31, March 2017
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for stronger ties with France in order to ensure the European Union’s future a day after Britain triggered the formal process of leaving the bloc. Steinmeier visited Paris on Thursday on his first foreign trip as president since he was elected last month. He met French President Francois Hollande to discuss the path forward after the Brexit vote.
“I’m glad that the Germans and the French are ready to keep moving forward side by side,” he said in a joint statement with Hollande. “Whether we want it or not, Germany and France will have to assume a greater responsibility … to build Europeans’ hopes,” Steinmeier added. For his part, Hollande said the two countries needed to move forward “arm in arm” to create “the Europe of tomorrow”.
Hollande warned against “the trap of nationalism” that EU counties faced, adding that the members needed to show greater commitment to EU solidarity. The two European heavyweights are encountering new challenges after Britain’s exit from the European Union. On Thursday, Hollande told UK Prime Minister Theresa May on behalf of the 27 remaining EU member states that the conditions of the Brexit must be settled.
“First, we must begin discussions on the modalities of the withdrawal, especially on the rights of citizens and the obligations arising from the commitments that the United Kingdom has made,” Hollande told May on phone. After the conditions is settled, “we could then open discussions on the framework of the future relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union,” he said, according to a statement released by the Elysée Palace.
Downing Street, however, said it believed negotiations between London and Brussels regarding the Brexit and the conditions for future cooperation between Britain and the EU bloc “should take place in parallel.” May wrote in articles published in several European newspapers on Thursday morning that she wanted the UK’s new relationship with the EU to ensure the region’s security remained intact.