As another year begins, we again look ahead to the major events that will shape Europe and the world in 2024. In our 2023 edition, we saw a few things coming around the bend that indeed came to pass. Others, not so much.

We saw that support for Ukraine would be tested – and it was across Europe and in Washington, DC. However, 2023 ended with the EU opening accession negotiations with Ukraine which was a strong signal of support. We didn’t foresee the brutal attack on Israel by Hamas and the subsequent war in Gaza, nor did we predict the surprising results of the Polish and Dutch elections.

‌Elections are certainly on the radar again this year, with important elections taking place in the U.S. and the EU and crucial ones in Georgia and Taiwan. ‌We have even more events on our list this year than last, but of course we cannot include everything that will be important. In any case, we hope this helps you get a sense of the year to come.


General elections in Taiwan: maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait

Amid strained Sino-American relations and increasing cross-strait tensions, Taiwan will hold its eighth free and fair presidential election and its ninth parliamentary election on January 13th. Vice President Lai Ching-te, the presidential candidate of the ruling liberal Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), seems likely to win the presidential election, especially as Taiwan’s conservative parties could not agree on a joint ticket. Prospects for a parliamentary majority are much more uncertain.

Independent of the outcome of the elections, there is a broad consensus in support of maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, which makes substantial changes unlikely even as Taiwanese culture and identity keep moving away from the mainland.

Taiwan’s new leaders will continue to be confronted with the People’s Republic of China‘s coercive grey zone tactics. These include transgressions over the line of demarcation in the Taiwan Strait with ships and aircraft, as well as disinformation campaigns to undermine the Taiwanese political system and cyber-attacks against the island’s infrastructure.

Two years of full-scale war: catalysing Europe’s actorness in the face of Russia’s imperialist ambitions

The European security and peace order has been in ruins since Russia’s 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and the global order as a whole is increasingly deteriorating, with no new (stable) order on the horizon yet. Against this backdrop, the EU urgently needs to shape its Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and provide it with the necessary resources to be effective.

Through transatlantic coordination and division of labour, but also independently (in preparation for another possible Trump presidency), Europe must become strategically capable of taking substantial action.

The ongoing and effective support of Ukraine in its struggle for survival serves as a blueprint for European self-assertion in the fight against authoritarianism and imperialism. Only by containing Russia can Europe reaffirm its own principles of peaceful, rules-based coexistence.

Super Tuesday will likely go Trump’s way. Next steps are unclear

Ahead of this year’s consequential U.S. presidential election, the primary and caucus season will determine President Joe Biden’s Republican challenger. Current polls favor former President Donald Trump. On March 5’s Super Tuesday, 16 U.S. states and one territory will cast ballots, all but confirming his path towards nomination – depending on the outcome of current legal decisions, including Colorado and Maine’s disqualification of Trump from the states’ primary ballots.

In any other election season, a Super Tuesday victory would be a campaign’s golden ticket. But Trump’s story is different, as the former President currently faces convictions in four criminal cases, a historic precedent for the United States.

That begs a couple of questions (at least): How will the next four months play out before the July Republican National Convention when the Republican presidential candidate will be confirmed? If a conviction occurs, delegates could consider nullifying a Trump primary season win, voting for other Republican candidates instead. If a Trump nomination is confirmed, how would a conviction before the November election impact his candidacy?

Now, all signs point to Trump securing the nomination, an unsettling prospect for American democracy with severe impacts on Europe, should his candidacy later succeed. But in an election full of irregularities, who can say how the months after Trump’s Super Tuesday victory would play out?


Parliamentary elections in India: more Modi?

In India, the world’s largest democracy, parliamentary elections will be held between April and May to decide which party will form the majority in India’s lower house, the “Lok Sabha.” A staggering one billion eligible voters in twenty-eight states and three union territories will be allowed to cast their ballots in 2024. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the ruling party since 2014 and currently holds 303 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats, giving it an absolute majority of 56 per cent.

With the BJP having won five state elections late last year, a victory in the upcoming general elections is likely, even though it is struggling in the richer southern states. However, through its Hindu nationalist policies, the Modi government has exacerbated tensions between the Hindu majority society and minorities, particularly Muslims, thereby jeopardizing the cohesion of Indian society. Thus, the election is also a vote on the future of Indian democracy.

European Political Community summit: can London make it a success?

The European Political Community (EPC) will meet in London for the fourth time in the Spring. A brainchild of President Macron, it assembles all EU member states and candidates, EFTA members, Azerbaijan, and Armenia as well as the UK. The acronym is reminiscent of unsuccessful early European attempts to coordinate foreign policy (which started as fireside chats in the 1950s), and pessimists suggest the new forum will face similar struggles.

It got off to a good start when both the inaugural meeting in Prague and the second summit in Moldova were used to display unity vis-à-vis Russia. But the third meeting in Spain proved disappointing when tensions rose between Kosovo and Serbia, and the leaders of Azerbaijan and Turkey failed to show up.

Given that the bigger idea is to scope out Europe’s new security architecture, the fact that the 4th summit will be in London is of particular interest. The UK, which has an opportunity to re-think its role as a European and global actor, is certainly open to EPC’s broad membership and loose working style and will work hard to make the summit a success.

Europe votes: the most important European elections… again

It may sound trite and repeats every 5 years – yet it is true (again): The next European elections on 6 to 9 June 2024 will be the most important ever.

The EU is facing more concurrent challenges than it ever has since the integration process began almost 70 years ago. Stable conditions in the European Parliament are therefore extremely important, as stability is ultimately required to approve the vast majority of legislative procedures, including the appointment of the new EU Commission, the accession of new member states and the amendment of European treaties. However, these stable conditions are anything but certain.

According to current polls, the right-wing groups, European Conservatives and Reformists and Identity and Democracy, will gain seats, while the Social Democrats, the liberal Renew group, and the Greens will take losses. A stronger parliament at the margins would make it more difficult to find majorities in the centre. The European Peoples’ Party, in particular, which stands relatively stable in the polls, might end up playing a key role in the choice of its preferred voting partners.

This further increases the danger of a strengthening fringe: The possibilities of digital disinformation campaigns from inside and outside the EU have increased significantly compared to the last election five years ago.

The 50th G7 summit: Meloni’s stage at a format in transition

The 50th G7 Summit will take place from June 12 to 15 in Apulia, Italy. Italy’s Prime Minister Georgia Meloni of the right-wing Brothers of Italy will do her utmost to cultivate her constructive image at international level and has announced that she will put the issue of migration high on the agenda. In the meantime, the format of the G7 as such is facing challenges and is changing.

Initially, G7 focused exclusively on economic issues. The range of topics today also covers education and health policy, foreign policy and the fight against terrorism, and environmental and climate protection, to name just the most important.

Due to their economic and political importance, G7 decisions have an impact on other countries. However, the economic power of the G7 is shrinking.

chart: economic importance of G7

Throughout the 1980s, these countries accounted for 50% of global GDP (expressed in US dollar purchasing power parity). Currently, it is only 30 %. The G7, therefore, faces the challenge of retaining its political influence despite its declining economic power. 


Hungary’s strained relations with the EU cast a shadow over its upcoming Council presidency

As Hungary gears up for the EU Council presidency in the second half of 2024, its complex relationship with the EU is under scrutiny. In the past, Hungary has clashed with the EU on democratic principles, media freedom, LGBTQ+ rights and migration policies. Adding to these tensions, Hungary’s recent negotiation tactics during Ukraine accession talks were seen by many as bordering on blackmail. In the process, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán managed to have €10,2 billion in EU funding unblocked, which had been previously frozen due to rule-of-law violations.

Many are now raising concerns that Viktor Orban, known as the Kremlin’s closest ally in Europe, will take over the leading role of the Council when they should instead face more pressure from Brussels. The European Parliament has even adopted a resolution doubting Hungary’s ability to “credibly fulfill” the role and suggested finding a way to block its presidency. However, while the Council’s presidency offers Hungary symbolic leverage, its powers to sway decision-making are limited.

On our way to a new record global average temperature?

While 2023 was a record-breaking year for global average temperatures, 2024 may likely exceed that with an, at least temporary, rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Contributing to this is the El Niño weather pattern, which will cause parts of the Pacific Ocean to warm up. With El Niño comes more rainfall to the western coast of the Americas and the horn of Africa and less rainfall in southeast Asia, Australia, and the Amazon rainforest. This means that major rainforest carbon sinks in Asia and South America will lose effectiveness, accelerating the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere. In Europe, the effects are usually not extreme, but El Niño will bring colder, drier winters to Northern Europe and more rain to southern Europe.

The global effects of El Niño are complex but taken together, it is bad news in terms of global warming. Beyond warming effects, it could disrupt food production and harvests in parts of the world, and lead to more heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and floods. In Europe, aside from greater potential for natural disasters, people could face higher energy demand with longer, colder winters.

2024 could already give the earth a taste of 1.5 Celsius, reminding all how crucial efforts to cut carbon emissions are.


US presidential elections: whither America?

Of the many elections this year, none will be more consequential than the U.S. presidential election on November 5th. Ultimately, a few tens of thousands of voters in a handful of swing states like Nevada, Pennsylvania and Michigan will decide the outcome – of the 538 electoral votes, only 62 are competitive – underscoring just how polarized the electoral environment is.

The impact of the American vote will be global, affecting everything from the functioning of international institutions to international trade, global climate change mitigation, and the future of global security, including military support for Ukraine and relations with China.

Barring unforeseen events, the election will likely see a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump—two of the oldest presidential candidates in U.S. history—who most voters wish were not running. Age aside, Trump’s very candidacy is eroding American democracy.

The fact that the Republican Party could nominate a candidate, currently charged in four separate criminal cases, who exhibits open contempt for the constitution, attempted to overturn the results of the previous election and has announced an ideological shift of America’s civil bureaucracy raises concerns over the viability of the political order. A second Trump term could transform the U.S. into an “illiberal democracy”. Isolationist tendencies, paired with aggressive, unilateral trade and security policy, would prevail at a time of grave geopolitical peril with potentially catastrophic global consequences – particularly for Europe.

Georgia’s 2024 elections: defining foreign policy and EU integration

As Georgia prepares for pivotal parliamentary elections in October 2024, the small South-Caucasus nation stands at a crossroads with profound implications for its future. Its recently granted EU candidate status at the end of 2023 adds a layer of optimism, potentially fortifying transparency in policymaking and deterring opaque influences in a time of mounting geopolitical challenges.

Central to these elections will be the shaping of Georgia’s foreign policy, as the EU has emphasised compliance with its Common Foreign and Security Policy and countering foreign disinformation in the accession process. The election outcome will hopefully reopen constructive parliamentary debates, including on partners, competitors and rivals, and reflect the will of the Georgian people when shaping strategic relationships that have direct ramifications and implications for the domestic situation.

Until then, the Georgian people and the EU must be vigilant. There will be a balancing act between the imperative to implement reform conditions for progress and the overarching geopolitical concern of not losing Georgia to undemocratic partners. The conditions are linked to reforms that take time, while strategic geopolitical cooperation cannot afford to be delayed.

UK election: could Labour bring the UK closer to the EU?

Assuming it doesn’t happen in May, the UK will go to the polls during the autumn. After almost one-and-a-half decades of Conservative rule, current polling suggests a landslide victory for Labour, making Keir Starmer the country’s next Prime Minister.

British politics has been in disarray since the (now unspeakable) B-word reversed strategic decisions about the UK’s place in the world that many thought were permanent. Less observed in Europe but widely felt across the channel is the remarkable degree of economic decline, largely due to low productivity and an accompanying fall in wages, combined with high inequality and a number of other structural problems.

Most of these have deeper roots than leaving the EU, and if Labour wins, it will focus on reviving the UK’s economy, albeit under new, post-Brexit conditions. Politically, there will be new opportunities for EU-UK relations, which Labour has promised to further normalise and then rethink. Given Europe’s increasing security concerns, this is something EU leaders may be interested in more than they are currently letting on.

BRICS summit in Kazan: more show than substance

BRICS leaders are set to meet in Kazan, Russia, in the autumn of 2024. This will be the grouping’s first summit with new members Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia and Egypt – and an opportunity for the Russian regime to showcase its international standing in the non-Western world.

Expect more of BRICS’s grandiose rhetoric touting a “new era in international relations”, but don’t hold your breath for announcements on substantial cooperation. To an extent, members share the ambition of challenging the liberal world order, and some are actively doing so (think cooperation between China, Russia and Iran).

But competition among members, sometimes fuelled by deep-running rivalries such as the one between China and India, will remain an obstacle that only grows with the admission of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

New EU Commission, same president?

After an intense summer of negotiations between EU member states and the European Parliament, the next EU Commission will likely enter office in late autumn or early winter. A look back to 2019 leaves more questions than answers: Will there be a role for the European parties’ lead candidates (Spitzenkandidaten), or will Member States propose a name, and when will we know?

Even if Ursula von der Leyen is to remain president of the European Commission, defining the Commission’s priorities for the next five years and allocating the twenty-six other portfolios in the College of Commissioners, as well as a large number of less prominent posts, will take several months.

This process involves a complex arithmetic between political groups in the European Parliament and national capitals. With the geopolitical shifts of the last years and its new pro-European government, Poland, for instance, seems well-positioned for one of the top jobs.

So, how will 2024 play out?

With a calendar full of important elections and various constellations of international actors from the G7 to the European Political Community and BRICS, 2024 already hints at a tense contest between ideas. Democracy versus autocracy, the West-oriented international community’s waning economic and political influence challenged by the world’s fastest-growing economies. Meanwhile, war and climate change are putting pressure on international cooperation and solidarity – 2024, as it seems now, will present huge challenges to new European and US leadership when the year wraps up—let’s hope they’re ready.

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