Europe inaugurates a new forum for cooperation and dialogue without Russia

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Europe inaugurates a new forum for cooperation and dialogue without Russia

The 27 leaders of the < strong>European Union and 17 other neighboring countries now have a new space for cooperation on the continent: a Dialogue platform baptized with the name of European Political Community (EPC in its acronym in English) that has started this Thursday in the Czech capital of Prague, marked by the war in Ukraine, and with two notable absences that show the isolation they live on the European continent: the president of Russia, Vladímir Putin, and that of his Belarusian ally, Alexander Lukashenko, turned into a kind of outcasts since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. “The fact that the 44 invited countries have decided to participate is a sign”, celebrated the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, about a forum that aspires to meet twice a year. ;or to strengthen the security, stability and prosperity of the European continent.

“Europe has a lot of problems right now and we need to look for solutions. The biggest problem Europe is facing right now is an aggressive war. Russia continues its unjust aggression against Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is not open to negotiations, his u “The only objective is to conquer territory. Russia's actions last week confirm this. Holding referendums in occupied territories was a dirty trick that the international community cannot take seriously,” warned the Czech Prime Minister and host. ;n of the meeting, Petr Fiala, in an opening session in which the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelenski (by videoconference), the Norwegian Jonas Store, the Albanian < strong>Edi Rama and the British Liz Truss.

The idea of ​​creating this space for dialogue was launched on May 9, coinciding with Europe Day, by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to bring positions closer together with countries that aspire to join the EU, with neighbors that are not interested, and even with others that have chosen to leave, such as the United Kingdom. The rest of the European leaders endorsed the initiative and this Thursday its inaugural session took place in the Spanish room of the Prague Castle. The meeting was attended by 44 heads of state and government: the 27 of the European Union (except the Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen), Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland , Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, -represented by its Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal although it was Zelenski who spoke and the United Kingdom.

Orban and the sanctions against Russia

Although some of them also have important bilateral quarrels -Greece with Turkey, Serbia and Kosovo or Armenia and Azerbaijan- the only two neighbors who have been left without an invitation have been Putin and Lukashenko. “The entire European continent is here except for two countries: Russia and Belarus. This shows how isolated they are,” said the Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, which is not opposed to the inclusion of other countries in the future as long as they respect the values ​​that the EU defends: democracy and human rights. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, has gone even further. “This meeting is a way to seek a new order without Russia . It does not mean that we want to exclude Russia forever, but this Russia, the Russia of (Vladí mir) Putin, has no place “, he has settled.

Not all European leaders share the tone of Borrell or De Croo. Although this Wednesday Hungary gave the green light to the eighth package of sanctions against Russia, its prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has called for “rethinking the erroneous sanctions policies of Brussels” because they have not worked. A policy with which the neighboring Serbia does not agreethat, despite international pressure, it does not apply any type of sanction against Russia. “On the introduction of sanctions I say it again: neither Croatia nor any government will determine Serbia's policy”, declared its president Aleksandar Vucic. Despite the tone of both, Zelensky has demanded that all his neighbors “unite” to defeat “the evil Russian” and prevent his tanks from advancing on Warsaw or “again on Prague.”

Not all the countries that have responded to the European call have the same political weight, nor the same interests nor the same values, so The meeting was rather a kind of test on the future cooperation capacity of 44 very different countries. In fact, it isn't. No final declaration is expected after the joint working session and the four working groups dedicated to peace and security, energy, climate and the economic situation. The EU is confident, however, that the meeting will allow activate a new work dynamic-is planned to leave time for the leaders to hold bilateral meetings – and to strengthen the EPC in the long term with two annual meetings. According to diplomatic sources, the next three meetings could be held in Moldova, Spain, coinciding with the six-month presidency of the EU, and the United Kingdom.

The event will also It has allowed the leaders to hold dozens of bilateral meetings and various gangs. The Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, for example, has met with the Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and the Azerbaijani Prime Minister. Ilham Aliyev, in an atypical photo since Ankara, which is trying to mediate in the conflict between the two countries, has not had commercial or diplomatic relations with Armenia since the 1990s, whom it accuses of occupying territories which belong to Azerbaijan. Erdogan has also met with the president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and Fiala to talk about the Russian invasion, energy or immigration.

“Strategic intimacy”

“We must show a message of unity and build a strategic intimacy of all Europeans, whether or not they are members of the EU. The objective is to share the same reading of the situation that affects our Europe, develop a common strategy and maintain a strategic conversation that did not exist until now and could generate divisions”, explained the promoter of the initiative, the French president. s, Emmanuel Macron, who hopes that common projects will emerge from Prague and the commitment to meet every six months. “This idea of ​​a community of values ​​that respects plurality, democracy, respect for human rights and the international order based on rules is a first test and I hope that we can continue in the coming years to consolidate this intergovernmental space” , has valued the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez.