IMOTHER ISSUES TO WATCH

Photo: Michał Huniewicz/Creative Commons

 

 

  • The outcome of presidential elections in the United States will be vital in shaping political dynamics in Eastern Europe, in particular in the Western Balkans and the former Soviet Union, where American involvement is the basic condition for maintaining the regional status quo.

 

  • The prospects for Syria and the survival of Islamic State, which stands at just one remove from Eastern Europe and is a theatre for intense geopolitical rivalry, involving the US, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and several European countries. If Syria calms, Eastern Europe will also calm; the opposite also applies.

 

  • Turkey is reasserting itself as a regional power and increasingly forging an independent course from the EU. In the short term, the key variable is whether it continues to enforce the agreement with Brussels on intercepting migrant boats crossing the Aegean, given its view that the EU is failing to abide by its obligations to Turkey.

 

  • Monetary policy will continue to be erratic. As the US raises interest rates, China and Russia cut rates, and the euro zone pursues its policy of quantitative easing, the small economies of Eastern Europe will have to chart a precarious course that ensures growth, exchange rate stability and external debt sustainability.

 

  • Russia and Azerbaijan will continue to build new gas pipelines, sidelining Ukraine as a transport route into Eastern Europe. In parallel, individual states will build an array of regional interconnectors, which will downgrade dependence on Russia and re-shape the politics of energy in Eastern Europe over the next decade.

 

  • Finally, one long-term issue: the rapid outward migration of population from Eastern Europe. According to revised projections by the UN published last year, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine have the fastest-shrinking populations in the world, posing a serious risk to their long-term development and even viability as independent states.

 

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