Foreign ministers of the six countries that founded the European Union
The EU is facing multiple crises, as it struggles to prevent Britain's exit, revive its stagnant economy and maintain its borderless Schengen area amid an influx of migrants and terrorism threats.
The Italian Foreign Ministry said ministers would discuss ways to relaunch European integration and find "an effective and united response" to current challenges, ahead of next year's celebrations for the EU's 50th birthday.
Ahead of the talks, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Italian daily Corriere della Sera that calling basic EU principles into question was "playing with fire," but denied that the bloc's future was in jeopardy.
"I have no doubt that the European Union will continue to exist," the minister said.
However, there is EU disaffection among younger generations and whether that problem will be solved "will depend a lot on how we will overcome the refugee crisis," said Steinmeier, whose country took in 1.1 million migrants last year.
Steinmeier also said Britain should not leave the bloc.
"Without the United Kingdom we would lose a strong player and I cannot imagine it. The EU would be poorer, weaker and less open to the world. That is why we are working on a compromise, which at the same time should not call into question European treaties," he said.
The six founding members meeting is a format proposed by Italy and includes the country currently holding the EU's rotating presidency - the Netherlands - but leaves out sizeable member states like Britain, Spain and Poland.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said last month that France and Germany - the EU's biggest nations and its traditional powerbrokers - should stop dominating decision-making.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - 20:47