Prague Summit creates dialogue between countries at odds

According to international media, tensions continue to simmer under the surface of group consensus.

Ioana Caloianu

Written by Ioana Caloianu Published on 07.10.2022 14:15:00 (updated on 07.10.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Despite an unclear agenda, the first meeting of the European Political Community (EPC) Thursday received praise for offering a discussion platform for leaders from Europe and its neighborhood. As Czech Prime Minister and host, Petr Fiala emphasized, EPC was not to replace the existing formats of cooperation, but to enable a sincere discussion, and help European countries move forward.

Historic meetings pave way for closer ties

An illustration for Fiala's success was a meeting between Turkey and Armenia, AP reports, which is the first of its kind since the two historic foes agreed to mend ties. “I sincerely believe that we will achieve full normalization (of relations) on the basis of good neighborly relations,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said after an informal meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, adding that the meeting happened "in a friendly atmosphere."

Erdoğan also met with Fiala and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that focused on energy policy, gas supplies, migration and EU-Turkey relations, ČTK reports. Von der Leyen later said it was a "good" meeting on Twitter.

A conspicuous absence

While Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal travelled to Prague for the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy joined the other leaders by video link. The Ukrainian president addressed the absence of Russian diplomats, which placed Moscow at odds with the rest of Europe. Faithful to its Russian ties, Belarus was also missing from the summit.

“There are no representatives of Russia with us here — a state that geographically seems to belong to Europe, but from the point of view of its values and behavior is the most anti-European state in the world,” Zelenskiy said according to AP. “We are now in a strong position to direct all possible powers of Europe to end the war and guarantee long-term peace,” he said. “For Ukraine, for Europe, for the world.”

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Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo echoed his views, saying “if you just look at the attendance here, you see the importance. The whole European continent is here, except two countries: Belarus and Russia. So it shows how isolated those two countries are.”

Tensions simmering under the surface?

As AFP notes, the photo of all the leaders present at the summit pointed to tensions that continue to simmer under the surface of group consensus. The setting shows Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the left of President of the European Council Charles Michel, despite Budapest's close ties to Moscow, which puts it at odds with the rest of the bloc.

In a meeting yesterday with Czech President Václav Klaus, also known for its pro-Russian sympathies, Orbán said sanctions must be "reconsidered" because they did't meet expectations. "The war is not over, the prices in Europe have gone down, but Russia is making good money from the situation," he said, according to MTI newswire, cited by EUobserver.

The only over conflict at the summit took place between Erdoğan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. "Their entire policy is based on lies, they are not honest. We have nothing to discuss with Greece," Reuters cited Erdoğan as saying. He added that Athens understood Ankara's message when Turkish officials have said "we may suddenly arrive one night," which some interpreted as a direct threat to Greek territorial integrity.

Summit doesn't bring Britain closer to EU - Truss

British Prime Minister Liz Truss told media that her participation at the summit isn't a sign of the UK seeking rapprochement with the EU post-Brexit, according to Reuters.

"This is not about moving closer to Europe. This is about working with Europe on issues that we both face. And we both face rising energy costs," Truss said in response to a question from a reporter.

Truss confirmed French President Emmanuel Macron was indeed a “friend,” not a “foe,” despite recent tensions between Paris and London. Macron confirmed that the two nations were indeed on friendly terms, saying "We share the same Continent, I hope this is the beginning of the day after,” according to Politico.

Where to from here?

Moldova's capital Chisinau will host the second EPC summit, which Moldovan President Maia Sandu said could help her country to join the EU sooner, according to denik.cz. Future hosting countries will include Spain and Britain.

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