Their talks on the island of Ventotene also looked at the future of the EU in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave.
Following the vote in favour of Brexit, the planned EU meeting in Bratislava is designed to make it clear that the other 27 member states "believe in a prosperous and secure Europe", stressed Chancellor Angela Merkel at her meeting with Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and France’s President François Hollande. The meeting on Ventotene is only "one meeting of many" before the informal summit meeting to be held in Bratislava on 16 September.
"It will be the task of the 21st century to guarantee people security again in Europe, while still keeping alive European values," said Angela Merkel at the joint press conference aboard the Italian navy’s aircraft carrier "Guiseppe Garibaldi", which is part of Operation SOPHIA in the Mediterranean. She continued that Operation SOPHIA reflects "Europe’s humanitarian responsibility as well as the fight against human traffickers and smugglers, who trade in people’s lives".
Their visit to the grave of Altiero Spinelli on the island of Ventotene was a mark of respect for "the roots of the European Union", said the Chancellor. The EU has its roots "in some of the darkest moments of European history" she said. The fact that it became reality was "the positive message of our time".
The talks on Ventotene were intended as preparation for the informal meeting on the future of the EU following the UK’s vote to leave. The summit meeting is to be held on 16 September in Bratislava. Alongside the heads of state and government of the 27 other member states, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission will attend the meeting in Bratislava.
On Ventotene, the three leaders consulted on ways of stepping up internal and external security, making the EU more competitive and innovative, and giving young people in Europe better prospects.
The Chancellor met Donald Tusk , President of the European Council, on 18 August in Meseberg. This meeting too focused on preparations for the Bratislava meeting and support for the President of the European Council. More talks with other heads of state and government are to follow.
To prepare for the meeting in Bratislava, Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet other heads of state and government and the Presidents of the EU institutions. On 26 August, for instance, she will attend talks in Warsaw with the Prime Ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. In the evening the Chancellor will then host a meeting in Meseberg with the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. On 27 August she will meet with the Austrian Chancellor and the Prime Ministers of Slovenia, Bulgaria and Croatia. And on 24 and 25 August the Chancellor will be visiting Tallinn und Prague.
As the Chancellor explained in the government statement she delivered in the German Bundestag on 28 June, it is now essential to move the EU forward. "Every proposal that can lead the 27-member EU out of this crisis is welcome. Every proposal, by contrast, that strengthens the centrifugal forces that are putting such strain on Europe, would have unforeseeable consequences for us all, and would split Europe," she said. And that is why she will do her utmost to prevent this, she added.
The European debate should not be limited to the question of more or less Europe, said the Chancellor. "What we really need is a successful Europe; and a successful Europe is a Europe in which the people can participate, and with which they can identify. It is a Europe that tangibly improves their lives," she explained.
In the view of the German leader, security for the people of Europe and the protection of the EU’s external border will be the main focus of the Bratislava meeting. She believes that what the EU now needs is job creation, competitiveness, economic growth and innovative force.
The island of Ventotene is inextricably linked to the European unification process. A number of European visionaries, including Altiero Spinelli, produced the Ventotene Manifesto there in 1941. Although many elements of the manifesto cannot be applied to our time, in retrospect the initiative can be seen as delivering an important impetus for the subsequent process of European integration. Altiero Spinelli was a member of the European Commission from 1970 to 1976, and as of 1976 he served as a Member of the European Parliament. He played a key role in producing the "Spinelli draft" (the Draft Treaty establishing the European Union), which was adopted by the European Parliament on 14 February 1984.