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Germany, France, Italy urge strong Europe after Brexit vote

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (L), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and French President Francois Hollande arrive aboard an Italian aircraft carrier on the harbor of Italian island of Ventotene, on August 22, 2016. © AFP

Leaders of the European Union’s three biggest economies have held a meeting on an aircraft carrier off Italy to discuss the challenges facing the eurozone, particularly the UK’s decision to leave the 28-nation bloc.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi met Monday on the Italian island of Ventotene for a second mini-summit of the three countries since Britain’s shock decision to leave the EU.

Following the talks, they boarded an Italian aircraft carrier off Ventotene, where they held a joint press conference.

The three leaders renewed calls for bolstering EU security, boosting economic growth and providing better opportunities for the continent’s youth.

On June 23, some 52 percent (17.4 million) of British people voted to leave the EU after 43 years of membership. The vote sent shockwaves throughout the world and caused political turmoil in the country.

The vote raised concerns of a domino effect among other EU members, who urged Britain to start exit negotiations as soon as possible in an effort to end political and economic uncertainty.

“Many thought the EU was finished after Brexit but that is not the case,” said Renzi.

From Left: French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on an Italian aircraft carrier on August 22, 2016. © Reuters

“We respect the choice made by the citizens of Britain but we want to write a future chapter. Europe after Brexit will relaunch the powerful ideals of unity and peace, freedom and dreams,” he added.

In turn, Merkel also said the European Union needs to prove it can still prosper without the UK.

“We respect Great Britain’s decision but we also want to make clear that the other 27 (member states) are banking on a safe and prospering Europe,” Merkel said.

The French president, however, warned that Europe was faced with a risk of “fragmentation and division” and that there is an urgent need for improved security.

Hollande also touched on the issue of the refugee influx, which has brought the biggest crisis to Europe since World War II, calling on EU members to protect the bloc from violence by tightening borders and sharing intelligence.

“To have security we need frontiers that are controlled so that is why we are working to reinforce coastguards and border guards,” said Hollande, adding that “we want more coordination in the fight against terrorism.’

Merkel also addressed the issue of terrorism, saying in the face of the threats posed by Daesh “and in light of the civil war in Syria, we must do more for our inner and outer security.”

The German leader faces criticism at home for her open-door policy in dealing with refugees.

Holland is also under fire for the wave of attacks claimed by Daesh on the French soil, while the Italian premier faces a referendum on constitutional reforms this fall that could lead to his ouster.

The trilateral meeting was heavy on symbolism as the three leaders also paid tribute to the tomb of Altiero Spinelli, an Italian intellectual seen as a founding father of European unity.

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