French President François Hollande receives today the leaders of Germany, Italy and Spain in order to begin the process of reflection on the direction the European project should take without the United Kingdom.
The event will serve as a basis for the four large EU countries to outline a common position for the forthcoming European summits, the 9 and 10 March in Brussels and the 25 March in Rome, which will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing Of the Treaty of Rome that gave rise to the European Economic Community.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande – whose two countries are often described as the European Union’s “engine” – will be joined by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Italian premier Paolo Gentiloni.
The EU faces legislative elections in The Netherlands this month, followed by presidential elections in France in April and May.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and paymaster, holds legislative elections in September.
Berlin and Paris say the challenges of Brexit, coming after the eurozone crisis, migration and the Ukraine conflict, make a fresh drive to bolster the EU’s authority more urgent than ever.
Hollande has warned that Britain cannot hang on to the advantages of EU membership after it leaves, saying his message to Britain is: “That’s not possible; the UK will become an outsider to the European Union.”
In an interview with the Guardian and five other European newspapers as he prepares to host a summit in Versailles to discuss the future of the European Union after Britain’s departure, Hollande said he regretted Britain’s decision to leave but stressed France’s long-held position that the UK could not exit the EU while holding on to any of the perks of membership.