Saturday

16th Dec 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short

EU summit leaders on Thursday will not reach any deal on migration, while Italy and the Visegrad Group countries confront each other on the Trust Fund for Africa. The debate on internal EU asylum relocation, however, remains off the table.

Romania searching for EU respectability

Ten years after its accession and a year before holding the EU presidency, the fastest-growing EU economy wants to "engage" more with its partners. But concerns over the rule of law continue to give the country a bad image.

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives