EU leaders express strong commitment to European unity

European Union – British referendum/priorities for stronger, intensified action – Joint statement by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, Mrs Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy

Berlin, 27 June 2016

On 23 June 2016, a majority of the British people expressed the wish to leave the European Union. France, Germany and Italy respect this decision. We regret that the United Kingdom will no longer be our partner within the European Union.

We have full confidence that the European Union is strong enough to provide the proper responses to this situation. There is no time to lose.

Today, we express our strong commitment to European unity. We are fully convinced that the European Union is vital to making our countries stronger by enabling us to act together, in conjunction with our common institutions, to guarantee our peoples’ economic and social progress and to assert Europe’s role in the world.

For nearly 60 years, the European Union has constituted a unique community of laws, freedoms, and shared values. It allows us to safeguard our European social model, which combines economic success with social protections. It enables us to preserve cultural diversity. The single market, our common policies and the euro have no equivalent anywhere else in the world. These achievements are the cornerstone of our prosperity. Together we defend our interests and free and fair trade in the world. Together we move forward with our energy policy, and together we help protect the climate at the global level. Together we contribute to stability and development worldwide and promote freedom.

We are just as strongly convinced that the European Union can keep moving forward only if it continues to enjoy the support of its citizens.

For that to happen, the European Union must respond to the concerns expressed by its people by clarifying its objectives and the way it functions. It should be stronger in championing its key priorities, when Europeans must join forces, and take a back seat when its member states are better positioned to act. It must remain under the democratic control of its citizens and must be easier to understand. It must act more swiftly, particularly to implement the programmes and projects that directly benefit its citizens.

In a changing world, the European Union should preserve its essential achievements and focus on the challenges facing Europeans today, such as global migration and new threats – particularly international terrorism, which no member state can effectively face alone. It must also strengthen Europeans’ ability to respond to growing international competition while strengthening the European market’s social economy.

Consequently, we propose three essential priorities for stronger, intensified action, based on concrete objectives:

- internal and external security: Europe is facing enormous challenges. They make it necessary to strengthen its shared resources to protect its external borders and contribute to peace and stability in its neighbourhood, particularly in the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East.

We will win the fight against terrorism in Europe only if we act in a united fashion. Terrorism will be defeated only if we show that we are able to rebuild a sense of community, investing in our cities and opposing social marginalization.

We will live up to our responsibilities if we expand our European defence and undertake the commitments required for our joint operations and for our military industry and capabilities. The potential for a real common foreign, security and defence policy has not yet been fully exploited.

- a strong economy and strong social cohesion: Europe must deliver on its promise to ensure prosperity for its citizens. We need greater growth in order to combat unemployment and create jobs, especially for young people, and more investment in order to ensure the strength of our economies in global competition.

The success of the European economic and social model, which combines economic strength with social protection, is dependent upon the definition of an appropriate regulatory framework; better policies for entrepreneurship and the participation of everyone in the working life; strengthened research, innovation and training, which play a key role because Europe’s wealth is primarily based on the knowledge and abilities of its citizens; development of the digital economy in Europe to provide improved services, modern industry and jobs; and full exploitation of the potential offered by energy and climate polices that protect the environment.

For the countries that share the euro, further stages will be needed in order to strengthen growth, competitiveness, employment and convergence, including in the social and fiscal spheres.

- ambitious programmes for young people: Europe will succeed only if it gives its young people hope. We must strengthen European initiatives relating to training, entrepreneurship and access to jobs throughout Europe, such as the Youth Employment Initiative and the Erasmus programme for students, apprentices and young professionals.

The EU represents our shared values: we are committed to peace and freedom, democracy and the rule of law, mutual respect and responsibility, tolerance and participation, justice and solidarity. It is now time to reaffirm these values.

Tomorrow we will propose to the heads of state and government and European institutions that we launch a process that will take place according to a strict timetable and a specific set of commitments, in order to respond to the challenges posed by the result of the British referendum and to formulate concrete solutions that will ensure a good future for Europeans within the EU.

A special meeting of the leaders in September will be devoted to the common challenges facing the 27 member states and to the key priorities on which they must decide. They should also agree on the concrete projects to be carried out in Europe over the next six months to ensure growth and security. The work should start immediately in order to develop the necessary initiatives. Key international figures could contribute to the discussions on the prospects for Europe in a global context.

The meetings of the European Council in October 2016 and December 2016 should assess the progress made to this end and provide the necessary guidance.

The 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, on 25 March 2017, will be an important moment in terms of reaffirming Europe’s unity and our shared commitment to the European project./.

Published on 12/07/2016

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