Written by Hervé Delphin, Head of Division and Strategic Planning at the European External Action Service
The first summit of the European Political Community (EPC) took place in Prague on 6 October 2022, on the margins of an informal European Council meeting, and against the backdrop of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
French President E. Macron had launched the idea on 9 May. It was later supported by European Council President Ch. Michel and European Commission President U. von der Leyen in her State of the Union 2022 address. EU-27 leaders agreed during the European Council meeting in June 2022 to inaugurate the EPC with the aim of bringing together countries on the European continent to foster their cooperation on issues of common interest, revolving around peace and security, the economic situation, energy and climate, and migration and mobility. They stressed that such a framework will not replace existing EU policies and instruments, notably enlargement, and will fully respect the European Union’s decision-making autonomy.
In Prague, 44 heads of states or governments (27 EU Member States, 6 Western Balkans, Ukraine (President Zelenskyy in VTC and Prime Minister Shmyhal physically), Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, United Kingdom and Turkey) and EU institutions leaders were brought together on an equal footing to foster political dialogue and cooperation on issues of stability, security and prosperity. They agreed that the next meeting will take place in 6-month time in Moldova (an EU candidate state), in one year in Spain (EU Presidency then) and in 1,5-year in the UK (a non-EU state). The non-institutionalised format of the EPC, with light structure, little scripted agenda and free high level and confidential exchanges, no negotiated final outcome document, and with significant time availed for side-meetings and bilaterals, helped to attract and generate interest from the participants.
The think tank and academia community, as well as media assessed the Prague EPC summit largely positively, as a transnational pan-European platform of cooperation at times when other channels remain obstructed. They noted a strong united signal of continental condemnation directed at Russia and Belarus. It has also been a powerful message to the rest of the world about Europe’s sincerity in facing and addressing consequences of the Russia’s war, such as regarding economic security and energy resilience, and rules-based multilateral order as enshrined in the UN Charter. Among other outcomes, of particular notice is a quadrilateral meeting between Azerbaijani President I. Aliyev, Armenian Prime Minister N. Pashinyan, President Macron and President Michel, which led to an agreement to establish a civilian EU mission in Armenia alongside the border with Azerbaijan.
The next EPC summit is planned for 1st June 2023 in Chișinău, Moldova, with the participation of 47 states and 3 EU institutions leaders. A further EPC Summit is planned for the second semester of 2023 and will hosted by Spain, which will hold the rotating presidency of the EU in that period.
As High Representative/Vice President of the Commission, J. Borrell commented on his blog: “While many aspects remain to be clarified, for me at least a few things are clear: [t]he EPC can be no alternative to EU enlargement” and “[i]t must add value to existing institutions and formats, like the OSCE, Council of Europe and EU frameworks like the Eastern Partnership”; and “[i]n all the areas that leaders will discuss (security, energy/climate, migration), there could be concrete projects to undertake, to boost resilience across the continent.”