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Merkel, Renzi, Hollande at Ventotene summit over Brexit

European media continue to report on the meeting of Angela Merkel, François Hollande and Matteo Renzi on Ventotene ahead of the upcoming extraordinary summit in Bratislava on 16 September. In Bratislava, the EU-27 will discuss the future of post-Brexit Europe. Many media report on Matteo Renzi’s saying “many people thought that after Brexit, Europe was over, but that is not the case”.

The three leaders agreed on the need to boost economic growth, reduce unemployment, but also to consolidate the common defence of Europe’s borders, given the wave of terrorist attacks and the migration crisis. Yet, Le Monde’s editorialist writes that while the leaders of France, Germany and Italy are unanimous about the necessity to construct a new Europe after the Brexit, they do not agree on what this new Europe should be. On Monday, they focused therefore on what they agree on, such as the necessity for better security coordination and border reinforcement.

Le Monde’s editorialist considers their approach as the right one, further stressing that they still need “courage and determination” and that the Bratislava summit on September 16 will be decisive on the matter. In his editorial for L’Opinion, Luc de Barochez opposes the vision of post-Brexit Europe put forward by Angela Merkel, preferring instead the one defended by François Hollande and Matteo Renzi. For the German Chancellor, there’s no need to rebuild Europe by changing the Treaties or to focus on a “small” Europe.

For her part, Ruth Berschens stresses in Handelsblatt that previous crises triggered further integration on the European level and infers that the outcome of the Brexit referendum might benefit a joint European foreign and security policy, especially as the UK blocked similar developments in the past. In an op-ed in FT, Centre for Liberal Strategy chairman Ivan Krastev warns that euroscepticism is not the EU’s real enemy, rather euro-pessimism and the feeling that the whole project is doomed. EU leaders must find a vision that keeps the crumbling EU together, and whether people like it or not, the leader of this project is Angela Merkel. No strong leaders can be found in Brussels. EU’s future is in the hands of Germany.

Kauppalehti recalls that it is also possible that Ms Merkel could fail. And several media in Germany, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Finland, all state that Angela Merkel initiated a “diplomatic offensive” in order to discuss the future of the EU. She will meet as many leaders of member states as possible. In an article in Milano Finanza, Roberto Somella regrets that the three leaders’ visit to tomb of Altiero Spinelli demonstrated the lack of “concrete gestures” towards a united Europe.

However, on a positive note, in an editorial in România Liberă, Ovidiu Pecican writes that no major crisis would manage to definitively endanger a project which 27 states were working upon and which had consolidated itself, with each step taken by these states. German economist Hans-Werner Sinn argues in an article in Il Sole 24 Ore that it is “absurd” to accuse the British of being xenophobic in view of the Leave campaign in the Brexit referendum. He explains that the EU must eliminate the “magnet” effect of welfare, or else it will “fall apart”. Indeed, it is “impossible” to satisfy freedom of internal circulation, the welfare state and the inclusion of migrants in welfare systems.

In SZ, Alexander Zielcke raises the question of whether the British government or parliament is legally in charge of initiating Brexit. According to legal experts Sir David Edward and Derrick Wyatt, the EU cannot force the UK to exit the EU. In an article in Le Monde, former British Minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, ponders whether Brexit will ever actually happen. After the UK leaves the EU, some media are already wondering which country could replace it in the EU’s Top 3. Italy and Spain whose economies are struggling may get this position. Italy is hoping to regain more importance in the EU decision making process; Poland too, wants to get this position, but its recent issue with its constitutional court may be a stumbling block.

Jurek Kuczkiewicz writes in Le Soir that the European Commission will work on EC President Jean-Claude Juncker’s state of the Union speech next week. The Commissioners’ first job will be to honestly acknowledge what is not going well during the informal summit in September. This will mean recognising why leaders have failed to bring answers and provide common action. This will not be easy. When looking at the leaders of the big EU member states, one can understand why many doubt they are ready for a moment of truth. Yet, it is the only possible start to any European recovery.


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