2016 is the year of the Monkey in the Chinese horoscope. Following the footsteps of an explosive 2015, new major challenges for the European Union are coming. 2016 will be the year of answers, weather diplomatic or military, of challenges and solutions, but most of all, the year of reshaping political and social identities on the European agenda. It is becoming more clear that any lack in the European policies can hurt the stability of the European Union more than ever and that it can damage its values in a very hurtful manner.
This is the year when political leaders of the European Union, as well as regional leaders must use all their political skills, diplomacy and humanity to tackle some very sensitive issues, such as immigration and terrorism. With xenophobic feelings on the rise and an increase of far- right parties, feelings of European nationalists tend to get more aggressive and exclusive. Immigration and terrorism, happening simultaneously or consecutively have shaped public opinion and polarized it in two camps that require our undivided attention. Those that support immigrants state that moments like this are exactly when European values should appear and take the lead, whereas those that are against immigrants state that it is European leaders and citizens duty to stop anyone who could challenge and rip European Union off of these values. In the middle of this debate are lying many lives, many children and most of all European citizens. It is inaccurate to state that what happened in Paris in November did not affect us: a friend of mine told me she refused a conference there for the fear of terrorist attacks. It would also be inaccurate to state that the explosion that took place in Istanbul in a crowded place full of tourists will not affect tourists, students, local residents... By trying to pretend nothing happened we only dig deeper the hole of ignorance that extremists want us to lay in. By not taking a stand against extremism we let it progress.
Now the whole world is the European Union and the European Union is the whole world. Whatever happens in Syria, affects European Union and since now, Middle East will be a top priority on the European agenda since it can no longer be ignored. If European Union wants to keep its unity, it will have to answer these new challenges, let the world ask questions and challenge its own political structure. European leaders will have to focus on cooperation at a deeper level and will have to make a political compromise, sacrificing their egos in the name of transparent government. At this moment transparency is the key word and without transparency migrants will be left outside and radicalised. Europe must stand against radicalization and must reshape whatever it held sacred until now, namely integration. Integration of European values and culture will have to co-exist with other cultures, in such a way that will not degenerate in assimilation, perceived as strange and forced by imigrants. The European Union must answer the most pressing question in 2016, namely “What do I want?”, compared to “What I need?”. The answer will be a perfect coordination between national and European agendas, as well as integration in a globalized mindset. Right now, the isolation is the enemy that European Union should not gently invite in to stay, as comfortable as it may look. Solutions do exist; however they are long term and require patience and determination from European leaders as well as European citizens. Now more than ever, people should be aware of the importance of humanity and should stay loyal to the European principles that led to the creation and existence of the European Union. It is not the time to be revengeful, politically intrusive, it is the time to make a point: it is the time to try to contain an extremist tendency that marks many European political parties, the time to find cooperation with both Russia and the United States and most of all, it is the time to represent the European citizens and their interests. If at any moment leaders of the European Union lose sight of this, the fragile balance will be broken. The European Union of 2016 will not be the European Union of 2015. The world will get more and more chaotic and the Europeans will have to stand still, stand as humanly as possible and make an effort to cooperate and understand others more than ever. Whatever European Union said it should be, now is the time to try it. After all, the fire in Monkey year could be a good one, with positive changes, if the European Union accepts to reinvent itself.