Thursday

19th Jul 2018

EU divided on answer to Brexit 'wake up call'

  • Some member states suggested the EU Commission would have to be reformed too, to close the gap between the EU and its citizens (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Twenty-seven EU leaders will meet on Wednesday (29 June) for the first time without their UK counterpart to discuss the British divorce and future EU reforms.

Last UK vote to leave the EU rang “alarm bells” across the continent that EU structures are too detached from citizens, giving rise to populism and euroscepticsm.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

Diplomats and officials in Brussels said there is need for deep reflection on how to bring the union closer to the general public.

“The [public’s] attachment to the European project is not enough to offset the negative forces of withdrawal and rejection that are being expressed everywhere in Europe,” one EU diplomat said.

Another diplomat said: “We need to listen and understand that there is an alarm bell, we need to change things”. A third EU diplomat used the same terms, saying: “This [the Brexit vote] is a very serious wake up call”.

The immediate reaction is expected to be a show of unity by the 27, leaving substantial talks for later.

Sources said EU council chief Donald Tusk might draft an informal ideas paper for Wednesday morning to serve as a basis for the summit talks, but that there would be no conclusions on the way forward.

They also said the EU self-reflection process would lack the grandeur of previous intergovernmental “conventions”.

“We don’t expect conclusions on Wednesday, we do not expect another European convention, this process cannot be carried out by ‘wise-men’,” an EU source said.

An EU official noted: “You don't need to be Einstein to understand that if you launch a debate on substance now there will be no unity. In the current context, we cannot … promise things we cannot guarantee”.

New big three

France, Germany and Italy, the EU’s post-Brexit big three, on Monday already called for deeper EU integration in areas of clear common interest.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Francois Hollande and Italian PM Matteo Renzi said in a joint statement (27 June) in Berlin that they have a “strong commitment to European integration.”

They said the EU should work more intensively in areas such as security, economic union, and social cohesion, but take a back seat on issues that capitals can better handle at home.

Germany had wanted stronger economic union, while social cohesion is a priority for southern EU states, which need to create jobs for young people.

The big three promised to start detailed talks in September and to agree a plan by December. They also spoke of reaffirming the European project in March 2017, the EU’s 60th birthday.

In line with that idea, EU council chief Donald Tusk indicated on Tuesday (28 June) arriving to the summit of EU leaders that he would call an informalmeeting of the 27 in Spetember in Bratislava for talks on the EU's future.

But Monday’s statement focused on listing joint policies instead of structural EU reform. It also did not mention how to tackle issues of immediate concern to average people, such as the migration crisis.

Reform, not integration

Meanwhile, other EU leaders think that further integration is not the solution.

Poland said on Monday the EU should draft a new treaty that returns powers from the European Commission to the Council of the EU, where member states meet.

It also called for commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and council head Donald Tusk to resign over Brexit.

There is no appetite for treaty change elsewhere in Europe due to fears that it would open a Pandora’s Box of national demands for opt-ins and opt-outs.

But some officials said the future role of the EU Commission and its president would have to come up for debate in the reform process.

The mood inside the EU corridors was dim, sources said. They said it was necessary to restore trust between member states and the commission and for national leaders to stop scapegoating EU institutions.

“It doesn’t work that the leaders blame the EU for everything. It sends the wrong message [to the general public],” one EU contact said.

Real world issues

Josef Janning, a scholar of EU affairs at the ECFR think tank in Berlin, said the statement issued on Monday by France, Germany and Italy “was careful and cautious” and designed to give the impression of “business as usual.”

He told EUobserver that Merkel did want to rush the UK, but neither the EU, so it does not commit to something now it cannot deliver later.

He said Merkel is herself in a tricky position because there is no consensus on deeper EU integration inside the German government.

Janning advised leaders to quickly address issues of pressing public concern, such as migration and economic structural issues in southern member states, to regain trust.

He said the EU needed a critical mass of member states that were ready to act, noting that the concerns of countries such as Poland or Hungary ought to be, and could be accommodated.

“I would advise to rebuild the political centre in Europe and focus on delivering on the existing crises,” he said.

EU leaders to seek clarity on Brexit date


EU leaders meeting in Brussels will discuss when the legal process for the UK exit from the EU could start, amid growing questions of whether it will happen at all.

Analysis

After Brexit, EU leaders start soul-searching

The general public and financial markets are waiting for the EU's response to the British shock. But when leaders meet at next week's summit, there will be more questions than answers.

Opinion

Euroscepticism: The EU's new normal

EU citizens have fallen out of love with the Union, a study suggests. The only way through the current malaise may be to dismantle some of the EU's pet projects - not least the euro itself.

Brexit vote irreversible, say EU leaders

EU leaders will not push Britain to begin the legal process to leave the EU, but they say there is no alternative after last week's referendum.

Leaders rule out treaty change to reform EU

EU leaders have discussed how to reform the union in the wake of Brexit, but the main faultlines will only be exposed in Bratislava in September. Treaty change remains taboo, for now.

Analysis

Will Austria's presidency give EU a populist push?

As Sebastian Kurz's government takes over the helm of EU-policy making for the next six months, Austrian MEPs from opposing sides weigh in on the EU's youngest prime minister's possible influence on the continent's future.

News in Brief

  1. Johnson slams 'dithering' May in resignation speech
  2. EU border guards to be sent to Macedonia
  3. Juncker investment plan exceeds target
  4. EU will reply 'tit for tat' to US trade measures
  5. EU Commission registers Brexit citizenship petition
  6. EU launches pre-accession probe for Albania and Macedonia
  7. Google faces multibillion euro EU fine for Android
  8. EU wants more guarantees from VW on Dieselgate fix

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us