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„There is no point beating about the bush. Today represents a break in Europe’s history, a break in the process of European integration. What the consequences of this decision will be, depends on whether the other 27 member states will prove to be willing and capable to draw not hasty and simplified conclusions from the British vote that would only divide Europe further, but willing and capable to analyse the result with calm and level-headedness and make a joint decision on that basis. In doing so, we should consider the following.
First, Europe is multifaceted. Expectations towards the European Union are as varied as the people of Europe. More and more often we see ourselves confronted with fundamental doubts about the current direction of European integration. That doesn’t just apply to Britain, but in various forms to all member states. We therefore have to ensure that citizens get a concrete sense of how the European Union contributes to improving their own personal lives. That’s a task for the EU institutions as well as the member states.
Secondly, in a world which is growing ever more closely intertwined, challenges are too great for individual states to manage on their own. The European Union is one of the biggest markets in the world. It has to act as an engaged global partner, shaping and wanting to shape globalisation. It is a unique community of solidarity and values. It is our guarantor of peace, wealth and stability. Only by working together will we able to assert our democratic and constitutional values, as well as our economic, social, ecological and foreign policy interests in the global race.
Thirdly, we have to draw our conclusions from the outcome of the British referendum with history in our minds. Even if it is hard to imagine now we should remember, especially in these hours, that the idea of the European Union is an idea of peace. After centuries of terrible bloodshed, the founders of the European Union found a joint path towards reconciliation and peace, culminating in the treaties of Rome signed almost sixty years ago. That is and continues to be anything but a given in the future. We are seeing a world in turmoil: in Europe too we feel the consequences of oppression, crises, conflicts and wars in our immediate vicinity that have cost many lives and uprooted many others from their home countries.
Germany has a special interest in and a special responsibility for the European Union to succeed. That is why I have invited the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, the French president François Hollande and the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi for talks in Berlin on Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday we will continue talks with other member states at the summit in Brussels.
In the European treaties there is a clear set and orderly procedure for member states who want to leave the European Union. This procedure involves several years of negotiations, at the end of which we will have established the details of Britain’s departure from the European Union. While the negotiations are ongoing, Britain remains a member of the EU. All the rights and commitments that pertain to this membership are to be respected and fulfilled until the actual exit. This applies to both sides.
Our goal should be to shape the future relationship between Britain and the European Union in a close and fair manner.”
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