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    (L-R) Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, French President Francois Hollande, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Spanish State Secretary for the European Union Fernando Eguidazu pose for a family photo during a summit of southern European states at Zappeion Hall in Athens, Greece, September 9, 2016.

    Southern European Countries Unite Against Brussels and Berlin

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    Southern European countries worked out a new strategy they are going to unveil at a European Union summit in Bratislava on September 16.

    During the meeting, they will call for Brussels to change the EU economic strategy, including revising strict austerity measures and allowing independent trade policies for its members, the Russian newspaper Izvestia reported.

    Southern European countries are also expected to address the migrant issue at the summit, according to the newspaper.

    "Southern Europe is the region most affected by Europe-wide problems. The structure of the bloc should be changed in order to tackle social and political inequality. For example, Greece needs to restructure its debt while Italy needs to recapitalize its entire financial system. All Southern European countries have serious debt-to-GDP problems," a representative of Kostas Chrysogonos, Greek member of the European Parliament, said.

    According to the source, many of those problems are hard to resolve due to the EU bureaucracy.

    Last week, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held the first Mediterranean EU Countries’ Summit, including France, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Malta. In particular, Tsipras said that Southern Europe should contribute to constructive dialogue over the future of the European Union. Thus, he challenged the dominant role of Berlin in the bloc.

    He added that Southern European countries have a number of issues that require joint actions, including stimulating economic growth, maintaining peace and stability in the region and dealing with the migrant crisis.

    "A meeting of Southern European countries in Greece underscores the deepening divides among the Continent's regions. […] The stances taken by Southern European states have created controversy in the Continental bloc," a report by the American think-tank Stratfor read.

    The meeting was assessed by Brussels as a challenge, according to Izvestia. Tsipras insisted that the summit would serve the interests of the entire bloc. However, it seems that Southern Europe wants to challenge the policy dictated by Berlin and Brussels.

    Trade is one of the best possibilities to improve growth in Southern European countries. This is why almost all regional players have urged to ease or lift sanctions against Russia. According to them, sanctions have had a negative effect on their economies.

    For example, earlier this year, the French parliament passed a non-binding resolution calling to remove the sanctions. Similar moves were approved by the Cyprian parliament and regional councils in northern Italy.

    Being unable to have an independent fiscal policy, Southern European countries can rely mostly on exports to support their economy. Suspension of economic and commercial ties with Russia is a big problem for Southern Europe.

    "Russia and Italy had developed economic ties. In 2013, Italian exports to Russia reached €10 billion a year. But after sanctions they dropped 70 percent. This was a big blow to Italian and other European companies," said Ernesto Ferlenghi, president of Italian Industrial Association in Russia.

    However, according to Stratfor analysts, Southern European countries are not likely to influence the EU’s policy at the upcoming summit in Bratislava.

    "Though Southern European countries will do their utmost to advance their positions at an informal Sept. 16 meeting of the bloc's leaders on the European Union's future course, their relative weakness within the bloc will reduce their chances of success," according to the report.

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    summit, talks, economy, sanctions, European Union, Alexis Tsipras, Greece
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