With Britain leaving the EU, it’s up to Germany and France to hold the rest of the bloc together

Success hinges on the two core nations building an alliance that can lead the EU towards finding better ways of making the union work for all citizens

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 June, 2016, 11:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 June, 2016, 1:11am

The vote by Britons to leave the European Union caught the 28-member grouping as off-guard as much as it did the rest of the world. An urgent meeting of leaders attending the two-day annual summit of the European Council has been called to begin informal discussions on the union’s future. The council’s president, Donald Tusk, and other key political figures, are determined to keep the bloc together. That is necessary if those in Europe and elsewhere are to continue to strive for growth and development, but it will need the continent’s two largest powers, France and Germany, to join forces and show leadership.

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Years of sustained political effort by French and German leaders are behind the EU’s success. Without the nations’ reconciliation after two wars last century, the European project would have not succeeded, nor would the continent have experienced so sustained a period of peace, prosperity and security. Together, they have been the driving force behind bringing increasing numbers of Europeans together and in doing so, creating a model of integration for other governments to follow. Britain’s leaving the union and the inspiration that has given to populist movements on the continent to follow suit threatens all that has been achieved.

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France and Germany have many shared interests, yet have recently diverged on significant policy issues, among them the EU’s economic strategy amid financial turmoil and refugees from Syria and Africa. That has led to rising mistrust, despite agreements such as that struck by French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over Ukraine in Minsk last year. The foreign ministers of the EU’s six founding states concluded at a meeting in Berlin on Saturday that reforms of the grouping were necessary to deal with different levels of commitment towards unity from member nations.

Hollande and Merkel have separately pledged to strive for improved integration. Success hinges on their nations resetting ties and building an alliance that can lead the EU towards finding better ways of making the union work for all citizens.