It is time to ponder the major events that took place in Europe in 2015, some of which included multiple terrorist attacks and a refugee crisis that is growing out of proportion. The year started with a January terrorist act in France perpetuated against the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo,” and ended with a widespread attack on November 13th, placing France at the epicenter of the confrontation between the West and the rising threat of extremism, deriving from ISIS (Daesh).
In February, in Copenhagen, Danish resident of Jordanian-Palestinian origin opened fire during an “Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression” event, targeting to kill Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist known for his drawings of Prophet Muhammad. The second attack was perpetuated in the Great Synagogue, where one man was killed and two police officers were wounded. In the month of August, another act of terrorism took place in Thalys – on a train from Brussels to Paris. Altogether, the widespread acts of horror that took place across Europe clearly demonstrate a lack of information about potential terrorists and their plots, and indicate a weak and poorly managed coordination among the Member States of the Union – a systemic error in the security domain. “Paris represents a serious escalation in the threat and reinforces the need for police around Europe to cooperate and maximize information sharing,” the director of Europol, Rob Wainwright, said.
Another grave challenge faced by the European continent has been the refugee crisis. Over one million people embarked on a path to walk and swim thousand of miles from Africa and the Middle East in hopes to find asylum on Europe’s premises. One of the reasons that gave impetus to that massive migration was the spread of ISIS’s extremism. Recently Iraq’s Prime Minister made a statement vowing to rid his country of the ISIS group in the next year. Does his bold statement inspire hope? Yes. However, it is quite naïve to believe that his promise will be held. While some government officials score gains in the Middle East, on the European continent politicians and policy-makers puzzle over the refugees’ issue. Whereas some European states such as France perceive refugees as the unwelcome guests, who should be deported; others like Germany – accept them as refugees and asylum seekers, who should be provided with basic needs and who are not seen as an economic burden. Throughout 2015, the Western leaders have met at several summits on migrants issue with the participation of Balkans, African countries and Turkey. It has been noted that populists in Europe are gaining special benefits over this gruesome crisis by connecting the aspect of mass migration with terrorism. Insofar, deterrence of migrants is seen as a mechanism that some of the European countries accept, and some fiercely oppose the obligatory quotas for relocation.
In the background of the two above-mentioned problems, events such as the Greek crisis, England’s referendum, the idea of reunification of Romania and Moldova and others, are not seen as high-scale priorities, however, they should also be mentioned.
Additionally, it is important to note the EU-Kazakhstan relations: our bilateral relationships shifted gears and on December 21st, the European Union and the Republic of Kazakhstan signed Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement to elevate cooperation within the 29 domain, including economic, environment and energy policies, that replaced the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement since 1999. As a result, Kazakhstan became the first country of Central Asia to sign the so-called “new generation” agreement with the EU. See a detailed infograph here: eu-kazakhstan_agreement_infographic
As a prognosis, 2016 can be considered as a leap year. Some people expect it to be “normal,” others – are paranoid of it as they believe that all the troubles, disasters and misfortunes will intensify during the upcoming year. Looking at 2015, there are no guarantees that the terrorist attacks will not resume in 2016. Whether 2016 will bring an end to the ongoin conflicts, resolve long-standing issues and reconcile enemy parties or not, every small and significant effort should be made for it to occur. The refugee crisis seems to remain a vexing problem for the European Union and this far-stretched issue might either “destroy” the Union or “rebuild” it. Federica Mogherini, EU’s top diplomat, shared that this crisis puts “a risk of disintegration.” Sans doute, Europe must simply find ways to fix and solve the migrants’ and terrorism challenges in 2016.
Written by Madina Bizhanova