Europe caught between two fires

Published 23.02.2019 00:22
Updated 23.02.2019 00:23

It seems like 2019 is not going to be a "soft" year for the European continent. The continent, in its own right, is already concerned with issues that could lead to severe uncertainty, such as Brexit and the European Parliament elections.

However, as if these troubles were not enough, the rising threat from the U.S. in the last 1-2 weeks of "trade wars" and the fact that the EU is becoming the center of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia, has increased the burden on the continent's shoulders. In such an environment where low-spiritedness and uncertainty prevail, citizens of many EU member states perceive economic activity and unemployment in their countries as worse than the real picture.

The only consolation for EU citizens is that the common currency, the euro, is strong. The primary expectation of the citizens of 28 EU countries is equal pay for equal work. In Europe, it seems like political risk will continue to be a problem in 2019. Moreover, the perception of social risk has reached its highest level since 2010. These risks are often evident in election periods such as the upcoming European Parliament elections. As a matter of fact, for 2019, besides the elections in Greece, it will be necessary to closely observe possible early elections in Italy, Spain and Germany. Spreading social dissatisfaction and the growing popularity of anti-European parties seems to have become important enough to bring forward a rather fragmented European Parliament structure after the elections that will take place in May 2019.

Is the U.S.-EU trade war escalating?

In a report presented to the White House the other day, German cars were declared a threat to the national security of the United States. The EU's leaders and its leading institutions face new shocks and traumas each day due to such statements, reports and threats by President Trump and his team.

In response to U.S. Trade Minister Wilbur Ross' statement that "German cars threaten the national security of the United States," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this statement was a "shock." Merkel said that they did not understand why the U.S. saw German cars as a threat, stating that these cars were produced in BMW's largest factory in the state of South Carolina in the U.S., not in Bavaria, and highlighted that this is why U.S.-EU efforts to advance transatlantic trade must continue at the table.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, on the other hand, stated that he and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas have reached a consensus that it would be a disaster for the United Kingdom and Europe if Brexit went in the wrong direction.

Hunt pointed out that the meaning of the word "temporary," which appears in the "emergency mechanism" to pass Brexit with the EU in the U.K. Parliament, should be fully explained. Hunt, who mentioned that Germany is one of the biggest trading partners of the U.K., said that German companies have created more than 400,000 jobs in his country. Maas said that no one in the EU wanted a "hard Brexit."

Vladimir Putin's warning to the U.S.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, rebuking the U.S. in his annual address, stated that in case the U.S. deployed intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia would also respond, and warned that Russia, in addition to developing and deploying weapons that could hit lands where they may be hit from, would also develop weapons that would be able to hit territories where the decision was made to launch these missiles from, such as the U.S.Putin, who criticized the U.S.' decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Agreement (INF), saying that Russia will not be the first one to place intermediate-range missiles in Europe, underlined that some of the missiles that will be deployed in Europe have the capacity to reach Moscow in 10-12 minutes, and that this is a serious threat to Russia; thus, no one should later blame Russia. It seems like the European continent will have a very busy year in 2019 due to Brexit, elections, trade wars, and Cold War-like U.S.-Russia tensions.

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