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Italy says EU relaunch plan to focus on security, growth, jobs
March 10, 2017 / 4:06 PM / in 7 months

Italy says EU relaunch plan to focus on security, growth, jobs

Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni holds a press conference with his counterpart from Britain Theresa May (not shown) at Number 10 Downing Street in London, February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Facundo Arrizabalaga

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders want to “relaunch Europe” with a focus on security and jobs when they meet in Rome in two weeks’ time to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the bloc’s founding treaty, Italy’s prime minister said on Friday.

Paolo Gentiloni said Europe had plenty of reasons to be proud of itself and was confident it will heal the scars left by a prolonged economic and migration crisis and Britain’s decision to leave.

“All leaders showed an interest in using this occasion to relaunch Europe,” Gentiloni told reporters after a regular EU summit in Brussels.

Twenty-seven EU leaders will attend the March 25 event but Britain’s Theresa May will not be present. As host of the celebrations, Italy is in the lead to prepare a text that will set the EU’s priorities for the next 10 years.

The document is still being drafted by diplomats, but EU leaders agreed on Friday that it will focus on four key areas: security, growth, social issues and the EU’s global role.

Gentiloni said the Rome declaration will make clear that members that want to do more together will be able to do so, even if some prefer not to integrate at the same pace. But there will be no reference to a multi-speed Europe, a senior EU official said, as that could upset east European countries who are less willing to cede national competences to Brussels.

Gentiloni pointed to security and migration as the top priority in the coming years as asylum-seekers continue to flood Europe, escaping wars and misery in its unstable neighbours.

Economic growth and job creation will stay at the top of the agenda despite increasing signs of a healthier EU economy, he said, as wide economic differences persist.

He argued that European countries should step up cooperation on social policies such as unemployment benefits or workers’ rights, while acknowledging not all 27 countries back fast progress on these issues.

Europe should also strengthen its global role, by enhancing its common defense capabilities and signing trade deals with more partners, Gentiloni said.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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