World Economy

EU Can Progress Without UK

(L to R) Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi attend a press conference.(L to R) Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Matteo Renzi attend a press conference.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union needs to show it can prosper without the UK as she and the leaders of France and Italy sought to chart a way forward for Europe.

“We respect Britain’s decision but naturally also want to make it clear that the other 27 are working for a prosperous, safe Europe,” said Merkel, standing alongside President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on an Italian aircraft carrier to show resolve in mastering the continent’s crises. “We need results,” she said, Bloomberg reported.

The leaders of the three biggest eurozone economies met aboard the Giuseppe Garibaldi on Monday as concern mounts in the EU that its post-World War II construction is ill-equipped to deal with 21-century challenges. Even before the British exit referendum in June, the union was being buffeted by economic turmoil, a migration crisis, rising anti-EU populism and a surge in terrorism.

With future relations between the EU and the UK in limbo for now, continental leaders are trying to move toward an initial vision of the post-Brexit bloc for a summit of all 28 EU countries except Britain next month. Merkel will talk to another 13 leaders between Wednesday and Saturday as she canvasses opinion before in-depth talks at the meeting in Bratislava on Sept. 16.

Part of the Solution

“Many thought Europe was finished after Brexit—it wasn’t,” Renzi said at the joint news conference. “We think that Europe can be a solution to problems, while populists think that Europe is the cause of all problems.”

The Brexit process has laid bare competing visions between those who view closer European integration as part of the solution and countries that want to put the EU’s institutions—and their bureaucrats in Brussels—on a shorter leash.

Driving that debate has been the resurgence of political parties such as France’s National Front, which wants to take the country out of the EU, as well as populist movements in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and across eastern Europe.

One dispute played out Monday as Merkel lauded Renzi’s reforms as “courageous” while insisting that eurozone rules must be applied. With a stagnant economy in the second quarter, Italy has stepped up calls to do more for growth. French officials have said they expect to find a formula that can keep the other two happy without bending fiscal rules.

“The stability pact has a lot of flexibility that we have to apply in a smart way,” Merkel said.

Call for Cooperation

While Merkel renewed Germany’s emphasis on making Europe’s economies more competitive, Renzi and Hollande advocated spending to boost jobs and growth. Faced with a series of terror attacks in France since last year, they said Europe also needs to focus on security, including intelligence cooperation and data sharing.

“We want there to be even more coordination, even though important steps have been taken, in the fight against terrorism,” said Hollande.