Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday that “Europe must change or face an existential crisis which could lead it to an impasse,” after a summit of the European Union’s 27 remaining states at a medieval castle in Bratislava – for the first time since Britain voted to leave.
The summit was held in a bid to hammer out a new vision for the bloc, torn by deep divisions over the refugee crisis, the economy and its direction.
Tsipras said there was consensus that the project of European integration is no longer a source of inspiration for its citizens.
“Therefore, Europe must have a new vision,” he said, adding that despite divisions over what measures need to be taken, the idea of a socially sensitive agenda is slowly gaining traction.
“I’m leaving [the summit] with guarded optimism that something might change,” he said, stressing that notions of social cohesion had been completely forgotten at summits of previous years.
He also urged more flexibility in order to achieve social cohesion. “We must stop believing that rules are the 10 Commandments of Moses written in stone,” insisting that the tools for growth must be geared to alleviate inequalities.
“Priority must be given to the countries hit by the crisis,” he said and referred to growing inequality within states and between northern and southern countries.
According to a spokesman of Donald Tusk, Friday’s meeting was held in a “good atmosphere” and “there were no recriminations.” However, disagreements over the core issues of migration and the economy were evident.
Nothing concrete was expected from the summit, apart from a road map of reforms which would be finalized over coming months.
Expectations were dampened somewhat by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who noted that Europe cannot solve the problems of unemployment, terrorism and growing immigration rates in the span of a few months.
More comprehensive proposals are expected to be submitted at a summit in March on the 60th anniversary of the EU’s founding treaty in Rome.
Tsipras returns to Athens on Saturday and will address the ruling SYRIZA party’s central committee on Sunday which is convening ahead of its congress on October 13-16.
Over the weekend, he is also expected to meet with the governor of the Bank of Greece, Yiannis Stournaras, in the wake of a raid – as part of a corruption probe – of the company offices of his wife on Thursday.