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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Europe's global influence is diminishing, says Irish PM

EU leaders at Davos critical over "lack of solidarity" on refugee crisis and division in Europe

Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar attends a session of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)
Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar attends a session of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP)

Europe’s influence is diminishing in the world, Ireland’s prime minister warned on Thursday.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Leo Varadkar said the European Union could shrink to as little as 15 percent of the global economy in the future.

“We need to stick together,” said Ireland’s leading politician.

Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, speaking alongside Mr Varadkar, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on a panel on Thursday, criticised eastern European for their approach to the migrant crisis.

“There is a total lack of solidarity on the refugee problem,” said Mr Rutte.

“Germany and Holland cannot shoulder the burden… a total lack of trust could be created”.

Mr Rutte said a lack of cooperation had created division between west and eastern Europe.

He added that a rupture had occurred between northern and southern nations on the continent, attacking Italy for their desire to receive preferential treatment on EU budget and fiscal policy.

“[The] EU Commission not acting in Italy has alerted northern countries. People ask me if Italy can get away with not getting their house in order. Its creating distrust.”

The Dutch Prime Minister said he was “not optimistic” on the relationship between northern and southern Europe.

Tensions in recent months between the anti-establishment Five Star Party and EU countries saw Italy narrowly escape EU sanctions after reaching a 2019 EU budget agreement.

Both leaders stressed three key opportunities could open for Europe this year, including greater multilateral cooperation in the face of American isolation.

“Trump is an opportunity to deal with reforms in EU and UN system. We can say Trump is against multi-lateralism, but the EU can be a leader par excellence”.

Mr Rutte stressed that the EU “must do more” on climate change.

EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said she believed that climate change surpassed migration as the most pressing concern for young people in Europe today.

Updated: January 25, 2019 05:45 AM

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