It was with a call to “hold Europe together” that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier responded to the British referendum, the day after the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union. This was his aim as he held numerous consultations with European foreign ministers over the following days, meeting not only with ministers from the EU founding member states but above all also those from eastern European countries.
Initial talks in plenary
The first round of talks was large: shortly after the results of the referendum had been announced on Friday morning (24 June), the foreign and European affairs ministers of all 28 member states gathered in Luxembourg. Speaking after the meeting, Steinmeier expressed his satisfaction that it had been convened so quickly, although of course “not all the answers” were yet apparent. European diplomatic efforts were in full swing over the weekend as these answers were sought.
Talks with founding members and newer member states
The foreign ministers of the six founding members, who have pursued the path of European integration together for the past 60 years, gathered in Berlin on Saturday (25 June). Steinmeier also held numerous talks with the eastern European countries which had joined the EU during the past decade. Immediately after the founders’ meeting, Foreign Minister Steinmeier had a telephone conference with the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – to brief them and to hear their views on the situation.
On Sunday morning (26 June), Steinmeier talked on the phone to his Polish counterpart Waszczykowski. In the afternoon, he received the Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák in Berlin. They combined business with pleasure, watching the Germany-Slovakia football match together after finishing their political talks.
Visegrad meeting with Germany and France
To start the week, Foreign Minister Steinmeier flew to Prague on Monday morning (27 June). He had been invited by the Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek in his capacity as Chair of the Visegrad group, which comprises the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. This group’s talks, which were also attended by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, likewise focused on the ramifications of the UK referendum.
However, the response to such a watershed event cannot be finalised in just a few days. The discussions will continue, for what is important now is to translate the will of the British voters to leave the EU into action and to make the Europe of the remaining 27 member states even stronger.