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2016 has begun and it is expected to be a very intense year of complex foreign policy challenges, especially for Europe.
The European Union will face 2016 in the spirit of negotiations to avoid the Brexit.
After a campaign based on the pledge to hold an in-out referendum by 2017 to stay in a reformed Union, the Prime Minister, Cameron, will seek to renegotiate Britain’s membership within the EU. It is believed the in-out vote will be held in July or at least in September. The British push for a reformed Union is the most relevant event for the EU. Differently from 2005 referendum, when French voters were called to decide the fate of the new EU Constitution, British citizens will vote on whether they feel safer, economically and personally, inside the EU or outside. While on the one hand, a Brexit will seriously affect the EU, both on national and international levels, especially if we consider the danger of contagion within the Member States and the risk to weaken Europe’s voice on the world stage; on the other hand, the renegotiation could be an incentive to rethink the entire Union and to strengthen its ability to face current challenges.
The pressures driving migration to the EU will not disappear in 2016.
More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggle to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people. Arriving at consensus among EU Member States will be very difficult, especially as the migration issue has strengthened nationalist parties across the EU. Nevertheless, even suspending Schengen, the scale of the challenge will likely drive governments to strengthen external EU border controls and to adopt a more unified approach to better distribute arrivals across the EU. This approach could be facilitated by the threat of terrorism of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Forecasts in 2016 will be mainly influenced by unavoidable and unsolved issues such as the threat of terrorism to security, the fight against the IS, which will gain ground if the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran will prevent a deal over Syria; the ‘ normalization ‘ of Libya ; the ‘Intifada of Knives ‘ between Israel and Territories. Without forgetting, closer to us , the unsolved crisis in Ukraine and the need to restore EU – Russia relations. Indeed, the implementation of the trade agreement between Kiev and the EU in January, combined with the NATO’s invitation to Montenegro to join the Alliance is likely to create another bone of contention with Moscow, alienating the “détente” that both parties seem to wish after the extension of the sanctions.
In this scenario, 2016 could be a witness of a relevant political stabilization in different international crisis that spread vehemently in the last year.