The Year Europe Went into Retirement

Commentary | December 19, 2013

With the New Year approaching, several EWI staff and fellows offered their lists of what they believed were the most significant events of 2013.

Dragan Stojanovski, Public Policy and Communications Officer

Angela Merkel postpones her retirement

Falling just five votes shy of an absolute majority, Merkel’s reelection was a colossal political triumph for Europe’s reluctant leader. But her political choices remain far from colossal. This is the woman who so accurately proclaimed that the continent’s multicultural society is a failure and that 7 percent of the world’s population can’t continue to produce 25 percent of global wealth and spend 50 percent of global social welfare. But this is also the woman who is less likely to do anything about any of this in her next term. In her defense, the fact that she is once again tied to a grand coalition with the Social Democrats won’t help either.

David Cameron wants to retire from the EU

In a move aimed maybe more at election victory than history-making, Cameron announced a plan to hold an in/out referendum on UK’s EU membership in 2017. Echoing Merkel’s grim warnings, he pointed out that “more of the same will just produce more of the same—less competitiveness, less growth, fewer jobs.” Few can disagree with that. But the question remains: Will Britain without the EU, and the EU without Britain, do better in what Cameron calls “the new global race of nations”?

Pope Benedict XVI retires

In a bold and unprecedented move, Pope Benedict decided to step down in order to give the Catholic Church new relevance. Looking at the state of things less than a year later, this proved to be a smart move. In just a few months Benedict’s successor performed a brilliant makeover of the public perception of the Church, reaching out to gays, women and even atheists. But the election of the first non-European pope was a clear sign that after losing military, political and economic relevance, Europe has “officially” become irrelevant religiously, philosophically, even culturally. It seems that, just as Pope Benedict retired, so did European importance.

Turkey retires from the Eurovision Song Contest 

You may laugh, but nothing illustrates Turkey’s current attitude towards Europe as much as its withdrawal from the Eurovision contest and the  subsequent decision to organize Turkeyvision, its own “Eurasian singing contest that will bring together contestants from 20 countries and autonomous regions that are home to substantial Turkic minorities…a cultural event that celebrates Turkic culture within the Turkic world.” Think Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan or Tataristan. 

And Turkey is not the only one turning its back on Europe. For different reasons, in November, Ukraine decided not to sign the association treaty with the EU, and back in May, the new Icelandic government put the country’s EU accession on permanent “freeze.”

Queen Beatrix and King Albert retire

As if the European pension system was not overburdened enough, the Dutch and Belgian monarchs decided to step down this year in favor of the “new generation.” The new Belgian king is 53 and his Dutch colleague is 46, proving that these royal transitions are perfect illustrations of Europe’s political, economic and social fatigue and lack of leadership and vision for the future. But, hey, on the bright side, when it comes to the pomp and glamour of royal accessions, marriages and births, nobody still does it better than Europe!


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