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Hollande, Merkel Propose Simpler Mission for Post-Brexit EU

Posted by hkarner - 16. September 2016

Date: 16-09-2016

Source: The Wall Street Journal

French premier said bloc could face ‘crisis of its very existence’

Merkel HollandePARIS—French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Europe has to define its priorities to avert a crisis of confidence after the U.K. voted to leave the union in June.

The leaders of the two largest economies in the EU once the U.K. leaves were meeting ahead of a summit in Bratislava where European countries aim to step back from day-to-day issues and define a long-term vision for the EU. The U.K. isn’t attending the summit.

“We need to be lucid about Europe’s situation,” Mr. Hollande said before a lunch with Ms. Merkel in Paris. “It isn’t just another crisis, it could be the crisis of its very existence.”

Ms. Merkel said: “We want to put a brake on the worries of our people and for Europe to once again be a synonym for hope and the future.”

The Franco-German drive for redefining simple European priorities comes after the U.K. vote to exit from the EU hobbled the bloc’s ambitions to pursue a deeper union and with greater sharing of social and financial burdens. Before the June referendum, Mr. Hollande said France would present plans to overhaul the way Europe is governed and push for greater economic integration of the eurozone.

The Brexit vote and terror attacks in France over the summer have pared back federal ambitions and shifted the focus in Paris to how to coordinate security policies and strengthen border controls.

Ms. Merkel and Mr. Hollande also face elections in 2017 amid a rise in populist parties campaigning to roll back the powers and reach of the EU.

The Bratislava summit should define a course of action in the three areas, Ms. Merkel and Mr. Hollande said.

First, Europe should focus on protecting its citizens by strengthening its external borders as well as its defense capacity abroad. Secondly, Europe should invest in sectors like the digital economy and renewable energy to drive growth and job creation. The third priority should be to improve the mobility of young people.

With a narrower list of priorities and a clearer method, Ms. Merkel and Mr. Hollande hope to overcome challenges from countries in Central and Eastern Europe that are pushing for more autonomy from Brussels and greater control over migration policies.

“Some are more ambitious than others, but everyone wants to move quickly,” Ms. Merkel said.

“We don’t want to leave anyone on the roadside.”

Given divergence within the EU, analysts say that little can be expected from the Bratislava summit.

“In the absence of a clear sense of direction and purpose the EU is likely to behave defensively and seek to maintain the delicate constellation of political bargains that constitutes the status quo,” J.P. Morgan analysts said in a research note Thursday.


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