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Germany Looks For New Partners In Wake Of Brexit Vote

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted her counterparts from France and Italy today in Berlin. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports that Merkel is reluctant to give Britain a firm deadline to start separation talks. Her priority right now is to firm up ties with other big players in the EU.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The three leaders who met today in Berlin told a news conference they now have a plan to take to Brussels on how the EU should proceed. They said it will be up to London to start talks about leaving and that there will be no negotiations with Britain beforehand.

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ANGELA MERKEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Merkel added, "we have to show unity now and as we move forward. It shows we are sticking together, and that's really important for everyone watching the EU right now."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MERKEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: She and her counterparts also talked of their desire to strengthen the EU's external borders and their economies as well as provide more jobs for young people. But how the EU is to achieve that is where the consensus fell apart, as it often does within the bloc. The leaders left the solutions to be tackled at meetings in the coming months. Nevertheless, Merkel achieved her objective.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MERKEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: She recently spoke about Germany having a special responsibility to see the EU succeed. It's a sentiment bread into the German psyche since the end of World War 2. Germany needs to be a European partner, not the continent's leader. Seven decades later, national pride remains somewhat taboo here. An exception is made during soccer championships like the current European one when you see the occasional national flag displayed in front of homes or on cars.

RAINER MUENZER: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Rainer Muenzer, who is 57 and a government worker here, says Germany may be on top and has the right to have a major say, but it just can't go it alone. He says he hopes someday the EU will be like the United States, more or less one giant country.

That view is not so widely shared in other EU countries. The Czech foreign minister today warned against any attempt to further integrate the remaining 27 EU member states. The Polish foreign minister even challenged Merkel's leadership. He says his country plans to lead its own informal group of nations within the European bloc. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.