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Year-ender: Multiple crises crippled Europe in 2015

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

01-07-2016 16:07 BJT

By Mei Zhaorong, Former Chinese Ambassador to Germany, former President of Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs

Europe was stuck in multiple crises in 2015.

Heavily impacted by the global financial crisis and sovereign debt crisis, Europe has bounced from the bottom while the recovery was flagging. The development of European Union members was unbalanced, and the integration process stagnated, which is not likely to achieve a breakthrough in a short time.

The tough situation of Europe in 2015 was rare in history after the Cold War.


Ukraine crisis continues to ferment

The crisis not only concerns the fate of Ukraine as an independent country, but also exerts influence on the peace and stability of Europe and even the global strategy pattern and the major country relations.

Europe and the US have stressed that Russia "annexed" Crimea and supported "separatist forces" in east Ukraine, which broke international law. They imposed "economic sanctions" against Moscow. Observers held that it was western countries squeezing Russia's strategic space, threatening its core security interests and forcing Russia to counterattack.

Although the struggle of different interest groups of Ukraine is the internal cause, Europe and the United States cannot claim to be blameless.

Since Russia is a potential big market and an important natural gas supplier, it doesn't conform to Europe's strategic benefits to remain hostile with Moscow.

The EU's role in Ukraine crisis is controlled by various forces. In view of national conditions and geo-politics, Kiev should become a bridge linking east and west, which makes for peace and stability of Europe and the Ukraine itself and also facilitates cooperation between east and west.

However, different parties of the EU have their interests and plots. Some countries have tried to incorporate Ukraine into the EU and want to keep normal cooperative relations with Moscow.

Other countries, which have old grudges against Russia, have advocated to adopt tough policies to improve their strategic safety conditions, calling for Kiev to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to become their buffer zone to contend against Russia.

Apparently, EU countries have struggled with Moscow in the front, while the US is pushing hardest to prevent closer relations between the EU and Russia and to strengthen the EU's dependence on the US.

The prospects of the Ukraine crisis are gloomy. Although Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine have signed the Minsk agreement, which include a cease-fire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, giving special position of two independent republic countries in east Ukraine, they all continue to condemn each other for failure to implement the agreement. Hence, the confrontation will be difficult to resolve.

Refugees flock to Europe  

In the second half of 2015, Europe had endured a large influx of refugee from the Middle East and North Africa, due to "regime change," stemming from pro-democracy movements instigated by the US and other western countries.

Germany has been the most yearning destination for refugees and illegal immigrants, since it enjoys the best economic conditions, the most tolerable attitude towards refugees and the most complete laws to guarantee their rights.

Berlin has been most supportive of the refugees. However, Merkel has mismanaged the situation from the beginning and stirred up internal contradictions of the EU.

In September, Merkel declared that there were no limits to accept refugees, since a larger labor force can drive the economy forward, and she encouraged people to sympathize with the refugees' plight and tried to build a personal image morally as well.

Merkel's declaration led to serious consequences. It had sparked a massive influx of refugees to Europe, adding heavy burdens to local authorities, which had triggered huge protests nationwide and supported the rate for other parties.

The president of ruling coalition partners Christian Social Union took the initiative to criticize Merkel for sending out "wrong signals" and to place the country at risk. As a result, the popularity support rate for Merkel has declined.

Some eastern European countries were dissatisfied. They refused to register refugees into their countries, in accordance with the "Dublin agreement;" pushing refugees away to neighboring countries, especially Germany.

The EU had set a distribution of refugees in accordance with GDP (gross domestic product), population, unemployment rate etc, and some eastern European countries still denied refugees the right to enter their land.

In late September, Merkel paid an urgent visit to Turkey for support. Ankara proposed three conditions: Provide 3 billion euros to arrange refugees; restart negotiations on Turkey joining the EU; provide Turkey citizens with visa convenience to enter Europe. Those conditions were all agreed upon, which had shown the EU's dilemma.
Violent terrorist attacks   

After the terrorist attack on the headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, six places of Paris were attacked in the second half of 2015, which was called another "9-11" incident.

French President Francois Hollande announced that France was in a "state of war" against Islamic terrorism, while other European countries suddenly felt growing wariness and had to upgrade anti-terrorism measures.

Some extremists were born in Europe and had received training in "Islamic States." They pretended to be refugees to enter Europe. People were more worried that the large number of refugees swarmed into Europe that brought endless troubles.

Outburst of Greek debt crisis 

When the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left won the national elections in 2015, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had pledged for a better debt repayment clause, however creditors refused to budge and Athens had to carry out a deflation policy and a series of harsh conditions to avoid default.

In July, Greece held a referendum with the slogan to fight for Greece's dignity, 61 percent of Greek people refused the EU's conditions.

However, Germany insisted that only when Athens implements reforms, could it be granted with financial aid. Greece had no choice, but was reconciled.

Finally, the EU provided Greece with 86 billion euro loans to keep the nation in the euro zone and avoid its bankruptcy.

In fact, it is only an expedient measure to save the face of both parties, keep the operations of the Greek banking industry, delay the debt crisis for three years and facilitate approval of the parliaments of both sides. Nevertheless, uncertain factors remain.

Referendum on United Kingdom's exit from EU
Great Britain Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold a referendum over the United Kingdom's potential exit from the EU before 2017.

He's hoping to gain more exceptions, such as the EU immigrants cannot enjoy UK's social welfare in the first four years after arrival; the parliaments of EU member states should have veto rights on resolutions, which the EU could hardly accept.

The latest polls have shown the impact of the refugee crisis that encourages the UK's exit from the EU. It means a bad omen for the EU.

Yet Beijing hopes to see a united, prosperous, peaceful and stable Europe. Wishing Europe achieve success in dealing with multiple challenges on the basis of reflection.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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