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EU Leaders Pledge To Keep Defending Democracy, Rule Of Law


European leaders take part in the opening session of the EU summit in Sibiu in central Romania on May 9.

EU leaders attending an informal summit in Romania on May 9 adopted a statement outlining commitments to reform in various areas and pledging to defend democracy and the rule of law.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is not attending the summit in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, where EU leaders discussed the bloc's course after Britain's departure.

The summit takes place just two weeks before European Parliament elections that could usher in a new wave of populist and euroskeptic parties who could have a growing influence on the bloc's decision-making.

The meeting adopted the Sibiu Declaration -- a 10-point statement outlining commitments to reform in various areas, which was dubbed by some Brussels diplomats as the "10 Commandments" for the next EU Commission.

"We will continue to protect our way of life, democracy, and the rule of law," the statement says.

"We will defend one Europe -- from East to West, from North to South.... We will stay united, through thick and thin.

"We will protect our citizens and keep them safe by investing in our soft and hard power and by working with our international partners," the statement said.

After rapidly adopting the statement, the leaders began discussions on a tentative "strategic agenda" put together by EU Council President Donald Tusk.

That document could be discussed in more detail at a follow-up summit already under consideration in early June to discuss how election results will impact on the composition of the next commission, the bloc's executive body.

Priorities under discussion in Sibiu also include the rule of law and internal security as well as Europe's global role.

A senior European official involved in drawing up the Sibiu agenda told reporters, "This is a Brexit-free summit and everybody is relieved."

However, many of the leaders have their own priorities.

French President Emmanuel Macron is pressing ahead with an aggressive environmental agenda, while Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban is bickering with his colleagues over immigration.

"The feeling of uncertainty can be overcome only if the EU acts jointly and European leadership sends a clear message it is committed to continue European integration," Romania's President Klaus Iohannis, the host of the meeting who is also a native and a former mayor of Sibiu, said before the summit.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, and AFP
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