Merkel calls EU summit a critical moment

BRATISLAVA , Slovakia, Sept. 16 (UPI) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the European Union as being in a critical situation as EU ministers met Friday, without the United Kingdom, for a special summit.

“We have to show with our actions that we can get better,” she said, noting a need for improvements in border security, the unified fight against terrorism and cooperation in defense and in job growth.

Heads of state and foreign ministers of 27 countries met in Bratislava, Slovakia, with the prime topic the future of the EU after a vote by Britain to leave. The summit’s goal is the charting of a new course for the EU, mindful of the reasons behind the Brexit, as identified by European Council President Donald Tusk: fragmentation, populism and Euroscepticism.

In a “Bratislava letter” prior to the meeting, Tusk identified points of discussion for dealing with Britain’s exit from the EU.

“I think it is important that we make an honest assessment of the current situation to provide the best possible basis for building our future together,” Tusk wrote. “Our objective in the future negotiations should be, on the one hand, to establish the best possible relations with the U.K.; on the other hand, however, we should stick to the Treaty and be cool-headed, consistent, and fully united as well as firm in insisting on a balance of rights and obligations. If we do so, there will be no room for doubt that it is a good thing to be a member of the Union.”

The letter calls the crisis over the migration of refugees “the tipping point” for the Brexit vote, in which British voters chose in June to leave the EU. It also mentions, in light of terrorist attacks in Europe, that it is “equally important to combat terrorism effectively,” and that the EU must earn the trust and respect of Europeans.

“Following Brexit, business as usual is not an option. We can either come out of this crisis weaker and conflicted, or stronger and more united,” Tusk wrote.

Tusk will brief leaders Friday on his meeting with the British Prime Minister Theresa May, although the EU position on the Brexit is expected to remain the same: It refuses to negotiate with the United Kingdom until the government triggers Article 50, the constitutionally mandated mechanism for departing the union. EU leaders are also expected to reaffirm that Britain must accept freedom of movement of workers in order to gain access to the single market.

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