2018 has been a banner year for populists. From the US, to Italy, to Brazil, populist politicians now hold the levers of power in many countries. No longer can they paint themselves as anti-establishment outsiders; they’re now shaping policy and making the big decisions. The buck stops with them.
How have the populists conducted themselves in office? So far, we’ve seen the rumblings of a trade war between China and America (not to mention the threat of a real war with North Korea); the media have come under attack as the ‘enemy of the people’; there have been controversial policies designed to discourage illegal immigration, from separating children from their parents to turning away migrant vessels from ports. In general, economies have been growing, though things have started to stutter a bit towards the end of the year.
That’s not to say there haven’t been a few bumps along the way. Brexit, which was originally supposed to be about “taking back control”, is now apparently turning Britain into a “vassal state” of Brussels (though at least we had a royal wedding to distract us). In the US, the midterm elections delivered a thumping to US President Donald Trump, and a Democrat-controlled Congress promises greater scrutiny of his administration in 2019.
2018 was not, however, a great year for human rights. Dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered by alleged Saudi agents, and former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned in Salisbury. Mass atrocities have been reported in countries such as Yemen, Myanmar, South Sudan, and Syria.
What about Europe? Lots of talk: discussions about Eurozone reform, negotiations over Brexit, wranglings over sharing refugees, concerns about eroding democracy and civil rights in some Member States. Some important votes: Ireland held a referendum on abortion; Angela Merkel’s party suffered at the polls, and she agreed to step down as party chair; Italy elected a populist government and put itself on a collision course with EU debt and deficit rules. And France won the World Cup.
Was 2018 a good year for Europe? And what will 2019 bring? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!