Numerous analysts have spread the word that 2014 will likely be the year of economic recovery. It will mean two things if they are right: that we can rejoice at seeing light at the end of the tunnel, but also that we probably have to look forward to continuing widespread austerity measures, rising discontent and Euroscepticism in 2013. The context hardly encourages political leaders to tackle courageously the mountains of reforms needed to slash public deficits and reduce the role of member states, to make the labour market more flexible and to bring countries out of their paralysis. It is in that light that should be seen the decision by the heads of state and government, at their December 2012 summit, to postpone the major reforms for consolidating the European Union until after the 2013 national elections (the Czech Republic on 13 January, Italy in late February and Germany in September) and even until after the June 2014 European elections. Even with a new Parliament and Commission in place in Brussels in 2014, there is no guarantee that the mood in the 28 member states will be right for a treaty revision.

Ireland, which took up the EU's six-month Council Presidency on 1 January 2013 (after Cyprus and before Lithuania), is well aware that it is running a race against the clock: measures not brought before the European Parliament by summer 2013 will stand little chance of being adopted before the conclusion of this legislature. This special issue of Europolitics, which reviews the main issues to be addressed in the coming six months, seems to suggest that it will be a tough battle. Even though Ireland is taking up its seventh Presidency in its 40th year of EU membership, and will build on a reputation of past...

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