New year predictions

David Weman over at A Fistful of Euros keeps sort of a Fistful tradition alive: making predictions for the new year – a somewhat hazardous endeavour if you ask me. Still, reading past predictions (2005, 2004) is fun and I am looking forward to being confronted with my own in a year’s time. I repeat and add to them below.

Not very original perhaps considering recent developments, but: Russia continues its rise to become a major player in world (especially Eurasian) politics due to its position on the energy market. This will trigger countries in Eastern Europe (both EU members and EU fringe like Ukraine), which suffer most from Russian power play, to call for a unified EU response (i.e. a common foreign policy). With some initial result, but the EU members+fringe coalition falls apart as soon as the EU members, one way or the other, have received assurances on their energy supply. From then on, it is “divide et impere” as usual. Putin’s war on Chechnya, sorry, terror, and his support for dictators in surrounding former Soviet republics will remain largely uncriticised by the West, for reasons that should now be obvious (hey, look what we’ve put up with from Saudi-Arabia!).

In the light of developments in Russia and the Middle East, with new alarming reports on climate change, and with industrial countries increasingly becoming aware that they are even going to miss their Kyoto targets, nuclear energy becomes politically acceptable again (this was brought up by commenters at AFOE, and I think they are right). The elections in Israel in March bring to power a small Labour-SharonKadima coalition majority, which bombs nuclear plants in Iran in the summer. The US denies being involved but has to agree to a schedule on leaving Iraq, which the US government triumphantly presents as its own plan. Bush’s popularity starts rising again.

Ukraine unilaterally decides to initiate a major administrative and legal reform process to adapt its legislation to EU law in much the same way as EFTA countries have done, but without being offered any prospective on future EU membership.

The Austrian presidency commissions a report on future forms of association to the EU that do not amount to membership. Government leaders deny that “as things stand now” this has any connection with Turkey. They do mention Ukraine as a possible future associate or privileged neighbour. The Austrian presidency steps up membership talks with Croatia, a fellow catholic country, but works less hard for Macedonia (50% orthodox, 30% muslim). Still, EU countries do reach a deal on starting membership negotiations with Macedonia.

The European Commission presents plans for an overhaul of the Own Resources system with its iterative range of rebates and exceptions on exceptions on exceptions on exceptions. EU governments continue to prefer short term local optimisation to larger long term optimisation: the existing system offers more possibilities for electoral gain, so it stays also after 2008/9.

After long and arduous discussions within the coalition, the German government presents half-hearted economic reform plans “Harz V”. Parliamentary approval is held up Bundestag (senate) until well into 2007, by which time the coalition has fallen apart and new elections have been called.

Beginning with the Finnish presidency in the second half of 2006, an increasing number of Council debates are broadcasted on the internet. Governments present this as part of their plan to reconnect the EU to their citizens. In between official Council meetings, informal ministerial gatherings become a popular means to smooth out political differences.

Late 2007 will see a resumption of talks on the EU Constitution, although this time governments will universally call it a “treaty between sovereign states” instead of a constitution. They also say the changes to existing treaties will be minimal, will remain limited to decision-making rules, and have become necessary because of the past and upcoming enlargements. Member States will increase QMV voting in the Council, but introduce a complicated review procedure to be invoked by member states considering their “vital national interests” are under threat. The Commission will be stripped further of its monopoly on initiating legislation.

Oh, and ehm… happy new year!

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