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Taoiseach and 43 other European leaders meet in Prague Castle in face of Russia's war

The inaugural summit of the ‘European Political Community’ is the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Fiala with Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Fiala with Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Image: Petr David Josek

Updated Oct 6th 2022, 2:07 PM

THE TAOISEACH IS among 44 European leaders meeting in Prague today for a summit aimed at bringing the continent together in the face of Russia’s aggression.

The inaugural summit of the “European Political Community” is the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron.

It’s been billed by Brussels as a “platform for political coordination” for the disparate 44 nations attending.

However, there are deep disagreements — and even open conflict — among some of the participants and scepticism that the one-day event will only be a photo opportunity.

“It sends first of all a message of unity,” Macron said as he arrived for the summit.

“The objective is first of all to share a common reading of the situation affecting our Europe and also to build a common strategy.”

Russia, which is not invited, will loom over the meeting as discussions focus on the economic and security turmoil from its invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.

“If you just look at the attendance here, you see the importance,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

“The whole European continent is here, except two countries, Belarus and Russia. So it shows how isolated those two countries are.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin will also attend an informal meeting of the European Council tomorrow, with energy security and prices expected to be a focus.

Speaking ahead of today’s meeting, the Taoiseach said he welcomes the creation of the new “European Political Community”.

“All countries in Europe are grappling the consequences of the war, not least elevated energy prices and supply constraints,” said the Taoiseach.

“Our discussions should help us work together to mitigate the most damaging impacts.”

Martin added: “I hope it will prove to be a valuable forum in which leaders of European countries – those who are members of the EU and those who are not – can discuss the shared challenges we face.”

British prime minister Liz Truss, a fierce supporter of Britain’s independent path since Brexit, is at the meeting as she gears up to make headway on energy and migration during the one-day summit.

London was wary about the event being dominated by the European Union and reportedly wanted to change the name from “community” to “forum”.

Truss may be hoping for a respite from her woes at home after unleashing turmoil on Britain’s economy. But she could face a tricky ride from EU counterparts over UK efforts to renegotiate the post-Brexit trade deal for Northern Ireland.

She did not speak to the media when she arrived at the grand surroundings of Prague Castle, where she was greeted by Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

Her office said she will meet the French and Dutch leaders over the issue of illegal migration.

liz-truss-at-prague-summit British prime minister Liz Truss is welcomed by prime minister of the Czech Republic Petr Fiala. Source: PA

Those also set to meet in the historic Prague Castle also include the leaders of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Georgia, Iceland, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland.

Russia, which is not invited, will loom over the meeting as discussions focus on the economic and security fallout from its war against its pro-Western neighbour.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – currently overseeing a counter-offensive against Moscow’s forces – will connect via video link from Kyiv. His prime minister will stand in for him at the talks.

“With Russia continuing to wage its illegal and immoral war, we all stand with Ukraine in defence of its sovereignty and of international law,” said the Taoiseach prior to the meeting.

But despite the rhetoric, there are expected to be few concrete results from the summit.

France has said it hopes to define potential room for cooperation among the leaders on protecting critical European infrastructure such as pipelines, cybersecurity and energy supplies.

EU officials expect to agree to hold a follow-up gathering of the community in six months’ time in a country outside the bloc, with Britain and Moldova both offering to host.

While there are major questions over the usefulness of the enterprise, there will be a lot of activity on the sidelines as leaders hold bilateral talks.

“There will definitely be some hard, head-on exchanges,” said one organiser.

Armenia, Azerbaijan meeting

The gathering has at least passed its first hurdle of convincing key European powers outside the EU to show up, but the presence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also been a sore point for some.

EU members Greece and Cyprus have long-standing disputes with Ankara and the unpredictable Turkish leader is proving a headache for Sweden and Finland as a threat to their bids to join NATO.

Even more fraught could be the attendance of the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, whose troops continue bloody clashes along their volatile frontier.

Armenia’s prime minister has said he will meet Azerbaijan’s president together with Macron and EU chief Charles Michel in Prague.

Those pushing to join the EU – Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and the Western Balkan nations – might be expected to be more open to making the event a success.

But they too are on their guard about the format, worrying it could end up being a consolation prize where the EU can park their ambitions on membership.

With additional reporting from AFP and Press Association

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