The European Union is entering a lame duck year just as new challenges are mounting from Israel’s assault on Gaza, Russia’s gas cut-off to Ukraine and the impending inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama.
The EU’s active crisis management in the Georgia war and the global financial meltdown last year under the energetic leadership of French President Nicolas Sarkozy was an exception, not the dawn of a new, more effective Union.
Europe now faces 12 months of stasis with two peripheral small countries – the Czech Republic and Sweden — holding the six-month rotating presidency, EU legislation on hold because of European Parliament elections in June, and the European Commission winding down to the end of its term in November.
Domestic politics in key member states will also constrain EU initiatives. Germany, the biggest member state, has a general election in September in which the two major parties in its ungainly grand coalition will be fighting each other.