2022 was a year of high voltage for the European Union. But 2023 is expected to be even more turbulent. The technical recession knocks on the doors of the community blockthe energy shortage threatens to become a stinging reality and the Europeans close the current legislative cycle under the shadow of the catargatethe populist rise and war fatigue.
During the start of the year that we have just left behind, the drums of war were already resounding with force. On February 24 the feared Russian invasion of Ukraine. And the rest is history: the entire world lived through the collateral consequences of the conflict while the bombs did not stop falling on the country led by Volodimir Zelenski.
With more than 10%, inflation has exceeded double digits in the Eurozone for the first time. The European economy contracted in 2022, but did not reach recession, a scenario that is expected for the first quarter of 2023. To contain the astronomical prices of electricity, fuel or food, the EU has taken some unprecedented steps such as imposing a cap on the price of gas, approving sanctions on Russian oil or implementing exemptions on the export of fertilizers. But the economic situation, as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) itself anticipates, will be worse during the 12 months ahead than in those we leave behind.
The European economy contracted in 2022, but did not reach recession, a scenario that is expected for the first quarter of 2023
The war in Ukraine will remain the EU’s number one priority by 2023. Zelensky is expected to take part in the February European summit in Brussels. It would be the second time that the president has left Ukraine since the start of the war, after his visit to Washington where he secured the delivery of Patriot missiles. If 2022 was the year of war, the ambition is for 2023 to be the year of peace. kyiv has floated the idea of holding a peace summit at the UN in the next month, but the Base scenario with which Brussels starts is that the war will continuewill be long and will last until at least the second half of the year, when Spain will assume the Presidency of the Council of the EU.
The other front that opens in the framework of the war in the territory under the banner of the twelve stars is the weariness of the war. Not only among some Western governments, but among a society civil who sees how everything becomes more expensive while wages stagnate. Something that has been staged intensely in the main European capitals.
As the main reaction to Vladimir Putin’s invasion, the EU has imposed nine sanctions package aimed at punishing Russia’s strategic sectors. But the latest data compiled by the Politico portal show that despite the punitive measures, trade between European countries and Moscow not only did not decrease, but increased last year.
“What we need is an immediate ceasefire, peace talks now and peace,” said Zolan Kovacs, spokesman for the Hungarian government, on Monday. The Executive of Víktor Orbán has threatened to block the latest restrictive lists, but has ended up giving in. However, this combo of social and political weariness, Magyar opposition and less efficient results from sanctions will make it very difficult for the Union to keep up the pace and punitive pressure on Russia in the coming months.
flashes of energy shortage
However, the great challenge will be the energy crisis. Brussels has saved the furniture this winter. Gas reserves are almost 100% full and there is no real risk of shortage at present. But the most difficult is yet to come. The European Commission estimates that by next spring there will be a deficit of 30,000 million cubic meters of gas in the EU. The Europeans have released the yoke of energy dependence with Russia reducing their purchases by 80%, but finding alternative markets that are sufficient to replace demand is proving difficult. And the commitment to renewable energy is insufficient and in the long term.
To all this are added the pending fringes that kick strongly. The authoritarian drift from Poland and Hungary; Turkey’s veto on the entry of Finland and Sweden to NATO; the electoral hurricane that will have a mandatory stop in Spain, Finland, Cyprus and more than likely in other capitals with political instability such as Bulgaria.
The general uncertainty arrives on European soil at a time of crisis of credibility in the community institutions with the catargate in full boil. The biggest corruption scandal in the European Parliament threatens to shake the EU’s relations with the countries involved, which are currently Qatar, Morocco and Mauritania. Orbán’s Hungary and the populist forces are already taking advantage of this scandal to make a profit and thus heating up the machinery for the European elections in May where the extreme right-wing forces, if united, could become the second most important family in the European Parliament.