Outlook 2017: Europe

This is the third of a five-part series looking at the key events and issues facing the world next year. Today, The Straits Times looks at crisis-hit Europe and its struggle to break free from the gloom.


Brexit pain in store for all of Europe

It is still the world's wealthiest continent. It continues to be admired for its innovation and commercial flair. It remains a magnet for tourists worldwide. And it is still the destination of choice for millions of would-be migrants.

But Europe is plagued by an all-pervasive gloom, a "trap of fatalism" as Mr Donald Tusk, one of the European Union's top leaders, recently put it. For the outgoing year confronted the continent with one crisis after another. And the coming year does not promise to be much better either.

The first crisis that began this year, which is certain to overshadow next year as well, is Britain's decision to leave the EU.

During the coming year, and especially when the separation negotiations between the EU and Britain start in earnest, the Europeans will discover that Britain's walkout will inflict deep wounds not only on Britain, but also on the entire continent.

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Putin, Trump, elections and migrant crisis on the radar

"The Year That Putin Won" was how Moscow Times, Russia's premier English-language newspaper entitled its special year-end issue. And with good reasons, for President Vladimir Putin seems to have hit the jackpot on every gamble he took this year.

He gambled that his military intervention in Syria would succeed in propping up its government without embroiling Russia in a wider war, and he was right. He took a risk in allowing his intelligence services to dabble in the US presidential elections, and was rewarded with Mr Donald Trump's triumph.

Still, that does not mean 2017 will be an easy one for Russia. It is uncertain that oil prices, Russia's most important export commodity, will recover sufficiently to balance the country's budget. The economy has been in recession for three consecutive years, and even if it begins to recover next year, Mr Putin has no strategy to address its fundamental weaknesses.

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