The leaders of almost all European countries gathered in the Czech capital, Prague, on October 6 for the inaugural meeting of the European Political Community. Is this just another discussion platform? Or a useful forum for achieving objectives?
Radio Free Europe analyzes the main points from a day characterized by numerous meetings.
What is the purpose of the European Political Community?
Many people, including some officials from various European countries, wondered in advance what the purpose of this meeting was. It was something unknown or as one diplomat put it, “a blank canvas”. Besides, aren’t there enough summits, institutions and organizations that bring the continent’s politicians together? Apparently not.
Judging from the instructions and official statements, during and at the end of a day full of plenary sessions, bilateral meetings and round tables, the conclusion seems to show that the European Political Community was indeed something positive and that the leaders liked the format “more free”, in which everyone seemed to run into each other in the maze of corridors in Prague Castle. No one questioned its usefulness—at least from the outside.
So what is the European Political Community, then? There was no final statement; there is still no real structure, no budget, no secretariat, or for that matter no flag and logo. “An informal platform” is how the host of this organization, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, described it, noting that this political community offered a space to discuss all kinds of current issues between countries that rarely meet each other. the other. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, the initiator of this initiative, called this community, “an opportunity to build a strategic intimacy in Europe”.
Was anything really achieved?
In thick lines, three things. First, that it makes sense to continue this initiative.
Second, the next three venues: the Moldovan capital of Chisinau in May 2023, followed by Spain later that year, and then the United Kingdom in the first half of 2024. The host countries will rotate among the 27 countries EU members and the 17 countries outside the EU.
But the third and most important achievement was perhaps the meeting itself, or at least its symbolic value. Amid the war in Ukraine, the continent’s largest in decades, all the guests showed up, even though they might not agree on many issues. When historians look at the common picture taken in Prague, two notable exceptions stand out: Belarus and Russia. This image alone says a lot.
As for those decisions that were actually made, everything was rather unclear. For the next summit in Moldova, the leaders will work on “joint projects”.
While there was nothing concrete, Macron pointed to several areas where he thought more cooperation could be possible: securing key infrastructure such as pipelines, cables and satellites; increasing capacities against cyber attacks; creation of a support fund for Ukraine; drafting a common pan-European energy policy; and explore the possibility of having more university and student exchanges.
Considering so many politicians were in attendance, it was a fairly quiet event. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, too often controversial at these kinds of meetings, seemed in good spirits and British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who isn’t having the best week politically at home, seemed to be enjoying herself. She even declared that Macron was “a friend” after publicly doubting her relationship with the French president during the British Conservative Party leadership campaign over the summer.
But if you scratched a little under the surface and you could clearly see that there was some tension. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki used much of his speech to criticize Germany, saying Berlin cannot dictate European energy policy — building tension over what could happen during an informal summit of EU leaders. of the EU on October 7. Everything at that meeting, from gas price caps and energy market interventions, will show the real divisions within the EU.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić also had his reservations about Croatia, accusing Zagreb of removing a paragraph from the EU’s latest sanctions package, in which Serbia and other Western Balkan countries that have no access to det would benefit from an exemption, which would allow them to still import Russian oil (crude) at sea.
Even the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did not miss the opportunity to somewhat stir the atmosphere, using the time he had during the joint dinner, to accuse Greece of escalating tensions – comments which the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, countered by saying that Ankara should stop challenging the sovereignty of the Greek islands.
Talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan continue
It all started with an early photo that emerged from the summit showing the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Nikol Pashinian and Ilham Aliyev, along with Macron, Erdogan and Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban. This was followed by an officially arranged meeting between the pair, Macron, and European Council president Charles Michel, who has become increasingly involved in efforts to ease tensions between Baku and Yerevan following recent border clashes.
This meeting lasted for more than an hour and according to reports they met again later in the same format. And, after the final press conferences on the evening of October 6, when most of the other leaders were long gone, the same quartet returned to the conference room for another round of talks.
A source with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me that the South Caucasian pair actually spoke to each other several times in the run-up to the summit.
After a long night, they reached an agreement under which Armenia will host a two-month EU civilian mission along its border with Azerbaijan, starting in mid-October — a mission with which Baku agreed to cooperate.
It remains to be seen what change this agreement will bring to the strained relationship between the two countries, but it is worth noting that both Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to recognize Russia’s declining influence in the region and the need to seek elsewhere for brokers./Rel
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