A centenary and 194 stages in 2014

I called the year 2013 a year of transition, and so it has been. Since the fall of Lehman Brothers five years ago, Europeans, and mostly the countries in the South, have been suffering an institutional and economical crisis in the shape of a “w”, and we keep clinging to the predictions of institutions and other establishments who foretell the end of the tunnel, even if it is with utmost caution and after enormous costs of human suffering and inequality. For these reasons, 2014 may well mean the beginning of a reactive and proactive cycle that may allow us to free ourselves of the transitional dynamics of 2013, correct the effects of the Great Recession and reform, expand and legitimize the international organizations that govern the global sphere. During this year, the control processes and assessment of the Millennium Development Goals are scheduled to begin, and then transition into the 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

The centenary of the First World War, that put an end to the first great globalization period and favored nationalist and protectionist trends that culminated in the Second World War, could be a good moment to pause and think about the limits of globalization and draw the course for the global good governance of the XXI century, with strengthened founding values of the international community, that is to say, with guarantees that can be verified. It is pressing to think of the basis for the reforms of the international institutional system, bringing new values and setting up mechanisms that will allow for legitimacy and control policies in international relationships. Many states, including the developed ones, are going through a period of introspection and absorption as regards their domestic policies and the re-edition of old models of disaggregation between domestic and foreign policies; approaches that tiptoe around interdependence, and new and old factors and actors that make up the international scene: a mosaic with 194 stages. All of them shaken by mistrust and increased global uncertainness. Among other events, the Snowden case has contributed to boost a high-spirited political climate.

The updating of the system of the United Nations cannot reduce the energies needed to make progress in the reform of the Bretton Woods system and review the causes that favored it, for these causes have multiplied and grown more sophisticated over the last decades, exhausting the management efforts of obsolete institutional systems. The inspiration of the Bretton Woods system is desirable, economy at the service of employment; as is having public powers control the financial markets, its derivatives and financial creativity itself, by means of independent and disciplinary administrative organs that would allow citizens and investors to trust in it again.

The crisis of the first decade of the XXI century has caused many others, and the European one is a true challenge for those of us who believe that a political Europe would reinforce our relevance and presence in the international community. I believe that political action could also balance and favor the vigor of recovery. The Left-Wing European leaders must present a broad-spectrum political project that stimulates the participation and empowerment of citizens; a model that needs to include innovative and reasonable alternatives to manage the globalization processes that affect us while, at the same time, correcting the identity and sectarian tensions of many European democracies, something difficult to understand due to our judicial, social and historical heritage.

In 2014, Europe has a date with its own future because we have to vote for more union and increasing institutions to be able to progress in a system of democracies directed towards sustainable development and the creation of values. Financial, fiscal and labor harmony in the Eurozone is possible and, most probably, also a desired goal, as is a better capacity for legitimization, political responsibility and transparency as regards institutional representatives and their decisions, or implementing the mandate of the European Central Bank so that it not only oversees inflation but also employment policies, to mention just a few of the matters that will be appearing in the political debate and that could determine the vote next May. For the electoral date to be a pro-European success, we must reduce political disaffection and the efforts of political parties, the member States of the EU and the outgoing commission must be directed towards this goal. Europe can, and must, make progress in the political construction of a social market model and, to do so, political and institutional coordination is of utmost necessity and, above all, the instauration of more democratic controls as required by the union of democracies as set forth in the Treaties.

It is only reasonable that the EU and its Neighborhood Policy should bridge the gap with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, and that it should closely follow the rhythm and evolution of the Arab Spring (elections in Egypt, reconstruction in Libya, evolution in Tunisia…) and of the conflicts in the Middle East. Here, we need to celebrate the Geneva Conversations I and II, as well as the slow thawing of relations between the United States and Iran. This should be a year of peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and I truly hope that the efforts of US State Secretary John Kerry bear fruit. We should all concentrate on this goal and have Palestine join the United Nations as a member with full rights as country number 194. While peace must be the main goal, one we cannot renounce, for the Middle East; the Gulf States continue reflecting on their future, and Sub-Saharan Africa maintains a sustained evolution, barring the scourge of warfare and ethnical conflicts. Africa is also committed to preserving the memory and the heritage of recently deceased Nelson Mandela, something which will bolster political, social and economical steps forward, both possible and desirable for African States in 2014.

In Asia, Japan is flooding the markets with yens and taking the first steps on the path to economical recovery, leaving behind deflation while still under the impact of Fukushima; and the National Assembly chose Xi Jinping as new President of the People’s Republic of China in March of 2013, on his shoulders falls the task of stimulating domestic demand and, predictably, re-orientating the foreign policy strategy of the Asian giant beyond its borders.

The year 2013 has been very intense in Latin America, the death of Hugo Chávez and the election of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, the re-election of Rafael Correa in Ecuador, and the return to the presidency of Michelle Bachelet in Chile, have all been events of great relevance, as has the peace process started in Colombia, and the reforms initiated in Mexico. Among the most outstanding events stands the declaration of US Secretary of State John Kerry at the Organization of American States (OAS), in which he promised to put an end, once and for all, to the Monroe Doctrine. The electoral processes in Latin America have embarked on a new cycle; over the next two years, seven nations will be holding presidential elections. All marked by regional and national governability challenges, by the advancement of equality and, above all, by the need to train their citizens, as well as diversify their exportations.

The Spanish stage, according to the forecasts of the International Monetary Fund and the OCDE, does not look promising. Predictably, Spain will need at least a lustrum to return to the activity levels prior to the crisis, and the gap between us and Europe grows as does inequality. The number of unemployed people is nearing 6 million, more than 26% of the working population, which places us, alongside Greece, at the head of Europe as regards unemployment, and we are bearing levels greater than those endured during the Great American Depression. The deterioration of living conditions is also affecting those who still have a job, because salaries have decreased 7% over the last three years and the real GDP per inhabitant puts us back at levels that correspond to a decade ago. Unfortunately, the main subjects of current Spanish politics in 2014 will still be unemployment and the end of the crisis, corruption, institutional deterioration, the loss of influence in the world and the Catalonian and Basque Country issues. On the national scene, the PSOE cannot delay its primary elections any more, nor the search for new leaders to come out stronger electorally and drive a new social-democratic narrative at the beginning of this XXI century.

If, months ago, I called the year 2013 one of confusion and continuity, my wishes for 2014 cannot be any others than to curb hunger and inequality, reinforce democracies and the European political project, and for Spain to find ways to solve the interior stagnation that threatens to become all-absorbing, and for the country to recover its hope and its place in Europe and the world.