From the chancellor to Europe’s leaders, from the threat of war to a little mental breakdown, it’s been a tumultuous year for Europe.
We can come to some resolution about the future of our continent, though, if we put aside politics. What’s on our minds is more likely to play a role in our well-being over the next four years. Those who have gained in wealth and status in the past year will stand to lose the most.
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1. The German elections
The recent elections in Germany have been described as a “surprise” by many analysts. This was certainly the case. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was re-elected to her fourth term, despite the fact that her party suffered several high-profile defeats. Perhaps more notably, Germany’s new parliamentary party couldn’t agree on how to deal with Chancellor Merkel.
But the real party chiefs seemed to be the folks behind the scenes. This was largely because of Merkel. As she campaigned, she managed to keep all parties — including her long-time coalition partners — more than happy.
2. Mario Draghi
Mario Draghi will always be associated with the euro. He famously became the voice of reason when the debt crisis hit Spain. But he also ran the risk of sounding egotistical when he suggested it was nonsense that any central bank could tackle the crisis on its own.
Europe’s most famous bank chief wasn’t, ultimately, alone in expressing this view. But his policies are inarguably responsible for helping the euro survive. This means that the stock markets have moved at the moment in line with Draghi’s low-interest and controversial monetary policies. This makes little sense in terms of encouraging more positive economic growth.
After the clear win of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party in last year’s general election, the worst looked like it might be behind the country. But the Brexit negotiations soon collapsed and ended with the UK pulling out of the European Union.
Not much has changed since then, apart from the divergence of opinion over what the country wants to do. And two days before Christmas, just one working day ahead of a critical summit, there is still no clarity.
4. China’s economy
China’s economy was the largest in the world until recently, and the third largest overall. This was a trend that had been going on for some time, too. But there were signs that it was not sustainable.
For example, the country’s internal market has been loosening. Meanwhile, export-oriented companies, once hugely profitable, are having more difficulties competing with their overseas rivals.
It is hard to know what will happen. But for now, the stock markets appear to be braced for more than what will actually happen.
5. And then there’s the US president
Last year, America’s dominant political player was not a politician. Rather, it was former United States president Barack Obama. Not much has changed since.
Of course, there has been plenty of change. From the Russian shock and awe of 2016, to Donald Trump’s rise to power. Many people thought the Democrat would be the kind of “referendum” on Obama’s presidency that we’d seen in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was elected to finally bury both his Republican predecessor and the party that they came from.
But the result didn’t go like that. Why? In part, because almost everybody knew Obama was not going to get a new term. In part, because Trump went even further to suggest otherwise, repeatedly saying he could not stand the economy under Obama and would bring back good old times. In part, because Clinton’s victory seemed to indicate that we would still have Obama for four more years.
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What else will we be talking about in 2019?
Well, there will be a big debate about whether the global economy can ever recover from its current downturn. And the world will closely watch how China’s government deals with its slowing economy.
There is also a strong likelihood that President Trump will take more time to decide whether he will return to Washington or not. He is said to be trying to make a decision before the end of the year. And he may even be more flexible on tariffs.