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European Political Community fosters hope that UK-EU relations can improve

French President Emmanuel Macron (left) shakes hands with British Prime Minister Liz Truss during the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York City on September 20, 2022.

Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

Europe launches a new political community today, and you’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard about it.

The first meeting of the European Political Community (EPC) on Thursday clearly lacked fanfare. This is a group designed to bring together the European Union and 17 other European countries into what is called the “European Security Council”.

Led by French President Emmanuel Macron, the community is designed to foster better “political dialogue and cooperation” on issues such as security, energy and climate issues. The EU also said it should strengthen “stability and prosperity” on the continent.

As well as the 27 members of the EU, the group also includes the post-Brexit UK, Turkey, Ukraine, non-EU members of the Balkans, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Nevertheless, Brock has struggled to stress that the EPC is not a fast track to EU membership (some countries such as North Macedonia and Montenegro have been on “waiting list” for EU membership since before 2010). placed in the room). Nor is it designed to be, or resemble, a supranational European institution, which would be of particular concern to the British leadership as it continues to navigate post-Brexit waters.

To clarify the parameters of the European Political Community, the EU emphasized in its statement:

UK and EU reset?

In a sign of the UK government’s ambivalence towards the EPC, until a few weeks ago it was unclear whether the UK would even become part of the EPC.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss (who was a “Remain” before the 2016 Brexit vote but now describes herself as a “Leave”) is keen to hone her Brexit tenets and is the leader of the ruling Conservative Party. I am wary of heckling euroskeptics.

Nonetheless, the war on Ukraine’s European doorstep and the regional energy crisis have made the need for unity in Europe a pressing issue. The UK is also keen to claim as one of Europe’s top geopolitical powers.

Truss is scheduled to address the EPC’s first meeting in Prague on Thursday, and the government said: “The UK will take a leading role at the summit to drive international action on national priorities. fulfill,” he said.

According to a pre-published excerpt of her speech, Truss will tell 43 other heads of state: She also suggests that “the same approach should be taken to other challenges before us, including long-standing regional issues such as energy and immigration.”

Paying tribute to Britain’s position post-Brexit (and enthusiastically demonstrating that it is not a failure), Truss also noted that “the United Kingdom continues to play a leading role in Europe outside the European Union. In response to the invasion of Ukraine,” the government said.

Relations between the EU and the UK have been strained since Brexit, and the outstanding issues over Northern Ireland have yet to be fully resolved, but the UK’s participation in the EPC will help revitalize the group. is expected.

However, analysts aren’t sure how the community actually works.

Eurasia Group’s Mujtaba Rahman and Emre Peker wrote in a note this week: “Many questions remain about whether the format can be made to work and how much buy-in the EPC will enjoy.

“Concrete policy deliverables will be [European] The Council will play a very limited role,” they noted, adding that even the schedule of future meetings (and whether they will be held once or twice a year) remains unclear. .

“The truth is that no one involved in the process really knows if the EPC will be successful or what it can become. To make sure it succeeds. If you had a secondary goal, it would be,” says one [official]said Rahman and Peker.

Still, they noted that the EPC would likely facilitate a ‘reset’ between the UK and the EU and could mark the beginning of a more constructive relationship between the two countries.

european speed dating

Professor Richard Whitman, Associate Fellow of the European Program at Chatham House, described the EPC as “a massive speed dating exercise.”

“I think this is a new organization and the question is whether these 44 people have enough in common to move it forward. “Unofficially, there are no officials in the room. “We’re going to look at European security and the economy, climate, immigration, so those are huge issues, but…in a fairly intimate setting,” he said Thursday. He told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

European Political Community is 'massive speed-dating exercise', says Chatham House

Although the meeting was relatively intimate, Whitman said the EPC was “a very different group.”

“A third of them are not members of the EU, and some of that group do not want to join the EU. So it is not just an EU-focused project. , some of which are major energy countries, as well as producers like Norway and Azerbaijan, and major energy consumers like the larger economies of Europe,” he added.

Nonetheless, he said the EPC could represent “the beginning of a journey”, and given that Russia and Belarus are left out, the ongoing wars in Russia and Ukraine could either unite or divide the nations. He said he did not yet know whether

“What stands out is that it is a conversation between all European countries except Russia and its close ally Belarus, and will it lead to anything? They have the same point of view. Not entirely, but clearly Russia is driving much of the larger discussion: Europe for war with Ukraine,” he added.

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