The negotiations of the Partnership Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union started in 2007, was re-defined as the Association Agreement in September 2008, and was practically ready for signing by the end of 2009. Following the election of Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, the process slowed down, and since 2011 the issue has gradually become a hot contest between Russia and the West. Finally, in a dramatic eleventh hour move, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov suspended the preparation for signing of the Agreement on November 22nd, demanding outrageous financial aid from the European Union.
There are just six months to go until the European Parliament elections. Imagine the buzz that you would hear six months before a U.S. presidential election, and indeed consider a typical national election anywhere across Europe. You would know the parties and candidates; you would see daily gossip in the press on policies and personalities; and you would read regular polling updates. European elections are a little different.
With the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, the European Parliament was granted significant law-making powers, making it the EU’s co-legislator along with the Council of Ministers for almost all areas of EU competence. Whereas the European Commission remains the EU’s agenda setter and the Council has to give its consent on all pieces of binding legislation, the European Parliament now has the ability to amend, accept, reject, or at least advise on legislative initiatives ranging from energy policy and information technology to international trade agreements and the EU’s budget. The significance of the European Parliament has undoubtedly been increased in legislative terms, but whether the drafters of the Lisbon treaty have successfully reduced the ‘democratic deficit’ of the EU it is still unclear. Now with European elections approaching, a high voter turnout rate would be a good indicator to assess this.
Only eight weeks will separate the municipal elections (March 23rd and 30th) and the European elections (May 25th) next spring in France—two key milestones that could accelerate the path towards a redefined political landscape. As President Hollande’s popularity plummets in recent polls and the defiance towards traditional parties continues to grow, many pundits consider that the 2014 EU elections in France will once again be a “referendum” on the government’s popularity and a reflection of the current trend towards the radicalisation of French politics. The next European elections in France are likely to be once more plagued by abstention, and the shift from a bipartisan to a tri-partisan political landscape further accelerated.
“Today, one main question: How to restore Europe's online leadership. Lives have gone digital—so the single market must go truly digital too”. President Herman Van Rompuy’s summit opening in October is unlikely to rival other European Council defining catch-phrases (such as the Iron Lady’s “I want my money back”) but could have far more significant impact in Europe and beyond.
The October 27th Georgian presidential elections will mark the end of the Mikheil Saakashvili era in the country. Georgia’s territory is slightly smaller than Ireland, with a population of 4.5million; it was among the smallest republics of the former USSR. Nevertheless, it remains today at the center of the political competition between Russia and the West. In Russia the official propaganda did its job: according to the Russian Levada-Center (June 2013), 33 percent of Russians consider Georgia the most unfriendly country (Georgia was at the top of this list with 41 percent in June 2012). The Georgian government, and Georgian population are pro-Western now. According to the NDI polls, 70 to 80 percent of Georgians see Russia as a threat; 70 percent of Georgians want to have better relations with Russia, but not at the cost of reduced sovereignty, and their attitude towards NATO and EU is overwhelmingly positive.
While Georgia’s influence in the South Caucasus region is largely dwarfed by that of its energy-rich neighbor, Azerbaijan, positive relations between the two countries have ensured that Georgia has benefitted from significant inflows of foreign investment. Owing to recent political and military conflicts with Russia, however, levels of FDI in Georgia remain significantly below what they should be.
In a series of articles, Diplomatic Courier and APCO Worldwide are partnering to cover the 2014 European Union elections. Find more information about this series here.
The 2013 election of a new German parliament attracted considerable attention throughout the European Union. Some even considered it to be a landmark decision that changed German EU politics, especially with regard to financial crisis management. At the same time, the election’s outcome creates a level of uncertainty and leaves some open questions when it comes to the immediate future of German EU politics and the upcoming election of the European Parliament in 2014.
Despite a period of economic and existential crisis, the European Union, and its 500 million citizens, remains a global reference point for many in the diplomatic and business community. What happens in Brussels still matters, and the changes coming up in Brussels in 2014 will shape the future of the European Union for the next five years and beyond.
In April 2013, it became clear that Slovenia was nearing the cliff of fiscal collapse and was working to avoid becoming the fifth Eurozone nation to need a bailout. Initial analysis and statements from EU financial leaders suggest that Slovenia is not suffering from the same severity of troubles as Cyprus, the last troubled Eurozone nation to make headlines. However, the handling of the Cyprus crisis is still very fresh on everyone’s mind—seemingly manageable financial problems escalate when the national government responds too slowly or hesitantly, and EU authorities step in to impose unpopular and possibly counterproductive measures. There are questions over the future of the Euro, talk about Germany’s leadership through the crisis, calls for reform of the banking system, and protests against austerity measures and intervention by the “Troika.”
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