Europe club meets in Prague to build ‘new order’ without Russia

PRAGUE, Oct 6 (Reuters) – The European Union wants the 44 countries gathering for an inaugural European Political Community (EPC) summit in Prague on Thursday to highlight Russia’s international isolation over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, it said the bloc’s top diplomat.

However, the summit is likely to be dominated by disagreements over how to cap gas prices in a bid to stem war-induced soaring energy costs that are suffocating the post-COVID economic recovery.

The brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron, the EPC brings together the 27 member states of the European Union and 17 other countries, including several waiting to join the bloc and the only one that has ever left, the United Kingdom.

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“This meeting is an opportunity to search for a new order without Russia. This does not mean that we want to exclude Russia forever, but this Russia, Putin’s Russia, has no seat,” he said.

Borrell stressed that the EPC assembly included countries from the UK to Serbia to Turkey, stretching from the Caucasus to the North Sea and the Mediterranean.

“This is the signal we want to send that unfortunately we cannot build a security order with Russia. Russia is isolated… They don’t have a seat, everyone else is here.”

The gathering at the sprawling Prague Castle is seen as a huge show of solidarity for a continent beset by multiple crises – including the security and economic fallout from the war in Ukraine. However, the organizers were unclear about the concrete goals of the forum.

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Borrell had said on the eve of the summit that the many leaders would only meet for half a day for a “first exchange.” Questions about the forum’s ultimate purpose, membership and functioning remain unresolved, he said.

Some have already written off the EPC as just another talking shop that will be difficult to manage not only because of its size but also because of its diversity and the traditional rivalries between many of its members, from Armenia and Azerbaijan to Greece and Turkey.

Others saw hope in Britain’s Prime Minister Liz Truss’ decision to attend, a gesture that may pave the way for closer EU-London relations frayed by post-Brexit disputes over Northern Ireland.

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Among the 27 will also be Germany’s €200 billion ($197.50 billion) support package for businesses and households, which many other member states have criticized for damaging competition in the EU’s single market.

Prague Castle is a sprawling complex founded more than 1,000 years ago and includes a cathedral and cobblestone streets, which will be followed by a meeting of EU leaders on Friday.

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Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Michel Rose, RObert Muller, Jan Lopatka in Prague, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; writing by John Chalmers and Gabriela Baczynska; Edited by Josie Kao and Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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