Prague, Czech Republic – If you already were having trouble identifying and differentiating the plethora of institutions criss-crossing the European continent, things might be about to get worse.
On October 6, dozens of European leaders will converge on Prague to take part in the first summit of the European Political Community (EPC), a new pan-European organisation founded in June 2022.
Prague to host first European Political Community summit
Spearheaded by President Emmanuel Macron as France held the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, this new European-wide political grouping aims to gather the 27 EU member states, and up to 17 non-EU countries who are invited to this week’s summit – namely the UK, Turkey, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Israel is also expected to join the Prague meeting.
According to Macron’s initial proposal, the aim of the European Political Community is to foster dialogue, coordination, and cooperation in areas of common interest beyond the mere European Union. Created in direct response to “the dramatic consequences of Russia’s war”, this new European policy framework “will not replace the EU’s existing policies and tools, including the enlargement policy, and will fully respect the EU’s decision-making autonomy.”
The project was quickly met with its fair share of scepticism, with critics seeing it as a disguised French ploy to slow down actual EU membership for countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans – a debate reignited last June when Ukraine and Moldova were granted candidate status.
France, on the other hand, claimed that the new community would help “stabilise our neighbourhood” and provide a long-term vision for the integration of third countries.
A vanity project?
“There can be no shortcuts on the candidates’ path to the EU,” Piotr Buras, head of ECFR’s office in Warsaw, writes in Euronews, calling the European Political Community “a second-tier Europe”. “But the bloc would be well-advised to smooth the process and avoid sleepwalking into yet another enlargement malaise. Whether the European Political Community can ensure that remains doubtful, however.”
The fact that the summit will gather countries who recently left the EU, like the UK, or have no claim in joining, like Israel, also casts doubt on whether the grouping will truly be able to address enlargement issues and not turn into a superficial and redundant platform for empty promises.
“Like the Mediterranean Union, it’ll be a big French project without big success and real impact,” a Baltic diplomat told Reuters, referring to a project of then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
The first summit of the EPC is being held this week at the Prague Castle as the Czech Republic took over the presidency of the Council of the EU, until the end of the year. European leaders are expected to discuss three main topics, namely Russia’s war in Ukraine, energy issues and the economic situation, but it remains doubtful whether concrete measures will be agreed upon.
EU heads of state and government will hold a second informal meeting the next day, on October 7.
Both the UK, whose participation in the initiative came as something of a surprise, and Moldova have already offered to host the second meeting of the EPC.