At a meeting in Rome on 9 February, the foreign ministers of the six founding members of what became the European Union – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – invoked the spirit in which the foundations of the EU were laid and invited all member states to get behind the fresh approach. For Foreign Minister Steinmeier, the initiative at this time of crisis is “not only about touching base with our past but also about facing the future mindfully”.
Looking back on that development, Foreign Minister Steinmeier pointed out in Rome that it was by no means something to take for granted at the time – it being only ten years after the Second World War and ambitious plans for a European Defence Community having failed not long before.
Triple crisis in Europe
“Times were never easy. And they still aren’t, in what is a triple crisis situation for Europe,” Steinmeier went on, turning to current affairs. The long‑term consequences of the financial and economic crisis, he said, remained to be overcome, we are fighting to keep the UK in the EU and the refugee crisis is an ongoing challenge in all member states. It was therefore key, he said, to continue the “astonishing process of cooperation” that had been under way for 60 years: “That has helped the European Union economically, but it has primarily been a political boon for many who joined later. And these have been 60 years in which we have stood up for our European values and fought for them in the political arena.”
Cohesion in challenging times
After their meeting, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands issued a communiqué calling on all 28 member states to strengthen cohesion within the European Union in these “very challenging times”. On the subject of the refugee crisis, the communiqué prioritises implementing the EU’s joint decisions with efficiency and humanity. It also highlights the crucial need for better management of the EU’s external borders and cooperation with countries of origin and transit.
Refugee crisis – no easy answers
Speaking on this issue during the meeting, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said, “the migration crisis is one example where we need to be clear that those easy answers many people hope for simply do not exist.” He continued:
Any state that thinks this issue can be resolved by going it alone is sorely mistaken. However hard this may be, the only available solutions will be European. And the six [founding members] are saying we should leave no stone unturned in our search for a European solution.
In the communiqué, the six signatories highlight the fact that Europe is successful when member states overcome narrow self‑interest in the spirit of solidarity, and they conclude with an appeal: “We declare and reconfirm our strong commitment to Europe and the European project and invite all other Member States to join.”