German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday the EU is in a “critical situation,” as 27 of the bloc’s member states began a meeting in Slovakia, their first summit-level gathering since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union.
Buffeted by crises that are unlikely to be resolved until elections next year in France, Germany, and the Netherlands, the 27 EU leaders—Britain’s Theresa May isn’t attending—will try to forge common ground on issues such as an economy that has struggled to recover after the global recession, security cooperation following several terrorist attacks, and external defense in the face of a resurgent Russia.
“Brexit” won’t be discussed, though European leaders have acknowledged the European project is facing an existential crisis following the U.K.’s vote in June. One topic that will most certainly come up is migration. Member states—and their citizens—are sharply divided on the issue of asylum-seekers, many of them Syrian, who have sought refuge in the EU. More than 1 million people have entered Europe since 2015, most of them headed to Germany, which announced an open-doors policy for those fleeing the Syrian Civil War. But the Central and Eastern European EU states—specifically Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland—have chafed at the idea of an EU-mandated quota system that would distribute the migrants among the member states; the EU would fine those states that don’t comply.