EU declaration to voice unity in troubled times

Eszter Zalan, EUobserver, 22.03.2017

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Four days before one of its largest members, the UK, will officially notify fellow EU countries of its intention to withdraw its membership, the remaining 27 leaders of the European Union will gather in Rome on Saturday (25 March) to recommit to the idea of European integration. [...]

Risk of complacency

Janis Emmanouilidis, an analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, said Rome should not be expected to be “a historic milestone”.

“This exercise is about trying to portray unity among the 27,” he told EUobserver.

He said the draft Rome Declaration does not even try to build consensus over “hot potatoes”, divisive issues such as the future development of the union, the monetary union, or the solidarity aspect of migration.

“The text has been watered down on what needs to be done because there is no agreement among the 27,” Emmanouilidis said, adding “everyone is aware that showing unity is the maximum to be achieved” in Rome.

That is not to be underestimated though.

“Showing unity in itself has become a key objective in a Brexit world,” he said.

Emmanouilidis said that with the Dutch election out of the way and with little chance of far-right leader Marine Le Pen becoming president of France, there could be a "political window” to move ahead on controversial issues.

He said the likely election of either Angela Merkel or the strongly pro-EU Martin Schulz as chancellor in September in Germany also helped.

“I fear there is a risk that at the end of 2017 there will not be an ambition to use the window of political opportunity, and there will be complacency,” he added, however.

He said that such behaviour would fuel populist sentiment in the long term.

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