Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted there is no “existential crisis” at the heart of the EU, despite admitting the political bloc “facing serious challenges” due to ongoing rifts on a series of key issues.
The Fine Gael leader made the comment as he hit out at his Hungarian counterpart for calling migrants a “a poison” his country “will not swallow” and warned of Ireland’s “red-line” neutrality issue amid plans for increased security on Europe’s borders.
Mr Kenny was attending an informal meeting of the 27 EU heads of state in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, the first to take place without the involvement of Britain’s prime minister Theresa May.
However, while the summit was officially focused solely on the “process of political reflection about the future of Europe” — including increased border security, the ongoing Mediterranean migrant crisis and economic matters — the “crisis” caused by Brexit and growing concerns the EU is splitting on key issues were central to the discussions.
In recent days European Parliament officials have warned of an EU “existential crisis”; France and Germany have called for what some claim is the start of an EU army through increased security measures; and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has warned the Brexit vote is a wake-up call for the political bloc.
However, despite European Council president Donald Tusk saying yesterday’s meeting was an opportunity for remaining EU members to be “brutally honest” about airing their differences amid fears different parts of Europe are pulling in different directions, Mr Kenny said any “challenges” can be overcome.
“The 27 leaders who are all in there to manage this properly are like a massive government of co-operation. There are very different views from the different leaders, obviously, in respect of issues that arise.
“But that’s the challenge of politics, that you can reach agreement by compromise. Clearly there are differences and strong differences, but I think genuinely there was a fix from the leaders to say ‘look, we have to work together to provide for the future’,” he said, adding that while the EU is facing “serious challenges” it is not going through an existential crisis.
However, while emphasising the need for co-operation the Taoiseach took time to specifically criticise his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban for controversial remarks on the migrant issue.
Asked about the Hungarian prime minister’s approach to the migration issue, which was the subject yesterday of a bid by Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia to reduce the number of refugees coming to their countries and is a key rift in the EU, Mr Kenny said he disagreed “entirely”. He said Ireland’s “red line” neutrality will not be affected by any co-operation on increased border security, despite French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel seeking beefed-up border security in the EU due to terrorism risks.
Mr Kenny also re-affirmed Ireland’s position that a special case needs to be made for the Irish border due to the Brexit vote.
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