5 challenges facing Europe this year
Following are the top five challenges Europe is currently facing.
1. Immigration management
More than 1.8 million people entered the EU illegally between January and October 2015, with some 980,000 applying for asylum. These numbers include refugees from conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and economic migrants from the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa.
In 2016, EU governments will have less than six months to prepare themselves for the next summer spike in migration flows across the Mediterranean. Arriving at consensus among EU member states will be very difficult, especially as the migration issue has strengthened nationalist parties across the EU.
2. ISIS: The biggest threat
An additional factor likely to drive EU governments towards a more unified approach to border management will be the fear of another terrorist attack by ISIS members in a European city. Such an attack is not just possible, but probable.
3. THE financial crisis
The EU is moving too slowly in applying the lessons of the financial crisis. It has some elements of a banking union now, but these have not been tested yet. That test will come when the EU has to close down a bank in a member state, imposing losses on bondholders and even customers.
The main obstacle is that Germany has resisted the idea of a common euro-wide deposit insurance system that would spread the losses. The burden will fall solely on the country in which the bank is being closed down, which is not politically viable.
4. Russia’s intervention in Syria
The Russian operations against IS in Syria in 2016 may lead Western leaders to ease the economic sanctions that they imposed on Russia in the summer of 2014, at the height of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
This would ease the growing stand-off between Russia, the US and its NATO allies, which has been a major destabilizing factor in international affairs in the past 18 months.
5. Foreign policy
There will be plenty of other foreign policy challenges in 2016, such as responding to China's rise in East Asia, a possible worsening of the Israeli-Palestinian standoff, or destabilization in vulnerable countries from the gradual tightening of US interest rates or the persistence of low oil and other commodity prices.
Related: Top challenges facing Africa today
The West is adjusting, and 2016 may witness some stabilization of the plethora of simultaneous international crises that have so stressed governments across the world for the past two years.