The European Union experienced increased instability throughout 2018 as migrants continued to arrive en masse
, European politicians feared growing hybrid threats from Russia, the outlandish actions of the United States added an air of nervousness to transatlantic political and economic relations, and Brexit negotiations continued.
The main outcome of 2018, however, is that the EU continues to function and develop. The very existence of the European Union makes it impossible to speculate about the possible use of force in relations between its member states. EU residents enjoy the freedom of movement across borders, the benefits of a common market and the conveniences offered by having a currency. EU institutions consistently implement numerous sectoral policies. The Eurozone management system, which has been improved since the 2009–2011 crisis, is operating well. Despite certain difficulties, the EU continues to maintain inclusive societies, stable democratic political regimes, highly developed economies and effective social protection systems. The quality of life in the European Union is still higher than that found in most other regions the world.
In recent years, the Juncker Commission has implemented a wide range of measures aimed at improving the functioning of the common EU market, including in terms of capital movement. The EU is implementing a program to set up a single digital market, and work to create an energy union is under way.
Despite all this, however, the political dynamics over the past year were marked by the growing influence of Eurosceptics and their consolidation on the national level. The creation of a new coalition government in Italy brought about a new reality. For the first time in the EU's history, populists and Eurosceptics managed to come to power in one of the union's leading countries. The weakening of the parties that form the large coalition in Germany has led to growing turbulence in the political system of this key EU country.
The EU institutions, for their part, have launched the process of introducing sanctions against Poland 
and Hungary 
for disregarding the Union's fundamental values. This conflict obviously goes beyond to the "EU-versus-offender" logic. We are witnessing a growing divide in values within the EU and a revival, in the eastern part of the Union, of national conservative ideology and populist and persona-centered regimes – that is, of everything that is most often described as "illiberal democracy."
The negotiations on the terms of the "divorce" and future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union are unlikely to have any significant effect on the latter's transformation processes. London is already perceived as an external partner, and relations with external partners have never had any substantial impact on the dynamics and development of the European Union.
European politicians continue to reinvent the role and place of the EU in the modern turbulent world. The main challenges here are the growing egotism and unpredictability of the United States, the security crisis in Eastern Europe, China's attempts to intensify relations with individual EU member states, and the looming Brexit. This reinvention process, however, is going to take time. Forecast for 2019
The elections to the European Parliament will be of fundamental importance to the EU's development in 2019. Rather than being just another vote, the elections have already turned into a "battle" for the alliance's future. While the role of the European Parliament among the EU institutions may not be that important, the election results will demonstrate the scale of the changes taking place in the political elites.
The EU public space is particularly susceptible to the general crisis of the liberal globalist ideology. After all, the EU represents an attempt to build, within a single region, an ideal model of political liberalism, economic and foreign-trade liberalism, and globalism that implies the transfer of sovereignties.
In the European Union, the crisis of liberalism is being transformed into the growing influence of populism, nationalism and right-wing conservative ideology. Populist and persona-centered parties are growing stronger. These parties base their strategy on anti-elitism; they undermine the role of the establishment parties and destabilize existing party-political systems. Almost all of these forces appeal to various aspects of the nationalist ideology and promote the need for a "strong" state, frequently resorting to Eurosceptic rhetoric.
It is now clear that, instead of the domestic political issues so common for the individual EU member states, the 2019 EU parliamentary campaign will be based on the dichotomy of having "more" or "less" of the alliance.
The results of the 2019 elections are likely to see the influence of the Eurosceptics in the European Parliament grow, and they may secure between 180 and 200 seats. However, most of these newly elected MEPs will profess a "mild" variety of Euroscepticism, in that they will criticize the EU's functioning principles and demand that its powers be restricted to some extent. They are unlikely to call for individual countries to pull out of the EU.
The second actor capable of tipping the balance of forces within the European Parliament is most likely to be Emmanuel Macron's La République En Marche! movement, which is already seeking allies outside France.
The long-standing consensus-based operation of the European Parliament, which relies on a balance between the European People's Party and the Social Democrats, is about to be a thing of the past. One possible scenario would be for four roughly equal groups to emerge, each comprising between 130 and 160 MEPs. Pro-European Macron supporters would join forces with the Liberal Democrats and MEPs of some other pro-European parties. The traditional left- and right-centrist party groups would be preserved; both groups would include a noticeable number of moderate Eurosceptics. A group of moderate Eurosceptics would unite disparate populists and nationalists, and would be dominated by right-wing conservatives.
This configuration would institutionalize the confrontation between those in favour of deepening integration and the Eurosceptics. At the same time, flexible coalitions will be possible, sometimes uniting the right against the left, sometimes pitting Eurosceptics against Eurooptimists.
Somewhat similar changes are possible within the Council of Europe. Few member nations will be able to provide consistent support for greater integration on a broad range of issues. Most of the European leaders will be forced to reckon with the domestic political dynamics and specific national interests, so will be willing to seek common solutions to certain problems on the pan-European level. On other issues, they will be inclined to try and minimize the EU's role in order to preserve or regain freedom of manoeuvre to conduct their respective national policies.
The new era will be marked by the bowing-out, in 2019, of Jean-Claude Juncker, the last remaining patriarch of European federalism (he will be followed shortly by Angels Merkel). Pragmatists have been replacing supporters of "big ideas" over the past several years. A significant portion of politicians (both Eurooptimists and Eurosceptics) will be pragmatic in their assessments of the EU's usefulness as an instrument in addressing common challenges and achieving common goals.
This approach will present an opportunity to reconcile the irreconcilable: namely, to deepen EU integration in areas where it is clearly necessary in order to achieve common goals, while simultaneously demonstrating greater flexibility with regard to politically sensitive issues or wherever existing differences in national interests so require. At the same time, all the sensible and pragmatic EU politicians understand that it is in the strategic interests of their respective countries to preserve and develop key EU projects. On the other hand, the potential price of the degradation of the European Union is so high that it is a very effective incentive for the political elites to seek common solutions for common challenges.
Such a reconfiguration of the EU will accelerate trends that are already noticeable today: a lowering of ambitions, a decrease in the role of values as incentives for political decision-making processes, and the growing divide in the levels of communitarization for certain political aspects. At the same time, EU institutions will rely on the support of a key group of countries in order to continue effectively monitoring compliance with the requirements of current legislation, primarily in the economic sphere. The European Commission and various EU agencies will similarly continue their regulatory activities within their current remit.
Major domestic challenges and the ongoing systemic transformation of the EU prevent European politicians from devoting much attention to relations with Russia. Apart from the aforementioned circumstances, there are two more factors that will preclude the EU from investing resources in the development of a proactive strategy. First, there is the understanding that the Europeans will remain hostage to a strategic confrontation between the United States and Russia, at least in the medium term. Second, the difference in the EU member states' views of the Russian factor will impede the adoption of any significant decisions (both confrontational and constructive). In this situation, the EU's policy will be dictated by the inertia of its prior decisions. This scenario does not rule out attempts by individual EU countries to use the Russian factor as a bargaining chip in their attempts to secure concessions from other EU partners. It is also possible that some EU countries will try to obtain specific preferences from Russia in exchange for promises to promote Russia's interests in the EU, knowing full well that such lobbying attempts will never work. The propaganda confrontation will continue, as will attempts to blame Russia for "meddling" in the internal affairs of EU countries. However, given the difference in positions within the EU, any consolidated response is unlikely. Forecast for 2024
The EU of 2024 will be shaped by two groups of factors.
External developments will play a decisive role here. No matter who becomes the next President of the United States, the country will be less committed to multilateral economic and security institutions. A certain degree of degradation of global trade institutions will have a significant negative effect on economic growth rates. Given the global turbulence, the risks associated with tensions in regions on the periphery of the EU will remain and, more likely, escalate.
Under these circumstances, the European elites will complete the process of revising the EU's role in the world. Once the United Kingdom has exited the alliance, the idea that the EU is a "union of small- and medium-sized countries" will become even more relevant. 
The limits of "soft power" will become visible, and any attempts to "export" one's own principles and norms will lose their significance. Strategic dependence on the United States with regard to security will force the EU to make certain (albeit limited) political and economic concessions. The Union will continue to develop its autonomous defence potential. However, objective restrictions in this respect will prompt the EU to focus on stabilizing the situation in neighbouring territories and preventing the associated risks from spreading further afield.
These changes will be particularly manifested in attempts to resolve the migration crisis. Due to the contradictions between the "borderline" and "internal" EU countries, the Union will not be able to develop an effective refugee settlement system. The growth in anti-migrant sentiments in many EU member states will force politicians to focus on security issues, to the detriment of humanitarian considerations. The EU's strategy will be based on cooperation with neighbouring countries, similar to its agreement with Turkey. This, in conjunction with stringent control over migration routes, will bring the number of new migrants down to an acceptable level. The policy of integrating migrants representing other cultures is gearing up, but its results will not be noticeable by 2024.
The second group of factors will be linked to growing economic differences between the more developed (northern and western) and comparatively backward (southern and eastern) economies in Europe. The latter are still characterized by low growth rates, high unemployment and massive public and private debt. Therefore, they will be more vulnerable to the predicted global economic slowdown and shrinking international trade. The increase in economic differences will result in an even wider gulf in the levels of political influence.
The continued centralization of economic governance in the Eurozone will be fuelled by proposals coming from Germany as the representative of the "healthy" EU economies. Monitoring of the economic policies of the member states as part of the European Semester will become more efficient. Thanks to support from those countries advocating risk-reduction measures, EU institutions will be able to impose stricter control on national budgets (based on the Fiscal Stability Treaty) and the status of the banking system (based on the Banking Union). The introduction of a Eurozone budget as a structure separated from the EU budget will complete the transfer of strategic economic management functions to the Eurozone institutions (Eurogroup).
Within the Eurogroup, a core cluster of key countries will stand out: Germany, France, the Benelux countries and several other nations. This core will conduct regular meetings prior to the official EU summits and Council of Europe meetings and will be responsible for devising a foreign political strategy and development strategies for the EU. This group of countries will essentially become an unofficial EU security council. One of the most difficult tasks in forming this core would be to involve Poland as the representative of the eastern part of the EU, given Poland's unwillingness to switch to the euro and its population's general sympathy towards illiberal democracy.
Many of the initiatives to deepen integration are likely to be implemented in the Eurozone format (which may include or exclude individual countries). This will transform the EU into a core-and-periphery system. 
The process may be accompanied by returning certain secondary powers to national governments. In addition, economic centralization may continue amid greater tolerance for the political peculiarities within individual EU countries.
It is entirely possible that by 2024 the EU may be described using the following metaphor: "the castle of the political and monetary union in the common-market garden that is protected by a wall from the risks of the turbulent world." At the same time, the lack of strategic autonomy in the political and military domain and its slowly declining influence on the global economy will continue to be factors restricting the further development and operations of the EU.
When attempting to forecast the future relations between the European Union and Russia, it would be logical to consider the possibility of the current political and economic trends in Russia remaining unchanged.
In this case, Russia's significance to the EU will be determined by two factors. First, Russia will be perceived as a source of geopolitical risks (in this context, perception would be even more important than the actual state of affairs). Second, Russia will continue to be the largest supplier of energy resources to the EU.
Given the limited resources and the differing positions of UN countries, European nations will be forced to accept the fact that it will be the United States that determines the intensity and dynamics of strategic confrontation with Russia. The EU will most likely refrain from an active role in the U.S.-led course towards escalating tensions, but it will not be able to offer any alternative either. It would be naive to expect the EU to somehow mitigate the effect of the U.S. pressure on Russia (for example, it is unlikely that a mechanism similar to the one that allows European companies to bypass the U.S. sanctions against Iran will be created).
Further liberalization of the EU energy market and the growing regulatory role of the European Commission are likely to limit the negotiating capabilities of Russian companies. Moderate demand for imported gas will allow EU member countries to be more active in using politically motivated regulatory measures in order to restrict supplies from Russia. Russia's ability to use energy as an instrument of political influence will continue to decline. Furthermore, the EU or some of its member states could attempt to use the issue of Russia's access to the EU energy market to pursue their own political agendas.
Constructive relations will most likely be limited to selective cooperation and interaction at the level of civil society. It is possible that the EU will establish ties with the Eurasian Economic Union in order to regulate trade issues.
On the whole, the EU policy towards Russia will, consciously or not, be founded on strategic expectations. The EU actions after this waiting period will depend on the ability of the Russian government machinery to ensure economic development and domestic political stability, as well as on how the transformation of the world order is going to affect the freedom of action of the key international actors.