What a year it's been! Do you still remember the early days of 2014?
Those quiet days before the latest European Elections, before the first elected President of the European Commission, before the Winter Olympic Games in Russia had even begun and before Ukraine’s sovereignty was attacked by Russian forces, even before the new dimension of radical Islam embodied by ISIS.
The financial crisis in the Eurozone had seemingly calmed down and in Italy the newly elected Prime Minister started to publicly dream of a "United States of Europe", followed by an overwhelming victory at the European Elections. Who would have guessed this?
In January we still hoped that the Olympic games in Sochi would be able to warm up relations to Russia just a little bit more despite all issues with human rights. Instead 2014 has brought the opposite. Once again Central and Eastern Europe are existentially scared by Russian threats. What had started as a public movement for democracy, human rights and European values in Ukraine, resulted in a barely suppressed civil war, fought by Russia in disguise against the elected Ukrainian government.
Suddenly European military security joins economic security on the table of issues to solve as soon as possible.
And it may be accompanied by political or even democratic security. At the European Elections the Front National, an outspokenly Anti-EU and Anti-Immigrant Party, achieved the top result in France after winning mayoralties in 12 cities. By September they had taken the lead in national polls and it is publicly known now that Putin’s government will provide financial aide for the next French election. Are we going to see an ally of Putin right in the middle of Europe, in leadership of a “too big to fail” and crippled economy?
All the while the Middle East has seen a new level of uninhibited radicalism with the rise of ISIS. Well-financed and social media savvy, ISIS made the world watch in shock when Western journalists were beheaded in videos that went viral online.
A new wave of refugees is fleeing to Europe while another year of mediterranean tragedies has passed without effective solutions.
Challenges over challenges, insecurities over insecurities. Who is going to lead the way out?
When will the Baltic EU member states be protected by European allies and not foremost by US forces? Can we respond with a strong united voice and action, when our values, human rights, freedom of expression and free elections are attacked across the globe and particularly at our doorstep in Europe?
Will we continue to look across the Atlantic for help and accept the one-sided dependence which puts us in a weak position, or will Europe gain confidence and take its future into its own hands?
Will Europe learn to lead in 2015?