BRUSSELS – The year 2016 will go down in European history as a time of striving to maintain the political, systemic, and social unity of the European Union as a community of countries, people, and values. It was a time of uncertainty and highly visible failures. But it was also a year marked by real achievements.
Above all, the United Kingdom’s vote in June to exit the EU stands out as a bitter disappointment. And yet a new pan-European consensus on the protection of the EU’s external borders, together with the conclusion of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada, warrants cautious optimism.
Most of the problems the EU has been grappling with for some time now have not been fully resolved. The migration crisis, tensions with Russia over Ukraine, and other external and internal security threats continue to test our unity and efficiency – and will continue to do so in the year ahead.
What we know from 2016 is that great change lies ahead – disconcerting, still unidentified, but nonetheless clearly palpable change. Indeed, the type of change that has been happening, and will happen in the future, is baffling political forecasters. It has been a long time since reality made such a cruel mockery of pundits and pollsters’ predictions, even in the short-term context of upcoming elections or referenda. Politics has become as unpredictable as the weather in Brussels. And, as with weather forecasts, if any predictions are proved correct, they are the pessimistic ones.