May 9, 2019 / 10:05 AM / 2 months ago

Highlights - EU heads met in Romania to show unity despite Brexit damage

SIBIU, Romania (Reuters) - European Union leaders meeting in Romania on Thursday will pledge unity “through thick and thin” after the turmoil of Brexit and will have their first go at assigning the bloc’s most powerful jobs.

A member of the honour guard stands guard prior to the informal meeting of European Union leaders in Sibiu, Romania, May 9, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The bloc will hold European Parliament elections on May 23-26 and the outgoing chamber has already named its lead candidates - or “Spitzenkandidaten” - to become the next president of the new executive European Commission this autumn.

The bloc’s national leaders, however, want to hold the process under their control, which sets the scene for much horse-trading this summer. Below please find the leaders’ comments on arriving to talks in Romania’s city of Sibiu.

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

“We will talk about our strategic agenda for the future and will agree a declaration which will make clear that, regardless of our political differences, we all believe — all member of the European Union - that acting together is better.”

“This means domestically, to guarantee peace and prosperity, but also with our voice abroad, advocating our values. The world is not sleeping. We must be innovative, we must be strong, we must be unified.”

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON

“In 15 days some 400 million Europeans will choose... between a project... to build Europe further, differently possibly to reflect different sensibilities... or a project to destroy, deconstruct Europe and return to nationalism. This choice exists among all the European countries.”

“I think that now we need to move faster and with more determination ... on a European renaissance.”

“There are three main things. The first is a real ambition on climate. I am happy that we managed to reach an agreement among the 28 EU countries an ambitious text and sign it today. This text shows very clearly our ambition to have zero emissions of CO2 by 2050 at the latest.”

“The second thing is that we need a Europe that protects, especially at the borders, protects Europeans. For me a review of the Schengen agreement is absolutely essential.”

“The third thing is to build a new social and economic model of growth. This is absolutely essential. We need a Europe that invests in innovation, artificial intelligence, in digital technology, which is at the centre of issues that will define future growth and which can represent us before China and the United States. Otherwise it will be other models that will win.”

“It is also about delivering on the initial promise of our founders of social convergence. That is why I am defending the idea of a European minimum wages for all EU citizens to live better lives.”

“Climate, protection of borders and a model of growth, a social model which corresponds to the original promise — is what I really want for the coming years and which we will today discuss among the 27.”

(On Iran)

“On Iran... It is a good deal and good base. It needs to be completed.”

“Leaving the 2015 nuclear agreement is a mistake because it is undoing what we have already done. That’s why France is remaining and will remain a part of it and I deeply hope that Iran will remain. It’s up to us to work to convince parties and also Iran to remain.”

“We must not succumb to anxiety. We must not allow, if I might say, escalation. We must collectively guard our common security and so to preserve Iran’s presence in the accord.”

GREEK PM ALEXIS TSIPRAS

“We need a (Commission) president that will support the unity of the European Union. So we need a president that will support the fundamental ideas of the European Union, which is solidarity, democracy, social cohesion.”

“We need a president who will be against neo-liberalism, against austerity and of course against this xenophobic approach of some extreme-right. So this president is not (Manfred) Weber, this is my position.”

DUTCH PM MARK RUTTE

“I hope Europe will focus on a few important issues, like the internal market, migration, climate. Big on the big things, small on the small things. Europe where a deal is a deal, where the rule of law and democracy is upheld. That type of Europe.”

LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE

(on the Spitzenkandidaten process)

“I think it’s a little bit out of democratic procedures and treaties.”

SLOVAK PM PETER PELLEGRINI

“It will all depend on the result and whether we will be able to find a compromise to support all of the Spitzenkandidaten. We’ll see.”

LUXEMBOURG PM XAVIER BETTEL

“Spitzenkandidat is a party organisation. Journalists and we speak about Spitzenkandidaten, ask my voters - they have no clue who is the Spitzenkandidat from any party.”

“The Spitzenkandidat would have been a great opportunity if those candidates would also run in your own country, to have trans-national lists, presented in 28 countries, or 27 tomorrow.”

“It was more political choice of parties than really a choice for the people.”

“We have elections, we have to be able to analyse the result and to ignore them would be disrespectful to the voters.”

“Spitzenkandidat candidature was a mistake since the beginning. It’s not too late to ignore it.”

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER:

(On absent UK PM Theresa May)

“I’m missing her.”

LATVIAN PM KRISJANIS KARINS

“There are certain things that member states can handle very well on their own, there are certain things that we cannot handle on our own, one of these is climate change we have to get serious... about our policies, how we invest our common money and also presenting arguments to the U.S. and India to join us.”

CROATIAN PM ANDREJ PLENKOVIC

Q: Who do you support?

A: (Manfred) Weber.

ITALIAN PM GIUSEPPE CONTE

“Talks on future appointments are beginning. Italy aims at having an adequate representation in the European institutions.”

ESTONIAN PM JURI RATAS

“The 27 are today very strong and acting together as one team.”

AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR SEBASTIAN KURZ

“There is no reason to be happy with the status quo in Europe. There needs to be change.:

“If we consider how difficult the decision-making process is and how slowly the EU works in comparison with other super powers then we need a new foundation that would arm us in the face of China, the United States and other international players.”

TOP EU DIPLOMAT FEDERICA MOGHERINI

“On Europe’s day it is highly important that the leaders of the European Union member states come together to show unity and determination to preserve and continue to invest in the European Union project.”

“On Iran... there is a lot of concern from my side personally also on these developments.”

“We remain fully committed to the full implementation of the nuclear deal, it’s a matter of security for us and for the entire world.”

“The European Union investment in non-proliferation continues to be a top priority for us.”

“So far we’ve seen Iran fully compliant with all its nuclear related commitments on the nuclear deal.”

“I hope that our full commitment that is there 100 percent to preserve this important agreement will contribute to preserve it in the future.”

Compiled by Gabriela Baczynska, Jan Strupczewski, Philip Blenkinsop, Andreas Rinke, Luiza Ilie

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