Southern EU Nations Gather in Lisbon

Southern EU Nations Gather in LisbonSouthern EU Nations Gather in Lisbon

Leaders of seven southern European Union nations meet in Lisbon on Saturday to forge a common approach to deal with Britain’s looming exit from the bloc and the new protectionist administration of US President Donald Trump.

The mostly center-left leaders taking part in the gathering—the second by southern EU leaders in four months—are also expected to renew their push for action to boost flagging growth in the EU and tackle the ongoing migrant crisis, AFP reported.

Faced with the rise of “protectionism and populism”, the EU needs urgent reforms to “surpass the economic, social and political legitimacy crisis which is weakening it”, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, the summit’s host, said on Tuesday.

French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni are scheduled to take part in the talks, which are due to start at 11:00 a.m. (1100 GMT). Also holding court are the leaders of Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta.

The leaders will issue a joint statement after the meeting that is expected to focus on the need to boost growth and investment in Europe.

This is a follow-up to a first gathering held in Athens in September 2016 as part of a push by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to create a strong southern “axis” to counter the influence of nations in northern Europe.

The Lisbon summit comes ahead of a February 3 meeting of EU leaders in Malta to reflect on the future of the bloc without Britain, its second-largest economy and its richest financial centre.

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