French President François Hollande will shortly be embarking on a European tour in a bid to reinforce ties between EU member states following Britain’s referendum to leave the Union.
The French president will be visiting Portugal on 19 July, the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia on 20 July and Ireland on 21 July 19-21, in order to follow up on work already started with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and give a “new impulse to Europe at 27”, says a communiqué released by the French Presidential Palace, the Elysée.
The decision comes after Hollande, Merkel and Renzi told reporters that Europe needed new momentum, including in the areas of “defence, growth, employment and competitiveness”.
The trip will represent an opportunity for France to win the backing of more left-leaning Southern countries, such as Portugal, as well as to seek a rapprochement with Austria and the Slovak presidency of the EU.
Defying the EU, Austria and Slovakia, a member of the Visegrad group, have forged their own policies on migration.
The Visegrad group, consisting of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, has called for a complete change in the functioning of the EU and its institutions.
The Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who presides over the rotating EU presidency, is advocating the return of power from the EU institutions to the capitals and will host a summit on the future of Europe in Budapest on 16 September.
In Austria, the presidential run-off election must be held again on 2 October, which opens the door to a possible victory of Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ). Austria’s outgoing President Heinz Fischer stepped down on 8 July, after 12 years in office.