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EU leaders debate military alliance and refugee resettlement

October 19, 2017 - EUROPEAN UNION

European Union leaders meet in Brussels to debate a formal defense alliance akin to NATO and argue about refugee resettlement.

Germany and Italy have called for the creation of a EU army, but potential changes of leadership in one or both might change the call. Indirectly, United States President Donald Trump revived the EU military alliance debate shortly after his election in 2017 when he refused to say whether he would honor Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which calls for mutual defense. Trump has since softened his stance, but the debate continues.

Several member countries have defied Brussels on the refugee issue. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic are refusing to participate.

The results of elections in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic - and possibly Italy - ahead of the summit will indicate whether populism and authoritarianism are rising or falling. At least one member, Hungary, is flirting with political reforms that concern bloc leaders. The New York Times reports that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has altered the political system to make it easier for his Fidesz Party to stay in power. Although Hungary receives billions of dollars annually from the European Union, his government regularly demonizes the bloc, even spending tax dollars on anti-EU billboards, according to the newspaper.

French President Emanuel Macron wants to lead an effort to breathe new life into the European Union. In a speech in June at Versailles Palace, he said the bloc has "lost its way" and pledged to launch a series of "democratic conventions." He called for a "new generation of leaders" to lead a revival of the EU at a time where it is facing one of the most difficult periods in its recent history. He and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are like-minded on reform issues, but he can't count on her support at the summit because the federal election in September might see her out of office.

EU mulls joint defence spending (Jun 2017)

Europe's deadly paralysis on migration (NYT Jul 2017)

Emmanuel Macron to end France's state of emergency (CNN Jul 2017)

Date written/update: 2017-07-07