Happy New Year 2012! Or not? For many in Europe 2012 is set to, once again, be a year of insecurity. Will the euro survive? Will there be another Greece? How safe are we actually all? The two most important countries in Europe, France and Germany, are getting set for another roller coaster year. And this year work starts early for both countries when Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel meet on 9 January in Berlin. What they will discuss is obvious, the insecure state of Europe's economy and all possible solutions, in the lead up to a 23 January meeting of the 27 European Union finance ministers.
Of both of these crucial European Nations France is the one most at risk and Nicolas Sarkozy New Year's addressing on the evening of 31 December showed this. As Sarkozy said early into his message, the crisis is not yet over and many French have already gone through two years of terrible ordeals. In his message the main goal he set for France was to lower the unemployment rate which is already seen as a campaigning measure even though, officially, he is not yet a candidate. A high unemployment rate does not look good for an outgoing president who wishes to be re-elected. He praised the French people for having braved the tough crisis of the last two years but for the coming year "we must be courageous," to finish it. "Neither markets nor ratings agencies will define France's politics," in 2012 he said in a bid to calm or prepare the French people for a downgrade in France's beloved AAA fiscal rating, which is expected in the next few months before the May election. A bad reaction to the downgrade could lower Sarkozy's already low popularity scores, putting his re-election in danger.
Ms Merkel on the other hand decided to opt for a downbeat tone with the delivery of her message. Recapping the year's main events around the world before coming to Germany she said that "Germany is doing everything it can to strengthen the euro." Although the recent rise of extremism such as the discovery, in the spring of 2011, of the extreme right murders show that the values of democracy must be valued even more now, in the crisis. As Mr Sarkozy said the crisis is not yet over but from Ms Merkel's New Year's message you can tell that her crisis is not as economically focused as France's. To keep Germany successful in the next year she explained that one thing which must be improved is childcare, an important topic in the last 3 years, while mothers seeing no other option than giving up their jobs to raise their children is not uncommon. Hidden in her message was also a plea in direction of her government and her people to help get Germany out of its record low birthrate, the lowest in all of Europe. She finished her message in attempting to get Germans more involved in politics and government saying that there would be an online discussion about "questions on Germany's future," a discussion she had already had with "over 100 experts," and that people would by able to participate starting in February. It's impossible not to see that the crisis took second place in Ms Merkel's message. More important was getting Germans interested again in their country, a difficult thing to do when you have one of the most boring and dry chancellors talking for seven minutes on New Year's Eve and don't even play your own national anthem.
2012 is also set to bring a shake up in politics worldwide as new governments in Greece, Italy and Spain settle in and will be forced to introduce some of the toughest austerity their people have ever witnessed, in a bid to save their countries' necks. Europe is changing and its future in 2012 is still very clouded.
Follow Julien Rath on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JulienRath