Ireland holds the Presidency of the Council of European Union in the first half of 2013. In January it published the working plan for the next year and a half. The 100-page document defines the priorities of development. The three key elements for the Irish Presidency are stability, growth and jobs. In its foreign policy, Ireland will support the admission of new EU members, strengthening of relations with neighbors and holding talks on free trade zone with the US.

Another major item on the agenda is the EU's budget for 2014-2020, known as the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). If the European Council agrees its position on the MFF, the Irish Presidency will have the responsibility of engaging with the European Parliament on agreeing the overall budget.

The bottom has been passed

Despite still difficult situation with the debt crisis, experts note overall recovery of economy. The eurozone is unlikely to split anytime soon, but the countries should push forward structural reforms to bring the region’s economy back on track, says EU Commissioner Olli Rehn. “But we shouldn’t be off guard. Achieving economic growth is our major concern, so we must implement structural reforms to ensure it,” he said.

Many experts, even euro-skeptics, agree the situation in the debt-troubled member countries is now under better control. “The risks facing the eurozone have been reduced since the summer,” Nouriel Roubini, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business wrote in an article for Project Syndicate in December. The European Central Bank’s “outright monetary transactions” program was very effective, bringing interest-rate yields for Spain and Italy down by 250 points, Roubini explained.

But most important, Germany’s attitude toward the eurozone has changed, Roubini wrote. “German officials now understand that, given extensive trade and financial links, a disorderly eurozone hurts not just the periphery but the core. They have stopped making public statements about a possible Greek exit, and just supported a third bailout package for the country."

Fitch Ratings agency has calculated that in 2013 the European countries will need1.428 trillion euro of various financing, which is by 7% less than the figures of 2011 and by 24% less than those of 2012. The given figures cover not only the eurozone, but Britain, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland as well. Spain is probably the only country, which will need more money than ever - about 200 billion euro of fresh funds. 

For the sake of common goal

Many analysts agree that the fight against the crisis has united the EU, especially in 2012. And the matter concerns not only financial and budget consolidation. Thus, European economist Sony Kapoor reminds that within the year, the anti-crisis summits of EU countries were held one after another. In December it seemed that the conflict reached its peak, but the latest meeting of the EU leaders proved that they were ready to unite to overcome the crisis. "Nobody argues that the EU must preserve all the members, even if it means that stronger members will have to financially support weaker economies. Even German chancellor Angela merkel said in Brussels that without such efforts the European Union would lose the competition to other world centers of power. The past year made Europeans understand that we are all in the same boat," the specialist said.

In turn, Ukrainian economist and political scientist Vitaly Kulik added it would be great if similar fight against economic difficulties united the nation as well. "We have a political stability now, but what we need more is the people to understand the point of the anti-crisis measures and economic reforms. Clear understanding of what we are doing will make Ukrainians close the ranks for the sake of common goal and better life. If it happens in Europe, it also can happen here."

Indeed, social legitimation of reforms is very important for success. Appropriate actions have already been taken, but Ukraine still has a long road ahead. President Viktor Yanukovych admitted that reforms were carried out not fast enough in 2012. "It is unacceptable to hesitate with the implementation of reforms. There is much work to do for development of small and medium business, improvement of business climate and administrative services."

At least we are proceeding, and the next "Ukraine-EU" summit, scheduled for the end of February, will hopefully assist to the progress. Moreover, observing the unification of Europe we may learn some new things about how to fight common problems, to overcome individual conflicts, to sacrifice factional interests for the sake of common nation-wide goal.   

Andriy Boyarunets


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