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Hollande says Brexit vote ‘tough test’ for Europe

French President Francois Hollande reacts as he leaves after making a statement following Britain's referendum results to leave the European Union, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 24, 2016

French President Francois Hollande said the Britain’s Brexit vote seriously challenged the European Union, adding that he would take initiatives to jolt the bloc back on track.

Hollande said the EU must focus on key priorities like security and defense, border protection and job creation as well as reinforcing the eurozone, while leaving member states to handle what falls to them.

“The British vote is a tough test for Europe,” Hollande said in a televised address, adding that he would travel to Berlin on Monday to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and possibly Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

The leader of the eurozone’s second-largest economy said negotiations over Britain’s exit must be swift. He said he regretted but respected the British referendum’s outcome.

Hollande will also meet with the leaders of France’s main political parties.

Hollande’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, said it was time to reinvent Europe or risk the bloc’s fragmentation. Valls said the vote revealed a malaise within Europe that had been ignored for too long.

“It’s an explosive shock. At stake is the break up pure and simple of the union,” Valls said in a statement. “Now is the time to invent another Europe.”

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