Summer holiday season on the Old Continent is slowly approaching and before the well-paid ‘Eurocrats’ empty the glass buildings in central Brussels, it is a good time to reflect on the major developments in the first half of 2015 and also contemplate about things we would like to change in the remaining six months and beyond. The first six month of this year were in many ways significant, challenging, and a ground-breaking for most of the world.
We have witnessed how neighbouring Ukraine was struggling with the separatist rebels in the eastern part of the country while still reeling from the aftermath of the annexation of Crimea by Russia. And we have also witnessed a number of airplane crashes, the still unfolding ISIS-led conflict in the Middle East and the (overall) plummeting oil prices. For the European Union, the first two quarters of 2015 were not less demanding. Here is a list of the most significant events (not necessarily in order of importance) that shaped not only the European Union itself but also the outside world.
- Crisis in Ukraine and the rise of the Kremlin: The big bear woke up
The crisis that actually emerged already as early as in November 2013 took all by surprise. Following the Euromaidan and the Ukraine-wide debate on whether to lean more eastwards or westwards ended up in the de-facto annexation of Crimea by Putin’s Russia. This naturally triggered an immediate response from the EU and the United States and the West-East crisis that ensued has had far-reaching implications in many areas.
Russia, which was punished for its military incursions into Ukraine’s territory by a series of sanctions imposed by the EU and U.S., suffered immensely and its currency started to show the first symptoms of a crisis towards the end of 2014. Moscow retaliated soon after – its ban on imports of fruits and vegetables has badly hit some EU countries as demonstrated particularly by Poland’s “apple crisis”.
The Ukrainian crisis moreover re-opened the old-new debate on the sustainability and trustworthiness of EU-Russia energy ties. The struggle to diversify energy portfolio began anew on both sides. While the EU launched talks aiming at setting up a EU-wide Energy Union, Russia abandoned its South Stream project and began to look for friends in Asia, with its energy deal with China being among the biggest in the world.
As a result of the conflict, the overall mood and perceptions about Putin’s Russia have taken