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EU seeks to avoid crisis after Brexit

24th Jun 2016
EU seeks to avoid crisis after Brexit

By Ayhan Simsek

 

BERLIN (AA): European leaders moved quickly on Friday to alleviate fears over the U.K. voting to leave the EU.

“The EU is strong enough to find the right answers,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin.

She expressed deep regret over the decision of U.K. voters but said it was now important that EU member states maintain their unity to avoid uncertainty.

“Therefore I have invited European Council President Donald Tusk, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi for talks in Berlin on Monday,” she said

U.K.-registered voters opted by a small majority to leave the EU in a historic referendum on Thursday, sparking worries across European capitals over the political future of the bloc.

Almost 52 percent of voters rejected their country’s 43-year EU membership.

– Leaders express confidence in EU

Leaders of EU institutions also expressed their determination on Friday to further develop cooperation among the 27 remaining member states, after the U.K.’s decision to leave the bloc.

In a joint statement, leaders of the European Council, the European Commission, and the EU Parliament said: “The union of 27 member states will continue. The union is the framework of our common political future.”

European leaders expressed their hope that the U.K. would remain a close partner of the EU in future, but also called for a quick exit process to avoid speculation.

“We now expect the United Kingdom government to give effect to this decision of the British people as soon as possible, however painful that process may be. Any delay would unnecessarily prolong uncertainty,” they said.

– ‘EU was prepared for Brexit’

European Council President Tusk told a news conference in Brussels that the EU had been prepared for a negative scenario and stressed there would be no legal vacuum after the Brexit decision.

“There’s no hiding the fact that we wanted a different outcome of yesterday’s referendum,” he told reporters.

“It is a historic moment but, for sure, not a moment for hysterical reactions. I want to reassure everyone that we are prepared also for this negative scenario. As you know, the EU is not only a fair-weather project,” he said.

– Leaders to discuss Brexit next week

Tusk said leaders of the other 27 EU member states would have an informal meeting next week in Brussels, without the participation of the U.K., to discuss the details of the Brexit.

“All the procedures for the withdrawal of the U.K. from the EU are clear and set out in the treaties,” he said.

“In order to discuss the details of further proceedings, I have offered the leaders an informal meeting of the 27 on the margins of the European Council summit. And I will also propose to the leaders that we start a wider reflection on the future of our union.”

Tusk dismissed speculation about the future of European integration.

“Today, on behalf of the 27 leaders, I can say that we are determined to keep our unity as 27. For all of us, the union is the framework for our common future,” he stressed.

– Foreign ministers to meet in Berlin

Meanwhile, EU heavyweight Germany has invited the six founding members of the European Union for talks in Berlin on Saturday.

The Foreign Ministry announced that external affairs ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg will discuss recent developments in the EU.

The ministry gave no further details about the agenda.

Germany had repeatedly stressed before the Brexit referendum that it wanted Britain to stay within the bloc.

Senior members of the German government had expressed worries that Brexit might trigger similar referendums in other EU member states, fueling nationalist movements and divisions among European states.

– France ‘regrets’ Brexit

Europe’s other major power, France, also expressed regret on Friday over the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU.

President Hollande said the Brexit vote was “a painful choice that he already regrets”.

Speaking after an emergency ministerial meeting on Friday morning to discuss the Brexit, Hollande said the outcome of the referendum would be a “grave test for Europe”.

It is necessary “to become clearly aware of the loss of confidence of the people in what Europe represents,” he stressed.

Hollande underlined the need for change and reforms within the EU and said France had a particular responsibility.

“Europe cannot be like before,” he said.

Hollande also warned about growing support for populist movements across Europe.

France’s far right welcomed the outcome of the referendum in the U.K. Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front, called for a similar referendum in France.

“Like a lot of French people, I’m very happy that the British people held on and made the right choice,” she told a news conference at her party’s headquarters in Nanterre.

“What we thought was impossible yesterday has now become possible,” she said.

Le Pen argued that the referendum had shown that exit from the EU is possible and that neither the EU nor the euro was “irreversible”.

“As I asked for years, it is now the time for a referendum in France and elsewhere in the EU,” she said.

– Greece calls for EU debate

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias argued that the U.K. referendum results showed the failure of European policies and need for a democratic debate on the future of the EU.

“The results of the British referendum confirmed our insistence on the need for a democratic binding discussion on the future of the European Union,” he said.

Kotzias argued that such a debate should bring changes towards democratization of European structures and making the EU serve the people.

“The priority of the European leaders must be abandoning punitive logic and entrenchment policies and the cultivation of a culture of democratic dialogue and consensus,” he also said.

*Anadolu Agency correspondents Hajer M’tiri in Paris and Magda Panoutsopoulou in Athens contributed to this report.

 

[Photo: British Prime Minister, David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron after delivering his resignation at No. 10 Downing street after the UK has voted by 52% to 48% to leave the European Union after 43 years in an historic referendum, in London, United Kingdom on June 24, 2016. Photographer: Kate Green/AA]

 

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