1 – European elections: an opportunity, not a threat
Too many politicians and experts predict a bloodbath for European mainstream parties and a massive breakthrough for extremist populist groups in the 2014 European elections. Although most political trends do indeed indicate such an outcome is plausible, it is by no means a reason not to fight this battle. It is in the European Union’s DNA to be weary of democracy, and understandably so since democracy brought Hitler to power in 1933. The 2014 European elections need to be seen as an opportunity and not a threat: for the first time ever Europe is monopolising the public space, and people understand how crucial it has become. Yes, Europe needs to change and become more democratic. But in order to achieve this, all political movements who believe in Europe need to start believing in themselves and their power to convince European citizens about their projects and how disastrous populist policies would impact Europe. Psychology is fundamental in politics, so we should all avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy of a victory of stupidity over Reason, hatred over fraternity.
2 – The economy is improving!
There are still significant risks around the euro area and its rebalancing will take many more years, but for the first time since the euro crisis we are finally seeing an economic recovery! Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy have all been through significant hardship but have accomplished impressive structural reforms, and they are starting to see the results: their exports are skyrocketing and their economies are growing again. Troubles in their banking sectors have mostly been dealt with, and will receive a final check by the European Central Bank this year. Unemployment remains high – especially for young Europeans – but it has finally stabilised and should start coming down this year. Although there are still important reforms to be achieved, especially in Italy, a growing economy will make the process less painful. However, there is a big shadow over the European recovery: France. It is the only country that has not undergone the substantial reforms put forward in Southern countries, and the stagnation of the euro area’s second largest economy is an important drag on the recovery. Here we can only hope that the French government will finally decide to face reality and confront the multiple vested interests in the French economy.
3 – The power of commemoration: a Century since 1914
This year, we will commemorate the beginning of the First World War. Remembering a historical event of such dramatic proportions should make us think, and accept that no matter how painful today’s reality can be, there is always a worse situation: war. It should also make us reflect upon what caused such a dramatic event: unbridled rivalry and hatred between power-hungry nations who considered themselves as inherently different when in fact they had so much in common. This remembrance should be omnipresent in the electoral campaign this year. Indeed, “Europe is peace” cannot constitute a political programme for today’s peaceful generations, but it is certainly a precious part of our shared memory.
4 – The World Cup!
No one should underestimate the power of the greatest sports competition on earth: the FIFA World Cup. The few weeks that it lasts is one of these rare moments where humanity as a whole lives, hopes, celebrates and cries together. The fact that this World Cup takes place a century after 1914 is also a beautiful symbol: a hundred years ago the world was building bombs and rifles, and today stadiums and Vuvuzelas. The tools are different, but the objective remains the same: achieve national glory! This is doubtlessly what is most impressive and magical with football: it is the internationally agreed gold standard for country excellence in today’s world, even more so that a country’s national wealth. More people are impressed by Brazil’s soccer skills than by the United States’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP)! Let us hope that in 2014 this prolonged dose of happiness and international openness tames the dark forces of national hatred and close-mindedness.
The Editorial Board of The New Federalist wishes you a bright, healthy and successful 2014!