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German, French ministers plan for 'strong Europe in uncertain world'
June 26, 2016 / 9:44 AM / a year ago

German, French ministers plan for 'strong Europe in uncertain world'

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attends a press conference after a foreign minister meeting of the EU founding members in Berlin, Germany, June 25, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

BERLIN (Reuters) - The foreign ministers of Germany and France have drawn up a nine-page document entitled “A strong Europe in a world of uncertainties” in which they propose common European security and migration policies and strengthened economic convergence.

Acknowledging that the European Union is “being severely put to the test”, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Jean-Marc Ayrault said the bloc was challenged by a series of crises to its south and east while economic growth was on a slow recovery path. Work on the paper began before Britain voted on Thursday to quit the EU.

“Neither a simple call for more Europe nor a phase of mere reflection can be an adequate answer,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Jean-Marc Ayrault said in the paper, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

“To prevent the silent creeping erosion of our European project we have to be more focused on essentials and on meeting the concrete expectations of our citizens,” they added.

The two ministers, whose countries are at the core of the EU, said it was important to recognize that member states had different appetites for deepening European integration.

“We have to find better ways of dealing with different levels of ambition so as to ensure that Europe delivers better on the expectations of all European citizens,” they said.

To this end they proposed three initiatives:

1. A European Security Compact, under which:

- The EU should establish agreed strategic EU priorities for foreign and security policy and promote an integrated EU policy in these areas.

- Those EU member states willing to establish permanent structured cooperation in the field of defense should be able to do so in a flexible manner.

- If needed, EU member states should consider establishing standing maritime forces or acquiring EU-owned capabilities in other key areas.

2. A common European asylum and migration policy. The ministers said:

- We are determined that the EU should establish the world’s first multinational border and coast guard.

- The EU must find a common answer to the rising number of migrants seeking to enter the EU for economic reasons.

- We will work to reduce push factors for irregular migration.

3. Fostering growth and completing the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The ministers said:

- To unlock growth and to increase the productivity of the European economy, a renewed effort for more investment, both private and public, is necessary.

- A deepening of EMU will not come as a big bang but as the result of a pragmatic and gradual evolution.

- An EMU fiscal capacity should start by 2018 at the latest to support investment in the member states most severely hit by the crisis.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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