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Italy Brings German, French Heads to EU Symbolic Birthplace

The three leaders pledged their commitment to European unity and plotted a common proposal to relaunch the European project
By The News · 22 of August 2016 07:59:53
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, the Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi, right, and the President of France François Hollande brief the media during a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, No available, photo: AP/Markus Schreiber

The leaders of Italy, France and Germany are heading to one of the symbolic birthplaces of European unity in a bid to relaunch the European project following Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Economic growth, improved security and new job options for young people in Europe are among the topics expected to be discussed.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Holland will start their meeting on the Italian island Ventotene, where they will pay respects at the tomb of Altiero Spinelli, who in 1941 began co-writing the “Ventotene Manifesto.” The document, which called for a federation of European states to counter the nationalism that had led Europe to war, inspired European federalism.

The three will then head to another symbolic location for the summit: the Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi, which is coordinating the EU’s migrant rescue operation.

“Two symbols in one: idealistic values and concrete commitment,” Renzi wrote Monday of Ventotene and the Garibaldi in his weekly newsletter. “We want that the Europe after Brexit — the Europe hit in its heart by terrorism — will relaunch the powerful ideals of unity and peace, freedom and dreams, dialogue and identity.”

Italy has a lot to gain from a reinvigorated EU as it copes with flat GDP, the migrant crisis and political uncertainties over a constitutional referendum this fall on which Renzi has staked his government’s survival.

Renzi has called Ventotene the “cradle of Europe” and is keen to highlight its historic role in the founding of the EU as Italy seeks even greater integration, particularly on the security front to help it cope with waves of migrants, and flexibility from Brussels as it tries to rein in its record public debt.

FILE - In this Monday, June 27, 2016 file photo, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, the Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi, right, and the President of France Francois Hollande, left, leave a news conference during a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin. Italian Premier Matteo Renzi has invited his German and French counterparts to pay their respects at the tomb of one of the founding fathers of European unity in a symbolic bid to relaunch the bloc after Britain's clamorous decision to leave the EU. The location for Monday's summit carries particular resonance as Europe confronts Islamic extremist violence, economic stagnation and continued anxiety over the implications of the Brexit vote.  (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, the Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi, right, and the President of France François Hollande, left, leave a news conference during a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin. Photo: AP/Markus Schreiber, File

Monday’s mini-summit will serve as a warmup for an EU-wide summit in Bratislava in September designed to chart the EU’s post-Brexit way forward. It follows an initial three-way huddle by Renzi, Merkel and Holland in Berlin in the days immediately following the June 23 British referendum.

There, the three leaders pledged their commitment to European unity and plotted a common proposal to relaunch the European project focusing on three key areas: improving security, boosting economic growth and strengthening options and programs for young people.

Charting a course is difficult until Britain formally begins the exit process, probably next year, and lays out proposals for its future relationship with the EU.