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Merkel: Brexit won't stop EU expansion

Germany's Angela Merkel has said that the European Union will continue to grow with or without the UK. Her comments came on the sidelines of a summit to discuss West Balkan EU membership.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that the British vote to leave the European Union will play no role in whether several West Balkan nations are admitted to the bloc. The third annual meeting to discuss the possible future of countries such as Albania, Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the bloc was held in Paris on Monday.

"Nothing has changed with Britain's decision. This is what these countries were afraid of," Merkel told the press. She said the only thing that mattered in their bids, some of which have been ongoing since 2000, was that the nations fulfill a list of previously agreed requirements.

Merkel was hosted by French President Francois Hollande, and the pair were joined by EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini as well as Balkan leaders.

"We have a lot of work and effort before us, and obligations. But it seems to me that we have clear and unequivocal prospects in Europe," said Serbian Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic, while making it clear that his country would never be "subservient" to Europe.

The shadow of the Brexit vote was clearly hanging over the summit, though, as the decision in Britain has thrown the unity of the EU into question, along with pro-Russian sectors of society in countries like Serbia aiming to turn their nations towards Moscow instead of Brussels.

Cooperation on transport, energy and economic projects were also on the agenda for the meeting, as well as working together to stem the flow of jihadis back into Europe and combat extremism.

"We have to think about how to do all we can to neutralize these terrorist threats, foreign fighters," said Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic.

es/kms (AP, dpa)

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