Merkel defends EU, critics talk bloc disintegration

Turkish deputy PM says Brexit shows EU breakup has started. Trump also says EU breakup is ‘on its way’

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday warned against drawing hasty conclusions that UK’s decision to quit the EU will pose as a risk to further splitting Europe.

“What the consequences of this would be... would depend on whether we -- the other 27 member states of the EU -- prove to be willing and able to not draw quick and simple conclusions from the referendum in Great Britain, which would only further divide Europe,” she said.

Merkel instead said the EU is strong enough to find the “right answers” to Britain’s vote to leave the bloc.

Merkel said Friday that Germany has a “special interest” and a “special responsibility” in European unity succeeding. She said she has invited EU President Donald Tusk, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Premier Matteo Renzi to a meeting in Berlin on Monday ahead of a previously scheduled EU summit.

Merkel told reporters in Berlin that Europe shouldn’t draw “quick and simple conclusions” from the referendum that would only create further divisions.

She voiced “great regret” at the British decision to leave the EU and said the bloc must aim for a “close" future relationship with Britain. She emphasized that the country remains an EU member with “all rights and obligations” on both sides until negotiations are complete.

Like her, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker insisted on Friday that Britain’s decision to leave the EU was not the beginning of the end for the bloc.

Answering that question from a reporter at a packed news conference in the EU executive’s Brussels headquarters, Juncker replied simply, “No.” That drew applause from EU officials in the room as Juncker left after taking just two questions.

He had begun his news conference by reading out a joint statement issued earlier by the heads of EU institutions.

Hollande said he profoundly regrets the British vote to leave the European Union, but that the union must make changes in order to move forward.

In a brief televised statement, Hollande said the vote will put Europe to the test, and he called for bolstering security and industrial policies.

He also called for reinforcement of the zone of countries that use the euro. He said: “To move forward, Europe cannot act as before.”

Trump, Turkey: EU breakup begins

US presidential hopeful Donald Trump described the UK leaving the EU as a “great thing.” He also said that the breakup of the EU “looks like it is on its way.”

Similarly, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said on Friday that UK’s vote to leave the EU marks the beginning of the disintegration of the bloc.

“The fragmentation process of the EU has started. Britain was the first to abandon ship,” Canikli wrote on Twitter.

The Brexit campaign and the rise of Europe’s populist right have further dented Turkish hopes of ever joining the EU. Ankara was already frustrated over the slow pace of its own decade-long negotiations to join the bloc.

EU leaders

Meanwhile, EU leaders said Britain will remain a member of the bloc until its exit negotiations are concluded, which probably means at least two years longer.

The leaders of the EU’s institutions said Friday that “until this process of negotiations is over, the United Kingdom remains a member of the European Union, with all the rights and obligations that derive from this.”

They said in a statement that under the bloc’s treaties “EU law continues to apply to the full to and in the United Kingdom until it is no longer a member.”

The statement was signed by European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

(With agencies)

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