The sixth South EU Summit: Southern leaders unite for a more unified EU

All in all, now more than ever, it is increasingly more important to work towards a compromise if the EU project is to blossom


By Neil Portelli

Neil Portelli is Director of EU Policy & Legislation at MEUSAC

Tomorrow (Friday), two weeks after the European Parliament elections and a few days prior to the European Council meeting,  Southern Europe’s heads of state will be gathering in Malta for the sixth South EU Summit.

The summit, first piloted in Athens back in September 2016, brings together the heads of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta.

Representing roughly 40% of the European Union’s population along with half of its coastline, the summit has evolved into a continued gathering among Southern European leaders engaging in discussions aimed at bringing the best out of similarities across the Southern Member States to present a united front on various objectives.

This is also done in the context of the informal gathering held in Romania which saw the signing of the Sibiu Declaration, setting the stage for a more united Europe committed to safeguarding democracy.

The last South EU Summit was held in Cyprus in January this year, and discussed issues such as Brexit, migration, economic growth and climate change, many of which are still outstanding issues.

So what should we be expecting from the upcoming Summit to be held in Valletta?

EU Parliament election results have been mixed with eurosceptic parties doing very well in some Member States while being heavily defeated in others.

While failing to win enough seats to paralyse EU politics, such parties now still have enough presence to make a difference and potentially thwart pro-European party plans.

All in all, now more than ever, it is increasingly more important to work towards a compromise if the EU project is to blossom.

A number of top EU jobs are now up for grabs with the outgoing Parliament having already picked their preferred candidates for the leadership of the Commission.

The two top picks are conservative German Manfred Weber and Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans. To that end, it is probable that the Summit will see the Southern European states work together to develop a unified stance on who will take the post of Commissioner, along with other top posts.

A potential unified stance in relation to the Multi-Annual Financial Framework  (MFF) 2021-2027 will also probably be considered.

With negotiations on this front still ongoing and already behind in terms of schedule, such models for future growth will most probably be discussed in further detail so as to maximise potential for future growth in the Southern region.

With Brexit edging closer, it is estimated that Britain’s departure from the Union will generate a hole in the EU budget equivalent to €10 billion annually.

However, new policy priorities such as migration, security, climate change and innovation require the EU to do, and spend more.

To bridge this gap, EU Member States must decide whether to raise contributions, cut funding of existing policies, increase the Union’s own resources by means of additional contributions, or strike a combination of the three.

This summit is crucial in the sense that it is very much linked to decisions that will help shape the EU in the coming years. Its ultimate objective should be to contribute towards uniting and strengthening the EU in the midst of the upcoming challenges Europe will be facing.

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