Review of 2018 and Outlook for 2019

Another year is coming to an end. It was a colorful and worrying one, with few problems solved and few conflicts resolved. Technological innovation continued apace, generating ambivalent reactions in many societies. The powerful effects of the flow of capital, content and human migration did not shrink much, if at all. Bots and ‘alternative realities’ are threatening meaningful communication. Mostly due to short-terminism, humans responses to Climate change, arguable the biggest threat on the globe, are meager. One of the cornerstones of European (and, actually, global) security, the INF Treaty, is now in danger of being terminated, while weapons continue to be delivered to crisis areas, like Yemen.

Conflicts simmer and sometimes burn — in Myanmar, the Near East, Eastern Ukraine, Columbia, South Sudan, Xinjiang, Libya, and other regions. The tragedies in refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan may exceed the suffering at the U.S./Mexican border and in Europe, but in general, it seems there is a great deal of misery and dysfunction across many of these borders. In the ongoing and increasing rivalry between China and the United States, no one yet knows if we will end up in the ‘Thucydides Trap’, with a bang.

The best example ever of cooperation among states — the EU — finds itself in dire straits: the UK is leaving, in a process so messy that even the existence of Britain is under threat (Ireland). In France, where there is urgent need of economic and social renovation, the yellow vests raise the red card in reaction to government reform measures. In Italy, the organized and contradictory populists took over a troubled country and turned it into a more troubled one. Germany, the (mostly) silent hegemon, has been consumed by ridiculous dramas of building and maintaining governments and has shown itself to be unable to play an adequate role in Europe’s politics.

Against this background, what is your forecast for 2019?

What do you perceive as the three most worrying issues? Where do you see reason for guarded optimism? (Provide three cases, for the latter as well, if possible.)

Thanks for being with us this year.

Happy holidays, season’s greetings, and all he best for 2019.

-Klaus Segbers

  1. Dmytro Sherengovsky 5 months ago

    My most worrying issues in 2019:
    1. The rise of Eurosceptics in the European Parliament, even despite the departure of the most skeptical British delegation after Brexit. Forecasts are giving them near 30% in February elections, while now their number is near 20%. The increased number of skeptics can not only limit integration speed inside EU, or provoke more opposition between Western and Eastern Europe, but also increase the vulnerability of EU, especially in the areas of illegal migration or energy security, where joint efforts are a necessary prerequisite.
    2. Fake news will be shared better unless platform like FB will not change their policies from advertising-oriented to user-oriented. Investigations in 2018 are showing that we know only the top of the iceberg about how fake news is becoming more personalized, easily shared and hardly recognized without basic media literacy skills. Now with the number of conflicts with the 'hybrid' theater of war, information security is becoming to be as necessary as the security of critical infrastructure and the prevention of fake news attacks as necessary as prevention of armed clashes.
    3. Interactions within US-China-Russia triangle, that can escalate more direct or asymmetric conflicts with third parties and intensification of the ongoing trade war, that can cause to a no-win situation. Cyberspace is the area where we could expect most clashes, both in economic and military aspects. We should also pay more attention to the energy supply in Europe (Northstream 2) and the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia) in 2019 when US will try to place one of the top position in LNG exporters.

    My most `light optimism' issues in 2019:
    1. The technological development is putting certain risks on the dinner table but offers opportunities. Last year's o personal data protection regulations in EU will provide in 2019 more security for people and obligations for companies, working with data to prevent illegitimate usage of data, fake news sharing, and cyberthreats. We can expect more attention to such issues globally (India, Indonesia, Argentina, Ukraine), especially in Western countries as a result of upcoming elections in Canada, Australia, EuroParliament, US (2020) etc.
    2. Despite 2019 is foreseen to be a year of economic threats and trade clashes, we can assume that this will also be a year of big deals and regulation that can set up a platform for further normalization. Major startups and economic booms are more and more effective in their competence with their large counterparts while being more productive and local-oriented.
    3. The global economy will increase its movement to 'being green. Countries are cutting their coal power capacities while increasing production of cheaper renewables. Since carbon emissions from U.S. power generation fell a 4.6% this year and UK adopted a new 'renewable' strategy-2030, we can expect many more countries to follow.

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  2. Justas Paleckis 5 months ago

    To provide three pessimistic forecasts for 2019 is much easier than three optimistic ones. Looking from the eastern edge of the EU, it seems dangerous the possible escalation of Russian-Ukrainian conflict, especially at the beginning of the year. In the European Parliament elections, unfortunately, the Eurosceptic parties will perform successfully like they have never been before. Existing economic and potential military conflicts between US and China would shake the world's stability. Among positive expectations there is a slight increased chance of a second referendum in the UK, which could stop Brexit. In Syria, military action is gradually growing weaker and fragile stability can be established at least in part of the country. We would like to hope for a greater UN contribution in mobilizing the forces of the major nations to combat a dozen threats that can devastate or even destroy our planet or part of it. And one more thing. President Trump can surprise the world. To surprise negatively - 80 percent chances and positively – 20 percent.

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  3. Stephanie von Kanel 5 months ago

    If states refrain from legitimate commitment to climate issues and continue to focus more on internal politics, a pessimistic projection for 2019 and coming years seems fitting. Important issues for consideration are indeed climate change, but also the rise of populism and anti-refugee/migration sentiments; issues which are increasingly interrelated. As the ecological ramifications of climate change cause temperatures to rise, more severe weather events will undoubtedly result in people migrating for safer living conditions (already happening in Sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh, Pacific Island states). This inevitability, combined with global trends of harsher refugee resettlement policy and rhetoric, will cause significant tension along border regions and within socio-political relations. It is necessary to continue campaigning for unanimous global action against anthropogenic climate change and the humanization of borders.

    Another issue for reflection is the significant change in the way we access, review and disseminate information. The current age of information overload and mass media exhausts certain issues while ignoring/undermining others. Prime examples being Trump-related stories dominating global discussion while ever-present crisis and conflicts in the global south (specifically Yemen) occupy the peripheries of global thought. As the immediate gratification received from constant access to information renders our attention spans less receptive, less genuine interest and action result.

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  4. Lwin Cho Latt 5 months ago

    Looking back to the year 2018, it remarkably ended up with profound uncertainties and challenges on local, regional, and global matters that negatively affected the stability and maintenance of the global system. Here are three key pressing issues in global politics I will be forecasting for 2019. 1) Intensified Power Rivalry: The withdrawal of the U.S. from certain international agenda has practically driven the rising players to fill this power vacuums as a sign of opportunity. The power competition, arms race, and increase in cyberspace between the U.S. and China in the Asia-Pacific region could be assumed that the ‘fear’ and ‘rise’ concept of Thucydides will become true in this region. However, both Washington and Beijing policymakers will avoid a nuclear accident because they pretty well understand of the MADness (mutual assured destruction-MAD). So, the maintaining ‘status quo’ in their power competition would be the best off ever. 2) Eurozone Crisis: It will be a big challenge to the Eurozone countries in 2019, especially to Italy. It will definitely affect Rome as long as its fiscal policies and political unrest still go on. How the EU introduces a rescue programme to save from the Italian government’s debts trap would be an appropriate solution. 3) Terrorism: Although the Islamic State (IS) organization is wiped out in Syria and Iraq, the terrorist attacks will be a global threat in 2019 because of its strong installation as a project. What we need to eradicate its cells is to step up international collaboration on fighting against terrorism in closely cooperation with local police and intelligence services globally. In Myanmar, 2019 will be a busy year of the NLD government in order to get a political credit for the 2020 election. Thus, I have no doubt that the government will energetically carry out domestic peacemaking efforts to preserve its authority and to claim a right to rule for the next term.

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