EU | The “European political community” that began with Macron’s idea gets off to a cautious start in Prague

In addition to EU countries, 17 European countries have been invited. Britain and Turkey will also be there.

Prague

In all The leaders of 44 European countries gathered in Prague on Thursday in a new kind of assembly, which some are looking at with curiosity and some with suspicion.

The formation is called the European Political Community, and it started last May when the French president Emmanuel Macron had to rambling speech at the EU Parliament at the end of the Future of Europe Conference.

Read more: French President Emmanuel Macron wants a “European political community” alongside the EU, which Ukraine could also join

The idea caught fire because of the world situation. Macron suggested that countries sharing the same values ​​should come together to talk about political and security cooperation, energy, transport and investments, among other things.

According to Macron, the European political community would not necessarily precede EU membership, and it would not be closed to countries that have left the EU, i.e. Britain.

French President Emmanuel Macron hugged host country Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala upon arrival at Prague Castle.

On Thursday, those who came to the meeting called it a countermeasure to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“This meeting is one way to look for a new order without Russia. It doesn’t mean we want to shut Russia out permanently, but the current one Vladimir Putin Russia will not get a place here”, the person in charge of the EU’s foreign policy Josep Borrell said as he entered the meeting.

The big ones the countries’ big ideas tend to come true, especially when Macron has been persistently pushing the issue behind the scenes. On Thursday, the Czech Republic, the country holding the EU presidency, will host a meeting where, in addition to the 27 EU countries, 17 non-EU countries have arrived.

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Included are the countries of the Western Balkans that want to join the EU, as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and Great Britain.

To be precise, 43 countries can get to Prague, because the Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Fredriksen is caught at the opening of his country’s parliament.

“The discussion is about the common big questions that are weighing on all these countries at the moment,” said the Prime Minister Sanna Marin (sd) upon arriving at the meeting at Prague Castle.

According to him, because of Russia’s attack and actions, it is “extremely important” that the countries come together.

After the opening ceremonies, the countries divide into round tables to discuss peace, security, energy, economy and climate.

The theme of Marini’s table is peace and security. According to him, it is important that after Russia’s move and the suspected sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines, the countries’ support for Ukraine is even stronger.

Marin also has a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Šmyhalin with as well as other meetings that have not yet been announced. Marin himself said when he came to the meeting that the president of Turkey might also meet Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey has still not ratified the NATO membership of Finland and Sweden.

What benefit from such a new type of discussion club alongside the UN, NATO, OSCE, the Council of Europe and other international communities?

The meeting is a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, says one experienced EU diplomat. He also rejects the idea of ​​a debating club.

“You have to start somewhere,” says the diplomat.

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It would not be a small matter if all the participating countries could be brought into even a slightly straighter line in front of Russia. For example, Serbia has not participated in EU sanctions against Russia.

Participating countries have mutual tensions, which have their own risks in terms of the final result. It may be wishful thinking that tensions would be managed to be resolved in such a meeting, but another and worse option would be not to meet at all.

At the same table are, for example, Armenia and Azerbaijan, whose foreign ministers held peace talks in Geneva earlier this week. Almost 300 people have died in the violence between the two countries in September, and a video has circulated on social media in which Azerbaijani soldiers allegedly shoot Armenian prisoners of war.

Especially The countries of the Western Balkans are wary that the European political community does not become a poor substitute for EU membership offered by the EU countries. The EU countries have denied this.

Britain, on the other hand, has been careful that the community does not look too much like an extension of the EU it rejected. Prime minister Liz Truss finally decided to participate.

Many participating countries still have a reserved attitude – they want to see first whether such a composition of 44 countries will work.

Finland also wants to keep the gathering informal without permanent secretariats and other structures. It is already clear that in about six months we will meet again, apparently this time in a country outside the EU. The place has been speculated to be either Moldova or Britain.

Political after the community meeting, an informal summit of the EU countries will be held on Friday, where, among other things, the newly agreed eighth package of sanctions against Russia will be on display. According to Marin, there is also energy in the conversation at that time.

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Marin considered the proposals from the commission, for example, on the regulation of gas prices, to be insufficient.

“We need more concrete measures to curb price formation. Finland has an open attitude to all proposals, including the gas price ceiling.”

Marin responded to the criticism he received when he tweeted about monetary policy when he came to the meeting. It gave the impression that he was criticizing the central banks, that is, he went to a place where political decision-makers don’t often go.

Read more: Sanna Marini’s tweet questioned central banks’ interest rate hikes – the European economy may soon experience the hardest blow since World War II.

“We need to focus on two things: rapidly increasing energy production. Another thing that we as European decision-makers have to discuss and find solutions for is the formation of energy prices. If these root causes cannot be tackled, raising interest rates alone will not bring down inflation,” said Marin.

“It is a completely different matter whether political decisions are somehow aimed at curbing the independent role of central banks. Yes, in my opinion, politicians can also discuss general economic policy coordination, which is unfortunately thin at the moment. We would need more discussion on how to coordinate actions so that we don’t make the situation even worse.”

According to Marin, coordination is needed, for example, in how states react to rising energy prices. Germany has already received criticism for its approximately 200 billion euro energy package, which is also aimed at companies. Not all countries can afford the same.

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