EU to lay out strategic plan after election shock
By Honor Mahony
EU leaders meeting in Brussels Tuesday (27 May) agreed the EU must be more strategic in its approach and clearer about the division of powers between local and European level.
At an informal meeting in Brussels, politicians had a first stock-taking since an EP vote at the weekend that shook up the traditional political order in several member states, including France, the UK, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, and Greece.
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With far-right, eurosceptic, and anti-establishment parties represented much more strongly in the incoming parliament, EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy said that voters sent a "strong message" which was at the "heart" of the meeting's dicussions.
He said the EU must set "strategic" priorities for the coming years, focusing on economic growth, jobs, a "more developed" economic and monetary union, climate change, and energy union.
Touching on migration – EU freedom of movement has caused some of the most heated debates in members states – Van Rompuy said "key freedoms" must be preserved "while ensuring security and fighting irregular migration, crime and fraud".
EU institutions have achieved "common understanding on what should best be done at European and what at national level" said Van Rompuy.
British leader David Cameron has led the reform-the-EU charge. On the way into the meeting he said: "The EU cannot just shrug off these [EU election] results and carry on as before.
"We need change that recognises that Brussels has gotten too big, too bossy, too interfering. We need more nation states, Europe only where necessary."
Van Rompuy plans to talk with EU leaders individually about what changes they think are needed and will turn their input into a "strategic agenda" paper to be discussed at another summit towards the end of June.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: "A strong message is needed that we are shaping Europe so it becomes more functional, to better respond to the needs of people."
She also underlined France's key symbolic and political place in the EU, after French voters caused an earthquake by giving the lion's share of their ballots to Marine Le Pen's anti-EU, populist National Front party.
"France is defining for the EU and the eurozone. As Germans we have the utmost interest that France is on a successful track. I will do whatever I can for France to be on a growth track, otherwise it is not possible for the eurozone to regain its stability."
French President Francois Hollande noted that while the different member states had different voting results, the EU vote could be characterized by a rise in the number of eurosceptics and a low turnout.
He called the National Front's success a "trauma for France and for Europe" and said voters need to be listened to.