Four-way summit on the future of the EU

At their mini-summit on Monday in Versailles, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Spain spoke out in favour of a multi-speed Europe. The Spanish press welcomes the fact that Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was present at the meeting. Commentators from other states, however, see good reasons for their countries not being included in Europe's leadership ranks.

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El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Spain goes from patient to chief physician

Spain counts for something in Europe once more, El Periódico de Catalunya comments enthusiastically after the four-way EU summit in Versailles:

“Within the space of six years Spain has gone from being the sick man in Europe to forming part of the team of chief physicians trying to revive the ailing continent. One has to acknowledge that Mariano Rajoy's presence at the informal summit in Versailles - together with the German, French and Italian heads of government - has put Spain back in the navigation bridge of the European Union where [Spanish prime minister from 1984 to 1996] Felipe González once managed to make an appearance but which José María Aznar [1996 to 2004] swapped for George Bush's Texan ranch. … Of those who convened in Versailles, François Hollande and Paolo Gentiloni are about to leave their posts and Chancellor Angela Merkel is behind the social democrat Martin Schulz in the polls, with the xenophobic Alternative for Germany waiting to pounce. So compared to the positions of other European leaders Rajoy's unstable stability is almost like a peaceful oasis.”

Gość Niedzielny (PL) /

Poland should not be part of core Europe

If the EU member states are divided into different categories Poland has its place in the second group, Gość Niedzielny believes:

“Ultimately the question is whether the direction taken by the first category will also be good for Poland. A deepening of EU integration will no doubt go hand in hand with a common budget, tax harmonisation, debt redistribution and a greater harmonisation of social policies. Do we really want to pay taxes as high as those in France, or to repay Italy's debts? Do we want to give financial support to the unemployed migrants in Germany? What's more, the border between the two categories is likely to run between Western and Central Europe. As it turns out, however, economic growth in Central Europe is now markedly higher than in the west of the Continent.”

Jornal de Negócios (PT) /

Portugal must get in line behind others

Portugal is not in an economic position to be part of core Europe, Jornal de Negócios points out:

“The debate about a multi-speed Europe is not new, but it is realistic. It is the acknowledgement of the fact that a Europe in which everyone is sitting in the same boat won't be able to move forward. And this should be taken seriously. Portugal's prime minister refuses to see the country relegated to the follow-up group. … He has made it known that Portugal will 'always' be at the fore. We wouldn't have expected him to behave any differently. … But the following question poses itself: does Portugal really fulfil the prerequisites for belonging to the leading group? No! A country that can't admit that you can't distribute wealth that you haven't generated and that continues to spend money it doesn't have can't align itself with the EU's foremost states and move towards federalism.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

A weak EU led by weaklings

The mini-summit has failed to create the impression that the four participants have the situation under control, Il Sole 24 Ore observes:

“First of all the four big leaders are not demonstrating strong leadership at the moment: François Hollande is on the way down and will exit the political stage on May 7. And Angela Merkel, the deus ex machina of European politics in the last decade, is no longer so sure that she will receive a fourth mandate. … If the goal was to put together an uncomplicated Europe that is confident of its indispensable role in the global age and enjoys the broad support of the people, the weakness of its top politicians would be a problem, but not an insurmountable one. But their weakness is compounded by the fragility of an EU that is growing more and more ungovernable owing to conflicts of interests.”

Slate (FR) /

Quartett clinging to the status quo

Unfortunately no decisive impulse for Europe's recovery can be expected from these four domestically weakened politicians, Slate complains:

“It's hard to imagine the diners in Versailles agreeing on a spectacular initiative that can rise to the challenge Europe faces after America's withdrawal following the election of Donald Trump. With four lame ducks gathered around its sickbed, Europe is in a bad way. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who had been charged with presenting a project on the occasion of the anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, has advanced five hypotheses. They include a leap into federalism - a term he himself doesn't dare to mention - and the maintenance of the status quo. It is to be feared that this last solution, decorated with a few flourishes, will win out.”