Who will be the world’s leaders in 2013?
How will Europe fare?
Will Italy get a new leader, what will be the futures of Syria, Egypt or the Arab regimes currently in place?
Will the elections in Iran change the state of play?
Hello, and welcome to 2013, with euronews’ Persian editor Maria Sarsalari, who is going to look through her crystal ball at the year to come.
If German budget predictions are any guide, Europe faces a rocky road ahead. Analysis of that comes from our European Affairs and Brussels bureau editor Fred Bouchard.
Giovanni Magi, our man in Paris, looks ahead to elections in his native Italy, where the campaign is already underway
The future of Greece is placed under the microscope by our Athens correspondent, Stamatis Giannisis.
And last but not least, the head of our Arabic service Riad Muasses gathers the strands unravelling in the Arab world.
Iran holds elections in June. The last vote led to long weeks of protest. Should we expect the same this time?
Maria Sarsalari believes we can: “In the previous presidential elections what we saw was that, in 2009 and after that, the reformist faction was mostly uprooted. It seems that the regime intends to hold the elections at the level of a controlled event with controlled candidates and the idea is that if it allows anything like the same excitement of the previous round, the situation may again get out of control. An example of this is the recent announcement that the live TV debates among the candidates will be pre-recorded and will be checked beforehand. Therefore, we cannot expect much change at the domestic level.
“On an international level, as is the case with the nuclear issue and the issue of relations with the international community, everything will depend on the political will at the top level of the system and it will depend on the leader’s decision, because in Iran it is not the government that decides on foreign policy issues; therefore, they cannot have a determining role. It is Ayatollah Khamenei who decides on the main issues and who has the last word,” concludes Maria Sarsalari.
Europe won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, but many voices were raised in protest. Does Fred Bouchard think in 2013 Europe will at last live up to the honour, or fail?
“The Nobel prize was a sort of divine surprise for the EU in such a crisis-ridden period, but you couldn’t see the wood from the trees for a while afterwards. The economic crisis is still there, the recession-unemployment cycle seems fixed. Here in Belgium there’s a record number of company bankruptcies, and because of a lack of any real trans-EU growth investment strategy 2013 looks tough.
“However there is room for hope; 2012 finished better for the 27 EU members. As one EU diplomat claimed ‘more than half the eurozone rescue work is done’. At its sixth summit of the year the EU moved towards a truly coordinated economy; that was huge progress in just six months compared to the 40 years it took to nail a European Patent agreement.
“Independent bank supervision in the eurozone has been agreed, and Greece has obtained its second vital slice of aid. No-one is talking about eurozone collapse any longer, unlike this time last year. It’s enough to make French President François Hollande believe the worst of the crisis is behind us, even if not everyone agrees, notably Germany’s Angela Merkel, who insists a rough ride remains ahead.”
So plenty of unknowns ahead, but what are 2013’s other main potential obstacles for Europe?
“There are plenty. First of all, political uncertainty over the Italian elections in a few weeks. A Silvio Berlusconi return would spell disaster on the financial markets with a knock-on effect for the eurozone. The right and left want Italy to continue to enact reforms, and so have united to back Mario Monti,” continues Bouchard.
“Another unknown is the EU’s 2014-2020 budget. Remember that the member states have have revealed their divisions, and a self-interest above all in talks so far. Some defend the Common Agricultural Policy, others regional aid; Great Britain threatens a veto at any increase yet the budget is less than one percent of the 27’s total wealth. It’s a drop in the ocean.
“They’ll be round the table again in February, when the British question will again be raised. Prime Minister David Cameron will again fight tooth and claw for the famous four billion euro annual rebate, but the country seems to be steadily severing its policies from those in Europe.
“Already outside the eurozone, Britain no longer takes part in the budgetary pact and by 2015 plans to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU links. Can a catastrophic divorce, British style, be on the horizon?”
Greece has just pulled off a last-minute deal to get further financial aid so we asked Stammatios Giannisis in Athens if he think this promises a better 2013?
His reply: “The Eurogroup’s December decision to release the 52.5 billion euros tranche to Greece frees the hands of the Greek government and to a great extent secures the stability of the government coalition.
“The year 2013 is expected to be yet another difficult year, as it will be very hard for Greece to get back on the track of economic recovery. The drop in average incomes, high unemployment and the increase in taxation will lower even further the standard of living and could be likely causes for social unrest.
“The discussion about the so–called ‘Grexit’ will continue for as long as people see less money in their pockets and no drop in the cost of living. However as the December decision acts as a sort of a European vote of confidence in the Greek government’s intention to carry out the reforms it has promised, the possibility of Greece leaving the eurozone becomes less likely, at least in the near future.”
The electoral campaign has already begun in Italy. What does euronews’ Giovanni Magi think we can expect?
“Silvio Berlusconi getting involved could radicalise everything. It’s already looking like a lively campaign full of anti-European and populist slogans above all from the Northern League, and Pepe Grillo’s Five Star movement.
“Mario Monti, if he runs, already has the backing of Europe’s Popular Party and it seems the still-highly influential Catholic Church, and he could unite the centre, including elements from Berlusconi’s own party.
“All the polls say the centre-left Democratic Party will win in February. What’s most likely after the election is that is that party boss Pier Luigi Bersani becomes prime minister and looks for an alliance with the centre, with perhaps Monti as economy and finance minister, or more probably as president, as there’s an election in May.”
What role does this election play in the Italian business climate?
“Eurozone economies today are all interconnected; we saw that at the end of the Monti government, the media went crazy, which had consequences for Italy and Spain and beyond. Italy’s challenge is the same as the eurozone’s; we must emerge from the vote with a parliament capable of guaranteeing a stable majority that inspires international confidence,” concludes Magi.
Riad Muasses was asked if he thought the Syrian regime, like everyone says, is on the point of collapse.
“The fall of the regime will change the game in the Near East. This is mostly because Hezbollah is supported by Syria, with arms, training abroad, and diplomacy. Hezbollah will lose a very important ally when Assad goes. It’s the same for Iran. For 40 years Tehran has stood by Damascus. The loss of such an important ally will also weaken the Iranian regime.”
Do the recent demonstrations in Egypt pose a threat to Mohammed Morsi?
“There is an enormous battle going on in Egypt between the Islamists and all the other political forces who don’t agree with them. Today the Islamists have been asked to take power to install a Democratic regime, not an Islamist one. The question is will they do that?”
So you think there will be an Arab autumn?
“In every country where there’s been talk of an ‘Arab Spring’ – in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, or of course Syria – there’s great popular disappointment. The Arab peoples had hopes of a democratic change, a chance to move forward towards a real democracy and progress. But we have seen in Tunisia and Egypt that Islamism is strong and gaining ground in the Arab world, from Morocco to Iraq.”
So we have a good idea now of what to expect. Just like 2012, 2013 looks likely to change the face of the world.