Fresh impetus for the EU?

The EU must be made fit for the future after the Brexit referendum and in view of economic downturn and the terrorist threat, Merkel, Renzi and Hollande stressed at their three-way summit on Ventotene. But they didn't come up with many concrete ideas, commentators criticise, and demand that all member states should be brought on board before the EU summit in Bratislava in mid-September.

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Irish Independent (IE) /

Big kids join forces at small ones' expense

The three-way summit was an affront to all uninvited EU heads of state and government, the Irish Independent rails:

“It looks like a summit designed to create a specific club within the wider EU organisation, an inner sanctum that will decide what is best for Europe, and, most importantly, what is best for itself. ... Whatever the three amigos claim to the contrary, yesterday's meeting was obviously about damage control - but not about the damage to countries like Ireland or Greece. No, this is the big boys looking out for themselves. Frankly, the EU's greatest strength is the weakness of any viable alternative. No rational person wants each country to withdraw into itself and shut up shop. But if anyone isn't spooked by such open exclusion of the other countries from the Ventotene summit, then they're just not paying attention.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Now all the other states must be persuaded

More difficult than the compromise reached at the mini-summit in Italy will be convincing the other EU member states at the Bratislava summit, the liberal daily La Stampa believes:

“All in all the meeting pointed to an initial agreement on migration policy: more pan-European responsibility for controlling immigration, including deportations. Moreover the refugees are to be able to apply for asylum in a country other than the one they arrive in. … That is quite an achievement. But now comes the hard bit: persuading the other 24 member states (or 25, if you count the UK). The mini-summit on Ventotene can only be seen as a success if the results are carried on to Bratislava on September 16. There is plenty of work to be done to get everyone on board. Europe must cease to be a two or three-speed Europe. The agreement among the leaders of the key countries is vital. But such agreements must not become the main method for governing the EU.”

Diário Económico (PT) /

A meeting without concrete results

João Pedro Dias, a researcher on European affairs, is disappointed with the results of the mini-summit on Ventotene in Diário Económico:

“What does stronger European integration actually mean? Transferring more powers to the EU? … Or reducing the democratic deficit which is still so apparent in many of the EU's institutions? Nothing was said or explained on this, even though it's important. The challenges facing Europe after Brexit certainly can't be solved as long as they keep talking vaguely about principles on which (almost) everyone agrees - until they are implemented. … It would have been important for the mini-summit to produce actual options for action - instead of just generalised announcements.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Only Merkel can unite Europe

The German chancellor's initiative is commendable, Jutarnji List comments:

“Who, if not Merkel, can mould an EU without the British? In view of her activities this week German Chancellor Angela Merkel has clearly taken it upon herself to bring the different positions in the EU in line with each other. Naturally there will be differences, but a consensus must be reached on the key issues. The main one is Brexit, but it is not the only one. Although Merkel's support in Germany is waning she is still far more popular than most of her colleagues. She is one of the few politicians who has countered public opinion and not given up her policy just to give her popularity ratings a short-term boost. Who else can coordinate Europe's unity if not Merkel?”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Blocked by national interests

The meeting failed to produce a common strategy because the three politicians were more focussed on national issues, Il Sole 24 Ore concludes:

“Italy under Renzi has the goal - after the Brexit ordeal - of forming a new union that concentrates more on youths, the unemployed, growth, security, immigration and culture. But the host, like his illustrious guests, has stumbled over his national agenda. In the case of Italy this means securing greater flexibility regarding the EU Stability Pact. The declarations by the leaders of Europe's three biggest economies could have been pieces of a puzzle that could be put together to produce a new Ventotene Manifesto. But they sound more like the inevitable reflexes of politicians at the end of their tether in view of the political situation in their own countries.”

Delo (SI) /

A hot autumn ahead

The meeting is an attempt by Merkel, Hollande and Renzi to give fresh impetus to the European project, Delo comments:

“Following Britain's departure Italy has aligned itself with France and Germany. In the past it wasn’t allowed to position itself alongside the big players, but in the new balance of power it's up there with them. So Renzi is the big winner of the Brexit. The talks are meant to pave the way for the EU summit in Bratislava in mid-September. … The topic 'Europe after Brexit" is at the top of the agenda; economic growth, strengthening the European institutions, security and migration are other important topics. Although everyone is at pains to display unity, major differences persist between the biggest member states. Renzi wants less austerity, Merkel insists on sticking to the Stability Pact and Hollande is mainly interested in security. Europe is in for a hot political autumn.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Ventotene can help promote integration

The meeting on the historically significant island of Ventotene will be decisive for the future of the EU, El Periódico de Catalunya believes:

“Europe is not burning today as it was in 1941 [when Altiero penned his manifesto on the future of Europe], but many of its fundamental values are disappearing in view of the economic crisis and the war developing on its doorstep. The rise of populism with the closing of metaphoric and real borders, the unique challenge of Brexit, the security problems posed by the jihadist threat, the serious consequences of the austerity policy for the citizens, Europe's impotence vis-à-vis the huge migration crisis are all issues that are eroding the idea of Europe. … So the meeting in Ventotene is the appropriate framework for relaunching European integration. This is not a decisive meeting but it will help the three countries to clarify their positions ahead of next month's EU summit in Bratislava. This is why the spirit of Ventotene is so important today.”

Duma (BG) /

Merkel touring Europe to boost her image

After the summit in Italy Merkel begins a tour of Europe. She's just trying to improve her tarnished image, Duma comments:

“Merkel began her tour on a sunny island near Naples on Monday, where she met with other chosen ones - the jabbering Hollande and Renzi the joker. The goal was to make sure everyone knows about the EU's new triumvirate. … After Naples Angela will be touring a selection of European capitals to try and restore some of the trust she has lost in Germany and the West. Bulgaria comes last. She won't be visiting us but as soon as she has recovered from the stress of her tour she will summon the leaders of Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria to a 'work meeting' in a castle near Berlin. But if the 'summoned' are hoping for a display of solidarity or even help [in the refugee crisis] they will be sorely disappointed because the EU doesn't do solidarity.”

More opinions

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) / 24 August 2016
  Mini-summit only ostensibly a new beginning (in German)
Ouest-France (FR) / 22 August 2016
  Agreement between Rome, Berlin and Paris would send positive signal (in French)