2019 will be one of the most important years in the European Union's history. For many different reasons. Beyond Brexit, the main schism to overcome, Brussels faces many different open issues which could considerably weight on the future of the block of 27 (after the more than likely UK exit).
Community policy experts analyze for 20minutos how Member States should approach the year ahead, in order to reinforce the union and the proper functioning of the institutions.
To this regard, they explain, the main effort could be focused on fighting any "extremist speech" aiming to "provoke frictions between the most relevant countries" such as France, Germany or even, Spain.
All in all, it's worth breaking down these different open issues, only five months ahead of the elections that will set the course of the UE.
Brexit. The UK's exit is still uncertain
The near future of the Community will depend on the when and how of the United Kingdom's exit from the UE; if it actually happens. The Union must confront the Brexit as not only its biggest challenge for 2019, but as, arguably, the biggest challenge in its history, in terms of structure. Events have granted Brussels the role as the strongest party to the negotiation.
While May's opposition is still asking for a second referendum, the Prime Minister assures that she will to renegotiate some of the key points of the deal. Among them, the one issue causing a big schism: the Northern Ireland backstop. In short, the clock is ticking for the British government.
Elections. Stopping extremisms, key to the elections
"These elections are critical, not as the previous ones, which used to remain in the background", says Luis Bouza, a professor at UAM university. For him, these elections are going to become "a struggle between those that are pro-Europe and the extremists" and he believes this could be a good example of how traditional political parties have been decaying.
"There are leaders, such as Albert Rivera or Emmanuel Macron who champion a more pro-European speech", Bouza acknowledges, and yet he warns that it would be best if "voters could find differences between the parties defending the EU". Otherwise, a scenario with only pro and against options "would benefit" populists parties.
"Yes, citizens must vote, but they also need to know what to vote for", the professor concludes. The Euro MP from the Podemos party, Miguel Urban, indicates that the possibilities are "wide open" and asks for a "alternative for change".
Economy. Member countries remain alert over the looming crisis
The threat of a new global economic crisis keeps the member states holding their breaths, and thus, the European Commission has focused its attention on the National budgets, both for Spain and Italy - and, actually, Conte's administration was forced to rectify his budget.
Experts talk about a new recession for 2020, since for many, the large powers are growing beyond their means. On that matter, another challenge for the EU would be to maintain low levels of unemployment, using 2008 as its benchmark. At the end of 2018, the rate of unemployment was 7.9% for the whole of the eurozone, while youth unemployment was 16.9%.
Security. Another goal is to stop cyber attacks
The European Union intends to reinforce its cybersecurity standards in order to confront the increasing threat of cyber attacks. As indicated from the Commission, it's another way of adapting to "the new digital era".
Already in 2017 a series of measures for the coming years had been submitted and, on December 19, 2018, the permanent representatives to the EU passed the Cybersecurity Regulation.
Resolving these type of situations and consolidating security must be another challenge for the year ahead. Additionally, cyber attacks are estimated to cost the global economy 400 billion annually, and in the past few years, it has become a recurring issue.
Migration. Germany, France and Spain clash against the Italian discourse
The debate on migration flows has gained momentum within the context of the Community, in particular, since the arrival of extreme positions such as Matteo Salivini's, who's in favour of closing the borders. Other countries, such as Hungary and Poland, have joined in this speech.
"Our country is safe because we haven't accepted any Muslim immigrants, we don't care if they call us racists", as the Polish deputy minister of justice said some time ago.
On the opposite front, Germany, France and Spain seek a "responsible solution", always respectful of any "human rights". The Spanish President, Pedro Sánchez, believes the EU should combine solidarity and responsibility in its policies on migration and warned about the "questioning of Europe's prestige" when "attitudes against the most basic humanity" emerge.
The Council. Romania, Finland and Croatia will take up the presidency
This will also be an important year in terms of how the rotational presidency of the UE Council is handled. In 2019 the presidency will be held, in order, by Romania, Finland and Croatia, beginning with the Romanian presidency, until June 30.
Brussels explains that this trio sets the long term goals and prepares a joint programme for a period of 18 months. The priorities of the Romanian presidency are governed by the following motto: cohesion, a common European value construed as unity, equality of treatment and convergence, as the authorities explain.