German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said European Union countries shouldn’t always have to move in lockstep on major projects as the EU seeks to hold together after Britain voted to leave.
“We want a ‘flexible union’ that takes on the big questions effectively, but doesn’t oblige each member state to take each new step jointly,” Steinmeier said in remarks prepared for a conference in Berlin on Monday. At the same time, EU countries that want to take joint initiatives shouldn’t be held back by those that don’t want to join in, he said.
The comments reflect the search by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and other EU leaders for unifying themes as the U.K. prepares to exit and anti-EU parties across Europe question the need for the union. Merkel says the EU should focus on practical steps such as boosting competitiveness and fighting unemployment rather than grand visions.
Steinmeier’s sketch of the EU’s future aligns with the view of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said in June that EU members will probably “advance pragmatically” and sometimes “move ahead in groups of states, at different speeds, via coalitions of the willing.” Schaeuble is a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, while Steinmeier’s Social Democrats are her junior coalition partner.