European political community: why 44 leaders from the continent are meeting in Prague

Jacques Serais with AFP, edited by Laura Laplaud
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11:03 a.m., October 06, 2022

Emmanuel Macron is expected early Thursday afternoon in Prague in the Czech Republic, where the first meeting of the “European Political Community” is being held, this brand new format, initiated by the French president, which brings together a large part of the continent. , except Russia. They will be 44 leaders from the continent to meet by 2 p.m. 44 Heads of State and Government pose together for a family photo.

A photo that aims to make an impression

The “family photo” in the imposing Prague castle which dominates the old town aims to mark the spirits at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin is once again brandishing the specter of nuclear weapons and when the continent fears an energy crisis without previous. “This photo is very important”, explains an adviser to the president and is intended as a demonstration of unity and a clear message addressed to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Europe is united and well beyond the strict framework of the 27 members of the European Union. Despite Brexit, British Prime Minister Liz Truss will be in the frame as will Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Volodymyr Zelensky the President of Ukraine, also a member of this CPE, will speak by videoconference. “It was Emmanuel Macron’s idea when he proposed it on May 9 in Strasbourg,” recalls an adviser. The idea of ​​”bringing the continent together”.

What will emerge from this first meeting?

But beyond the photo and the symbol, the vagueness remains on what will concretely emerge from this first meeting as the differences between certain countries are glaring, as the trajectories of certain countries are different vis-à-vis the European Union: Norway, Ukraine, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Moldova, Serbia, Azerbaijan… What common denominator between declared (and impatient) candidates for membership, countries which know that the door is closed to them for a long time and the United Kingdom, which six years ago chose to leave the EU with a bang? And Armenia and Azerbaijan, both members of this community, are currently at war.

The CPE, an antechamber?

Will the EPC be long-term or will it join the long list of short-lived projects on the continent, like the European Confederation proposed in 1989 by François Mitterrand? Doesn’t it risk, finally, becoming an antechamber in which candidates for membership wait eternally? It is a “complement” and not an “alternative” to the process of joining the EU, assures Emmanuel Macron.

“There is a display issue against Putin which is important”

On the program for this first summit: working groups, a dinner, but no final declaration signed by all the participants. The organizers hope for the announcement of possible concrete cooperation projects, in particular on energy. “There is a display issue against Putin which is important,” said Elvire Fabry. But if the image of the 44 leaders gathered will have weight, “it will not be enough”, she warns. For the future, France hopes for a meeting in the spring of 2023 with the announcement in Prague of the name of the next host country, which would not be a member of the EU. Moldova is in the running.

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