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Europe ends 2017 stronger in face of Brexit, Trump and the far-right

Posted by Nick Prag at 21 December 2017, 12:20 CET |
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2017 has been a year of unprecedented challenges for Europe, both global and domestic.

Standing out among these has been the ongoing threat of terrorism in European cities and abroad, continued migratory pressures, and working out the implications of Britain's decision to leave the EU in 2019.

These could have floored a community of 28 member states, but instead the EU has responded strongly, with a unity that has surprised many.

Steadfast in its agenda of securing Europe's borders, increasing prosperity and promoting citizen's rights and benefits, its major achievement has been to make Europe a more confident and active global actor, at a time when leadership and partnership has been sorely needed.

25 EU countries agreed in December to step up defence cooperation and to strengthen the EU's role as a global security provider.

Economic growth and confidence returned to all 28 member states in 2017, and over 11 million more Europeans are in work than in 2013.

2017 saw a strong reaffirmation by the EU of the principles of free and fair trade in the face of pressures for a return to protectionism.

Uncertainty in the face of the UK's decision to leave the EU has given way to a unity in approach which will ensure that if Britain does leave, it will become a third country after its exit.

The response of EU leaders to the decision by the United States to leave the Paris Agreement on climate change has been no less unified: "The Agreement remains a cornerstone for global efforts to effectively tackle climate change, and cannot be renegotiated," it said.

A commitment to cooperation and strengthening global partnerships has led the EU to scale up its public finance commitment to climate change for the coming years.

Above all, the EU has fiercely defended the rules-based global order as the best approach to respond to global crises, challenges and threats.

Strong and united in support for Ukraine's territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty, it has extended sanctions against Russia over its aggression in Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea.

So, despite the challenges of the far-right in Europe, Donald Trump's rejection of the Paris climate agreement, Russian aggression and Brexit, Europe has remained united, and shown a clear focus on on the future development of Europe, united in agreement on the importance of acting together.

"Our guiding principles are clear," said EU Council president Donald Tusk: "First and foremost, I will do everything in my power to keep the unity of the EU. Secondly, I will concentrate on finding real solutions to the real problems of our citizens, who are concerned about security, migration and unemployment. We will all make sure that Europe is making progress."

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.