November 30, 2022

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The new European club meets without Russia

The new European club meets without Russia

  • 44 European meetings in Prague for a symbolic summit
  • Energy and security are on everyone’s mind
  • Truss’ participation offers hope for improved EU-UK relations
  • Doubts about the feasibility of broad European coordination
  • The 27 EU countries will follow their own summit, gas cap on the list

PRAGUE (Reuters) – The European Union and its neighbors from Britain to Turkey gathered on Thursday to discuss the common energy and security problems stemming from Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine at a rare and symbolic summit of 44 European nations, but not Russia.

The Prague meeting is the inaugural summit of the European Political Community (EPC), the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron and bringing together the 27 members of the European Union with 17 other European countries.

Some are waiting to join the bloc, while others, Britain, are the only ones who have ever left.

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“Everyone gathered here knows: Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a brutal violation of the peace and security that we have had over the past decades in Europe,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

We do not accept the annexation of part of a neighboring country.”

Belgian Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo as well as the European Union’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, echoed his comments.

“This meeting is a way to search for a new order without Russia. This does not mean that we want to exclude Russia forever, but this Russia, the Russia of (President Vladimir) Putin, has no seat,” Borrell said.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss, after meeting with the summit host, Czech Prime Minister Peter Viala, confirmed their “strong agreement on the importance of like-minded European democracies representing a united front against Putin’s brutality.”

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Her decision to attend the summit left some hope of a warmer tone between the EU and post-Brexit London, with the two still at odds over trade issues over Northern Ireland.

Defenders of the rally in the sprawling Prague Castle are seen as a grand display of solidarity for a continent mired in multiple crises from the security fallout of the Russian war in Ukraine to dire economic consequences including a severe energy crisis.

Macron said his priority was to build more electrical connections in Europe and lower gas prices.

“We share the same space. Oftentimes, the same history. And we aim to write our future together,” he said. “I hope we can get joint projects.”

no decisions

Beyond the lofty statements, there were doubts about the forum’s concrete goals and actions.

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karenz said no decisions were expected at the symbolic meeting, which the European Union described as just an “initial exchange” of ideas.

“The primary goal is for us all to come together because the Russian war in Ukraine affects us all in terms of security and also through our economies, through rising energy costs. The only way to deal with this is to work together,” he said.

EPC was quickly dismissed by some as just another modern store that would be difficult to manage not only because of its size but also because of its diversity and the traditional rivalries among its many members, from Armenia and Azerbaijan to Greece and Turkey.

The 27 European Union countries will continue to meet on their own on Friday, as tensions persist over Germany’s 200 billion euro ($197.50 billion) energy support package that many of its peers see as harmful to competition in the bloc’s single market.

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At their meeting, EU countries will consider their differences over how to cap gas prices to contain the high energy costs that are hurting the post-COVID economic recovery.

(1 dollar = 1.0127 euros)

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Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold, Michelle Rose, Robert Müller, Jan Lopatka, Michel Kahn, Jason Hofitt and Andreas Renck in Prague and Philip Blinkensop in Brussels; Written by John Chalmers and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Josie Kao, Frank Jack Daniel and Francis Kerry

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.