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Merkel warns of threats to Europe’s future

Berlin – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of the pressure currently facing the European Union, highlighting the key role that the future of the bloc would play in her next coalition government.

EU "no longer leading the world"

Europe is both "politically and economically under pressure worldwide," Merkel told German lawmkers ahead of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, which is to focus on the bloc's future financing.

"European companies are no longer leading the world in all areas," Merkel told the Bundestag in a policy statement.

Merkel and the leaders of the 27 EU countries that will remain in the bloc following Britain's planned exit will discuss financing after 2020 at their meeting in Brussels.

Germany can only do well if Europe is doing well, Merkel told parliament repeating her well-used mantra about the the EU's importance to Germany.

Her speech comes as more than 460,000 members of Germany's centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) are voting on a new coalition deal with Merkel's conservatives.

"Europe has never been more prominent in any coalition agreement," the chancellor said.

Call for stronger EU role in Syria

In particular, the draft agreement with the SPD included steps to strengthen European economic policy as well as ensuring a common foreign and security policy for the region, along with tackling migration and dealing with the reasons why people flee their homelands.

With this in mind, Merkel called for take a stronger role by the EU in the Syrian conflict.

"What we see at the moment, the terrible events in Syria, the fight of a regime not against terrorists, but against its own people, the killing of children, the destruction of hospitals, all this is a massacre which has to be condemned," said Merkel.

She said that this applied in particular to Russia and Iran, the main allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The EU's future finances will feature prominently in Friday's meeting.

Up to 14 billion euros (17.2 billion dollars) will be lost from the budget because of Brexit once Britain, a major financial contributor, leaves the bloc in 2019, analysts say.

However, there are significant differences among the 27 members on how to respond to the budget loss.

Merkel, who has been unable to form a new government since September's inconclusive elections, has so far not outlined how large the budget shortfall would be and how much additional funding Germany would be prepared to contribute to the budget.