Leaders from 44 European countries, the whole continent except Russia and Belarus met on in Czech capital Prague to attend the inaugural meeting of the European Political Community, a new regional group proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron this May.
However, doubts about the viability of the Wider Europe concept remain, with some fearing that creating yet another format risks it may become a talking shop devoid of any real decision-making clout or content.
Some say its size is likely to be a major obstacle to delivering concrete policy actions, as will its political and cultural diversity and traditional rivalries between many of its members, from Armenia and Azerbaijan to Greece and Turkey.
Clarity was still needed on the EPC’s core rationale, the community’s final membership, its relationship with the EU, how it should take decisions and even whether it should have a budget of its own, EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said in a blog post before the gathering.
An EU official said it would have required weeks of negotiations and a direct open exchange was more important than a declaration. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressing the gathering via video link, urged leaders to turn the new political community into a ‘European community of peace’.
While eyeing issues from Europe’s security to soaring energy prices and a looming economic recession, analysts said the gathering could be just another “grand show of solidarity,” a talking shop without any actual content. They warned that such a group could develop into a new bloc confrontation with Russia, further worsening Europe’s security situation.