2014 was the year for the European Union elections that saw the continuous trend of the increasing popularity of the right and the far rights movements in Europe. Besides the impact of this on the Europe’s internal stability, it will definitely have an impact on EU relations with its neighbours. The elections have resulted in changing the EU leadership with the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as the President of the European Commission, Donald Tusk as the President of the European Council and Federica Mogherini as High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. There are still questions looming on the impact of these outcomes of the EU elections on the EU Foreign Policy.
Is the rise of the far right movements and the rise of anti-Europe sentiments in Europe a direct consequence of the failure of the EU Representations in member states in engaging with societies?
On the Eastern borders of the EU, the Russian- Ukraine Crisis is still escalating. In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea after a referendum that was not recognised by the EU and the United States due to the military presence of Russia. Escalation has led to the rise of military separatists movement in Eastern Ukraine. In July, a Malaysian Airlines plane, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur,
was shot down in Eastern Ukraine, taking the lives of 283 passengers.
Throughout the year, there has been a continuous exchange of sanctions between the EU and Russia. From the EU perspective, the sanctions on import of EU food to Russia which amounted to around £9billion had considerable impact on the economies of some of its members. Energy security of the Eastern members of the European Union remains a crucial factor in the EU calculations regarding any development in its relations with Russia. Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic are examples of EU countries that buy currently between 70% and 100% of their gas from Russia.
In the southern borders, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) present the greatest security threat for Europe. ISIL can be described as the most brutal terrorist group in control of an area in Iraq and Syria that is almost the size of Great Britain.
The on-going intervention by the coalition still lacks any declared comprehensive strategy for defeating ISIL as a phenomenon, rather than just minimising its impact temporarily. The participation of some European Citizens joining ISIL opens the terrorist threats to European countries. The spread of Islamic extremism in Europe and the far right fascist ideologies presents the risk of making the European cities as the battle field for different extremist movements.
Despite the fact that Ebola has infected just a handful of individuals in Europe and all of them worked in hospitals treating infected patients, the virus has stirred a wave of alarms. It has been labelled as the biggest health threat to face the world in a generation. The fact that most infected were in Africa, Europe’s response or involvement in tackling the virus was minimal except from the British and the French efforts in Liberia and Guinea. Now that the virus threat proved to be a serious one and that can spread to Europe, “other countries now need to step forward with resources and action because taking action at source in West Africa is the best way to protect all of us here in Europe” as stated by the UK Prime Minster, David Cameron.
2014 was an eventful year for Europe and introduced a set of challenges for the EU’s new leadership.