The writer is Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union
On October 6, Prague Castle hosted an unprecedented gathering of states to launch the European Political Community. The aim of this new forum is simple: to bring together all the nations of Europe, inside and outside the EU, to coordinate our response to critical threats and accelerate the path to prosperity.
From the start, the community was meant to be a common space flexible enough to comfortably accommodate all European nations. We don’t need new acronyms or new secretariats. And the intention was not to create another intergovernmental organization.
What we need is an inclusive approach to solutions, faster responses to problems and a place to mediate dialogues between nations, regardless of their membership in different, overlapping clubs sometimes.
The format chosen was therefore as broad as possible: a political leader from each country was invited, as well as the Presidents of the European Commission and of the European Council. The space was deliberately left to bilateral and ad hoc meetings, without the straightjacket of official resolutions.
Forty-four European nations, from Iceland to Azerbaijan, accepted the invitation, encompassing not only the geographical expanse of our continent but also the expanse of European civilization. Only the Russian and Belarusian regimes were deliberately left behind.
Europe is exceptionally united on important issues today: the threat posed by Russia is so severe that our other differences seem almost insignificant. It was therefore natural that the Prague agenda would be dominated by war, with pledges to maintain support for Ukraine and discussions on how to restore peace and stability to our continent.
But no less important were the debates on other pressing challenges to our prosperity and well-being, in particular the soaring energy prices that are ruining the lives of European citizens, as well as businesses and public institutions.
We have witnessed here an evolution of the debate, with solutions outlined with more clarity than before. It was particularly pleasing to attend discussions on energy interconnections in the North Sea and the Balkans and on the strengthening of production capacities with countries such as Norway and Azerbaijan. Reference was also made to various security-enhancing and peace-monitoring missions in places where needed.
The summit provided an opportunity for leaders of nations destined to live together, but who usually don’t get much chance to talk to each other. Moreover, there have been several important meetings that promise to defuse or even unblock the negotiations, including the one attended by the Turkish, Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders. Prior to the Prague summit, the Turkish president and Armenian prime minister had not met since the two countries agreed to improve relations in 2009. This is precisely the kind of outcome the EPC was meant to foster.
Together with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, I met Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, to discuss in detail the relations between Turkey and the EU. Several meetings focused on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and on relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
Denys Shmyhal, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, held numerous meetings related to economic aid and security, including new arms deliveries to his country. I was also informed of a successful meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Liz Truss, the British Prime Minister. Dozens of bilateral or trilateral meetings took place during the summit or on the sidelines of it.
This is a critical moment for Europe. But despite these pressures, the participants showed unity and a willingness to cooperate. I am proud that the birth of the EPC is forever linked to the capital of the Czech Republic. And I’m sure skeptics are wrong to worry that it will soon degenerate into a mere lyric store. The problems facing Europe are too serious for that to happen.
In times of overlapping crises and ongoing challenges, we need an open platform that can cater to different interests from across Europe. We seek free discussion that builds mutual understanding and helps us refine our positions on the most pressing issues of the day. The EPC is a space to do just that.