Europe’s progressive governments will fight to protect the rights of EU and British citizens as a top priority in the negotiations on Brexit, leaders from the Party of European Socialists agreed today.

Socialist and social democrat prime ministers and presidents from across Europe met to agree common positions on the Brexit negotiation guidelines, as well as other challenges facing the EU, in advance of the full European Council later today.

They expressed their strong support for the political process in FYR Macedonia, which started with the election of the new Speaker of the Parliament, and encouraged dialogue between the parties in the best interests of the country.

On Brexit, leaders agreed that the EU must first and foremost protect the rights of its citizens, including 3 million EU citizens currently living in the UK and more than a million Brits in other EU countries.

PES leaders will also push for a fair settlement for the island of Ireland, recognising the vital interests of both Northern Ireland and the Irish republic in maintaining a frictionless border and close trade relationship between the two territories.

PES president Sergei Stanishev said:

“During the Brexit negotiations, our duty is to remain united, and to work relentlessly towards an agreement that protects the interests of our citizens.

“We want concrete progress on our priority issues – protecting the rights of EU and British citizens, addressing the specific issues faced by Ireland, and agreeing the principles of the financial settlement to ensure that the UK fulfils its existing commitments.

“Uncertainty around all these issues is already having a real impact on the economies and prospects of our citizens. We can only support discussions on the future relationship between Europe and Britain once these urgent issues have been resolved.”

High on the agenda of a meeting of Party of European Socialists were recent events in Macedonia. Leaders condemned the violent attack on opposition MPs and expressed their support for PES member party SDSM.

Mr Stanishev said:

“The current crisis in FYR Macedonia should be resolved with dialogue and negotiations. It’s clear that the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia is able to form a government, and they should be offered the opportunity to do so.”

Leaders also pledged their support for European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans in his efforts to support democracy and the rule of law in Hungary, whose right-wing government recently violated academic freedom.

In a discussion initiated by Swedish prime minister Lofven together with Antonio Costa and Paolo Gentiloni, leaders discussed the need for concrete steps to establish a truly social Europe, to regain the trust of citizens who depend on Europe for improvements to their daily lives.

All socialist prime ministers and European Commissioners expressed their deep gratitude to President François Hollande for his strong and pro-European leadership of France, and for his commitment to the cause of European socialism.

Mr Stanishev said:

“We owe our thanks to François not only on behalf of France, but on behalf of the whole of Europe. It is no exaggeration to say that the eurozone is whole today largely due to his efforts.”