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French and German socialists hatch a plan to save EU

France’s governing Socialists and their allies in the German government are preparing a new push for EU political reforms that would give some powers back to national capitals in an effort to contain possible contagion of the U.K.’s Brexit vote across Europe.

Senior officials in Paris and Berlin’s foreign ministry, led by Social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier, had already started talking about a “Franco-German initiative” several weeks before last Thursday’s U.K. referendum on EU membership. They’ve now stepped up work in order to “ensure the 27 [remaining EU member countries] have a project,” according to a senior French official. The full plan will be unveiled in September, diplomats said.

 Foreign ministers from the six founding members of the EU — Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Italy — met in Berlin on Saturday to talk about the Brexit vote, including on how fast to push for the U.K. to leave the bloc. They also discussed ways to develop the security agenda with the goal of improving the EU’s response time to crisis.

So far, the ideas haven’t been endorsed by Angela Merkel’s chancellory, where officials urged caution. Merkel, whose center-right alliance governs in a grand coalition with the Social Democrats, doesn’t believe such proposals can be rushed out or that they should be pushed without including all remaining EU members. Whether Europe’s Social Democrat leaders, who are meeting on Monday in Paris to coordinate their Brexit response, can push their agenda against Merkel’s resistance is doubtful.

The idea behind the Franco-German initiative is to focus cooperation on areas such as security, foreign policy, border control, the digital agenda, energy, transportation and eurozone governance, but shift other decision-making to national capitals.

“We could undertake a long-term reform but we have a very narrow political support for the reform,” said a senior French official. “We need to have a political process that would clarify what we do, to show that the leaders understand that there’s a problem.”

Whatever EU reforms were considered over the long term, the idea is to have them driven by countries, not the institutions.

“These kind of initiatives are capital driven, Berlin and Paris,” a German diplomat said.

French and German media have reported some details of the plan, specifically on security cooperation.

The French and German proposal will call for a pan-European security platform to improve cooperation among national security agencies, according to a diplomat involved in discussions.

French and German socialists hatch a plan to save EU

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