By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) – The leaders of Germany and France have announced plans on Tuesday to strengthen the European Union’s (EU) capabilities in addressing international security challenges and the refugee crisis.
Speaking at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, following their talks at the Meseberg castle near Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they discussed various new initiatives to reform and strengthen the EU.
“We want Europe to find its place in a multilateral world, we want Europe to play its role when it comes to defending values and convictions, promoting prosperity, more peace in the world and preserving environment,” she said.
The German chancellor voiced support for Macron’s “European Intervention Initiative”, which aimed at developing structures for carrying out joint military operations.
But Merkel also underlined that this initiative should be linked as closely as possible with the EU’s ongoing defense initiative PESCO.
She suggested developing new formats, such as an “EU Security Council”, and argued that in future decisions on foreign and security policy should be taken by majority vote, in order to increase the speed and effectiveness of the EU’s decision making.
“We want to make sure that we don’t always wait for absolute consensus,” she said, and argued that such changes have become necessary to better respond to an ever changing world.
Describing the migration crisis as one of the biggest challenges to the EU, Merkel said Germany and France would continue their efforts to develop a united European response to address this challenge.
“We support the plans of the European Commission and the Austrian Term Presidency to strengthen the security at our external borders,” she said.
A joint declaration issued by Germany and France after their annual government summit proposed setting up “a genuine European border police” building on the existing Frontex to increase security at the EU’s external borders.
The Meseberg declaration also called for creating “a European Asylum Office” which would be responsible of asylum procedures at external borders and help harmonizing asylum practices among the member states.
The declaration highlighted the success of 2016 EU-Turkey deal in countering irregular refugee flows, and suggested developing cooperation and partnerships with origin and transit countries to avoid departures to Europe and fight illegal migration.