EU's big three thrash out post-Brexit vision
By Eszter Zalan
The leaders of Germany, France and Italy will meet on Monday (22 August) to discuss how to mend the European project after Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
The meeting comes three weeks before a crunch informal summit of the 27 EU leaders, the first without the UK, in Bratislava on 16 September.
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Monday's talks will be the second round between Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel, who met shortly after the 23 June British referendum.
They envisaged attempting to bolster security cooperation, economic growth and programmes for young Europeans.
While the three big are trying to pinpoint policies for stronger cooperation, they may face resistance from Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – the so-called Visegrad Four - who aim to propose an alternative plan for less Europe .
On Monday, rising eurosceptcism, the migrant crisis, a stagnant EU economy, and Islamist attacks in Europe, and relations with Turkey and Russia will also be on the table for the three leaders.
They will hold a working dinner and press conference on Italy's Garibaldi aircraft carrier, the flagship of the EU's Sophia mission, which is fighting human trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea.
Italy's defence and foreign affairs ministers have proposed creating "a Schengen-like defence agreement to respond to terrorism", with a "multinational force" under a single command for specific missions, according to AFP. But France and Germany are at odds on how such a force should be financed.
In fact, the economy could be an issue where the three disagree: Hollande wants to double the funds available for the Juncker Plan, a programme designed to stimulate €315 billion of investment in the bloc. But Merkel is cautious with any investment that could loosen fiscal policy only a few years after the euro crisis.
Merkel will kick start a whirlwind of diplomatic efforts on Monday, with a series of further talks this week with the leaders of 13 other member states.
The location of Monday’s summit is symbolic: it takes place on the island of Ventotene off Naples, where detained anti-fascist Altiero Spinelli began co-writing the "Ventotene Manifesto" in 1941, which called for a federation of European states to counter the nationalism that had led Europe to war.
Renzi has called Ventotene the "cradle of Europe". The Italian PM is keen to bolster his country’s role in the EU and also seeks help to cope with its record debt and the migrant crisis.
Renzi is also struggling with political uncertainty - he has staked his premiership on a constitutional reform, which would be voted on in a referendum in October or November.
The reforms include reducing the power of the Senate and giving the central government more control of some policy areas now overseen by the regions. If the referendum fails, Renzi could resign, a move that could prompt political chaos and strengthen the eurosceptic Five Star Movement.