PRAGUE – Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), will host an informal EU summit later this week.
On Friday, the heads of state and government of the EU member states will discuss the Russia-Ukraine conflict, rising energy costs and its economic impact – the three most pressing problems facing the Union. The constitutive meeting of the European Political Community (EPC) will precede the summit on Thursday.
The EPC, an idea of French President Emmanuel Macron, serves as a platform for policy coordination for European countries. It aims to promote political dialogue and cooperation on issues of common interest in order to strengthen the continent’s security and stability.
The EPC meeting in Prague, the first of its kind, brings together leaders from over 40 European countries. In addition to the 27 EU member states, several Western Balkan countries, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and non-EU countries such as Norway and Switzerland, which are deeply integrated into the internal market, as well as the United Kingdom (UK) and Turkey, the so-called “EU+” meeting was held invited.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss has reportedly decided to attend the meeting as it gives her country “the opportunity to shape a new European forum from within post-Brexit”. London has also proposed hosting one of the next EPC meetings.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will also attend the meeting, Czech media reported, citing Turkey’s ambassador to the Czech Republic. Greece has said it is open to a meeting between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Erdogan in Prague amid a recent escalation in tensions between the two neighbors over their disputes in the Aegean.
According to the Czech EU Council Presidency, the participants will discuss security and peace, energy, climate and the economy. They are also expected to discuss future platform settings, including meeting frequency and host countries. However, the EU has stated that “no formal written outcome of the EPC is envisaged”.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has had a “dramatic impact” on Europe’s energy situation, according to European Council President Charles Michel, with a spillover effect on the economy.
“Our primary goal is to ensure security of supply and affordable energy for our homes and businesses, especially as the winter cold approaches,” he said. “We will assess the decisions already taken in this regard and provide guidance on further action needed to ensure a well-coordinated European response.”
Last week, EU member states’ energy ministers reached a political agreement on a series of emergency measures, including cutting electricity consumption and capping generators’ revenues, to ease current high energy prices. However, the member states remain divided on the cap on natural gas prices.
EU leaders will also examine ways to protect their countries’ critical infrastructure. Several leaks were recently discovered on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea near Denmark and Sweden, an incident reportedly being investigated as likely sabotage.
Michel described the incidents as a “threat to the EU” and tweeted: “We are committed to securing our critical infrastructure.
The leaders will also discuss the general economic situation. Inflation in the euro zone rose 10 percent in September, a new record high since the introduction of the single currency in 1999. Energy prices, which rose 40.8 percent year-on-year in September, were again the main reason behind the acceleration in inflation .
In his letter of invitation to EU member states for the Prague summit, Michel said leaders would discuss ways to continue to provide “strong economic, military, political and financial support” to Ukraine while “enhancing our restrictive measures to… to further increase the pressure on Russia. “
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, last week proposed the eighth round of sanctions against Russia. The proposed sanctions package will further restrict trade to “further isolate and hit Russia’s economy” and includes additional export bans on key technologies used by the military.
EU countries are reportedly close to agreeing on the package, which is expected to be adopted later this week.
In the EU, sanctions decisions require unanimity, and among member states, the Hungarian government has been a vocal opponent of sanctions against Russia.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said late last month that Europe had “shot itself in the foot” with the sanctions.
“Europeans have become poorer (because of the sanctions) while Russia has not fallen to its knees,” he argued, adding that families across Europe would pay the price of the sanctions in their energy bills.
Two demonstrations took place in Prague in September against the Czech government’s handling of the energy crisis, calling, among other things, for the country’s military neutrality and direct contracts with gas suppliers – primarily with Russia – to ease the burden of high energy prices.