“It’s a unique forum”: Prague hosts new European Political Community

Petr Fiala and Ursula von der Leyen

More than 40 leaders gathered in Prague on Thursday afternoon for the first ever summit of the European Political Community. It is a new grouping set up by France that also includes many states that are not EU members. At the summit I discussed its aims with Czech deputy foreign minister for Europe, Jaroslav Kurfürst.

Some people may be wondering, what is the European Political Community and do we need it? What’s the Czech position on it?

Jaroslav Kurfürst | Photo: Věra Luptáková,  Czech Radio

“This is a new format, the format of European countries which respect civilised behaviour in international politics, rule-based international order, or the Helsinki final principles.

“It’s good to have it right now, when there is this unseen, illegal Russian aggression against Ukraine.

“And what is attractive, I think, is that there are no formal structures, no institutions – this is just the inter-governmental discussion of the leaders.

“And second, you don’t have any limitation on the agenda.

“This is not a purely economic, or security, organisation: This is a platform where the leaders can discuss.”

There have been suggestions that the French created this idea with a view to slowing the further enlargement of the EU. Czechia is, I guess, broadly for further enlargement. Does this create a divide?

“No, we are comfortable with the current, let’s say, direction of the EPC.

“Because when we heard the speculation that it could be some replacement for, or slowing down of, the enlargement process, then we of course asked our French partners and friends – and we were assured this is not the case.

Petr Fiala and Maia Sandu | Photo: Ondřej Deml,  ČTK

“Then we were also following closely what French politicians are saying in public.

“There was a meeting of Maia Sandu, the president of Moldova, who I think in May – or just when this idea was born – was in Paris.

“And President Macron himself was on record that this is not the case; this is not an alternative to enlargement, and the purpose is not to slow down enlargement.”

What message is this meeting in Prague today sending to Russia?

“Well, they are isolated, they are in trouble.

“And there is a unity of European countries who are behind the rule-based international order and behind the key principle of international law.”

If I understand it right, the European Political Community is only going to meet once or twice a year. Do you think it will have a future? Do you think it will still exist and be of some value in a few years’ time?

“Of course it will depend on the leaders’ feeling, how they will like today’s discussion.

“But my personal guess is yes, it will be interesting.

“Because as I said, this is a unique forum not bound by the topic and a very broad platform for discussion.”

Tomorrow at Prague Castle there’s another summit here – the regular informal summit of the EU. Does either of these two events have priority for the Czech government?

Photo: Ondřej Hájek,  ČTK

“Both, of course.

“We are so pleased that we can host this European Political Community.

“It’s an inaugural event. If you remember back to 2009, there was another sort of premiere, of the Eastern Partnership summit.

“We were quite proud of hosting it, and I think the Eastern Partnership proved that it was so useful, because it prepared these countries for reaching the point of candidate status.

“And of course the informal European Council is always the high point of any presidency, so we are looking forward to it.”

Author: Ian Willoughby
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