people in Southern Europe from turning into a lost generation. This year might also see the conclusion of a new transatlantic trade pact to boost the economies both in Europe and the United States.