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The urgent need for unity and solidarity

***Joint contribution by the Ministers and Secretaries of State from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Sweden (08.07.2016)***

British voters have decided that the UK shall leave the European Union. We respect this sovereign choice even though we regret it. It now has to be implemented according to article 50 TUE as soon as possible to avoid uncertainties.

Populism and EU-skepticism is on the rise. This is exactly why as progressive and committed Europeans we are aware of our responsibility to stand together now and give the urgently needed fresh political impetus for unity and solidarity of the EU. It is not the time to stay defensively. It is high time to move ahead proactively, determined, strong-willed and with a clear pro-European attitude.

No matter which crisis we look at: no single member state will be able to solve today’s main challenges on its own. In our globalized world, the EU is our chance to regain the capability to act. The argument of losing sovereignty within the EU and regaining independence leaving the EU is not only short-sighted, it is plainly misleading. It feeds the nationalist mood around Europe by pretending that individual nation States could be better off and more independent on their own. But it is only by acting together that we can collectively have a real influence and find solutions for global challenges like climate change, the new digital economy, the migration issue or international crises.

We want to strengthen the attractiveness of acting in solidarity instead of acting less and less together. It is thus crucial that the EU delivers concrete results together in relevant fields. Focusing on priorities should also be reflected to a certain degree in the allocation of resources. Only by delivering these results we will be attractive and able to move on together. We, as political representatives, share the responsibility to participate in the collective decision making and make sure that this work is done in a transparent and accountable manner. The EU institutional setup can be up to the task. The European Council, which is prepared and followed up by the General Affairs Council, gives political guidance, while the Ministers in the Council the members of the European Parliament and the commissioners work transparently, and under public scrutiny, to adopt and implement EU policies. We need to fully implement these mechanisms to dispel the notion that European decisions are opaque and regain the trust of our citizens.

Firstly, Europe is surrounded by several different crises. It has been dramatically hit by recent bestial terrorist attacks. It needs to invest in protecting itself and projecting more stability, peace and development in its surroundings.

The single member states are light-weighted acting on their own at the global stage. We thus need to increase the support to protect our common external borders, and turn our neighborhood from an arch of instability into a new ring of friendship and cooperation.

The Global Strategy presented by High Representative Federica Mogherini is a window of opportunity to strengthen the EU in foreign and security policy.

With the comprehensive approach to solve the refugee and migration issue which includes the external dimension and international engagement, a common border protection, a European asylum policy with a fair burden-sharing mechanism based on common values we have the possibility to show global responsibility but also safeguard internally the fundamental pillar of free movement of people. The Schengen area needs to be strengthened.

Secondly, the recent financial and economic crisis still needs to be overcome. Unemployment rates are way too high, particularly among the young generations. Europe must be a promise of prosperity and success. We need a balanced economic growth and a new social consensus for Europe in order to achieve economic and social convergence. Investment, research and training policies must be strengthened to give everyone a chance and reinforce our capacities. The common currency area must also be completed in order to reduce the risk of crisis in the future, strengthen growth, raise employment rates and make progress towards economic and social convergence. This is how we will regain trust in the EU as a common space of prosperity and social stability.

Thirdly, Europe is nothing if the young generations do not believe in it any longer. They are tomorrow’s citizens, political leaders and entrepreneurs. We thus need to reinforce our actions to foster training, entrepreneurship, mobility and citizenship for the young generations, if we want Europe values to be perpetuated. The Erasmus program epitomizes what Europe stands for: it is our best success story. We must reinforce and spread it. With these exemplary concrete steps, we want to reaffirm that the EU is a union of values, before and well beyond a single market. Democracy, rule of law, peace, freedom, respect, equality, engagement, solidarity are essential to make the European model work again. They are an integral part of our identity. Strengthening and living up these values will not only increase our credibility in other parts of the world but also provide fresh impetus for solidarity, unity and cohesion which is nowadays more necessary than ever.

Harlem DESIR, Minister of State for European Affairs, France
Sandro GOZI, Secretary of State for European Affairs
Louis GRECH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs, Malta
Ann LINDE, Minister for EU Affairs and Trade, Sweden
Margarida MARQUES, Secretary of State for European Affairs, Portugal
Tomas PROUZA, Secretary of State for European Affairs, Czech Republic
Michael ROTH, Minister of State for Europe, Germany