(AFP) – EU leaders will tackle security and migration policy as well as economic growth at a key September summit in Slovakia to plot the bloc’s future without Britain, Angela Merkel said Thursday.
“The Bratislava summit will accent ways that we can improve economic power, create more job for young people and now to boost internal and border security,” Germany’s chancellor said at a joint press conference with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka in Prague.
The informal meeting on September 16 will go ahead without Britain after its voters chose to leave the bloc in a June referendum.
Talks among the bloc’s 27 remaining members are likely to be challenging as Berlin’s preferred vision of a centralised, federal Europe clashes with proposals for a confederation of nation states popular among leaders of eastern EU members.
Migration policy is another highly controversial issue on the agenda, with eastern members the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia refusing to take in refugees under an EU-wide quota system championed by Berlin.
Several hundred protesters, including members of anti-Islam groups, rallied in central Prague Thursday against Merkel and her decision to open the EU’s doors to refugees and migrants last summer.
A leader of Germany’s anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant Pegida movement, Tatiana Festerling, was also present for the demonstration.
“There are diverging views on how to distribute migrants across the EU, but on many other issues opinions converge,” Merkel said, pointing to an EU agreement with Turkey to stem the flow of mostly Syrian refugees to Europe.
“Bratislava is not a decision-making summit, more an agenda-setting summit,” Merkel said Wednesday in Estonia on the first leg of her three-nation whistlestop tour that also takes her to Poland on Friday.
“It’s good to listen to as many single countries in the EU ahead of the summit, also in smaller groups.
“Brexit means that we will miss an important partner, so we have to build the work of the 27 very carefully and thoroughly.”
Czech police said they arrested a man Thursday for attempting to drive his black Mercedes into Merkel’s motorcade in Prague as she travelled from the airport to government headquarters.
Police spokesman Jozef Bocan told AFP, that the suspect was in police custody and Merkel “had not been in danger”.