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In 2013, possibilities for stability from Somalia to South China Sea

Policymakers in many of the world's hot spots have a common New Year's wish: for unity to usher in and consolidate political and economic stability.

By Staff writer / December 27, 2012

Students read Koranic verses at a madrasa, or Koranic school, in Dhusamareeb, central Somalia, December 16.

Feisal Omar/Reuters


Paris and Mexico City

The international news of any year is a disparate affair, a global chronicle of courage, calamity, and close calls. The interconnectedness of events is not always clear.

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But looking ahead to 2013, whether in Syria, South America, or the South China Sea, policymakers have a common New Year's wish: for unity to usher in and consolidate political and economic stability.

Europe turns toward integration

After another year in the depths of a debt crisis that has tested the viability of the European Union, leaders made a major step forward at the end of the year: agreeing to give the European Central Bank oversight of the biggest banks in the Union.

Skeptics dismiss the agreement as a watered-down initiative of common-denominator compromises and delays. But it paves the way for an eventual banking union, and caps off a year of expressed commitments to deeper integration.

"The decision of European heads of state to create a banking union and a fiscal union still needs to be implemented. But that was a genuine game changer in a sense," says Jan Techau, director of Carnegie Europe at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Brussels. "It is by no means perfect and is not seen in action yet; but if this comes, that will create momentum for more political integration."

In Africa, a new dawn for Somalia?

In Somalia, Al Qaeda was on the run in 2012 after four years in control of the country's south, pushed out of all of its major urban strongholds by African Union military offensives.

Somalia's Western allies – also its financiers – have begun proclaiming a new dawn. International commercial flights now land regularly at Mogadishu's refurbished airport. Investors from the large Somali diaspora are returning home. Aid workers have ever-greater access to the millions of people still in grave need.

But analysts are wary. A large number of rank-and-file fighters may have deserted Al Shabab, but hard-line commanders remain. Many of them, trained in Pakistan with Al Qaeda, are regrouping in Somalia's north.

"The Somali government is going to need very quickly to show that it brings dividends, health, education, road repairs, to the population, or they may well turn back to supporting Shabab," one Western diplomat focused on Somalia says in an e-mail. "There is a very narrow window to prove the government is the better option. Probably less than nine months. The early part of 2013 will be crucial."


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