November 29, 2022

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The European political community raises hopes for improved relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union

The European political community raises hopes for improved relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) shakes hands with British Prime Minister Liz Truss during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York City on September 20, 2022.

Ludovic Marin | Afp | Getty Images

Today Europe is launching a new political community, but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t hear about it.

There was a clear lack of hype around Thursday’s inaugural meeting of the European Political Community, or EPC. It is a gathering designed to bring together the European Union and 17 other European countries in what is described as the “European Security Council”.

The community, led by French President Emmanuel Macron, is designed to better promote “political dialogue and cooperation” on issues such as security, energy and climate issues. The European Union also says it must promote “stability and prosperity” on the continent.

In addition to the 27 EU member states, the group also includes the post-Brexit United Kingdom, Turkey, Ukraine and non-EU members in the Balkans, as well as Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

However, the bloc has been doing its best to stress that the EPC is not a fast track to EU membership (some countries such as North Macedonia and Montenegro have been in the “waiting room” for EU accession since before 2010). Nor is it designed to be or resemble a European supranational body, which would be of particular concern to UK leadership as it continues to navigate post-Brexit waters.

Clarify the criteria of the European Political Community, the European Union confirmed in a statement That: “The political coordination platform does not replace any existing organization, structure or process and does not aim to create new institutions at this stage.”

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Reset UK and EU?

In a sign of ambivalence towards the EPC from the British government, until a few weeks ago, it was not clear whether the UK would become part of the EPC.

New Prime Minister Liz Truss (“remaining” before the 2016 Brexit vote, but now announcing a “Leave” embrace) is keen to polish her Brexit credentials, and is concerned about the harassment of skeptical members of the EU. Euro in the ruling Conservative Party.

However, the war on Europe’s doorstep in Ukraine and the region’s energy crisis made the need for unity in Europe an urgent issue. The United Kingdom is also keen to claim as one of the largest geopolitical powers in Europe.

Truss is due to address the inaugural meeting of the European Patent Committee (EPC) in Prague on Thursday, where the government said “the UK will play a leading role at the summit to advance international action on national priorities”.

According to excerpts from her previously published speech, Truss will tell the other 43 heads of state that: “Europe is facing its biggest crisis since World War II, and we have faced it together with unity and determination.” It will also suggest that “we should take the same approach with the other challenges before us – including long-standing regional issues such as energy and migration.”

With a nod to Britain’s post-Brexit status (and keen to show it was not a failure), Truss is also expected to make clear that the UK has continued to play a leadership role in Europe outside the EU, as demonstrated by its response to the invasion of Ukraine.”

Despite the strained relations between the EU and the UK since Brexit, and with outstanding issues over Northern Ireland yet to be fully resolved, there are hopes that the UK’s participation in the EPC will help motivate the group.

But analysts aren’t sure how the community will function in practice.

“There are still many questions about whether the work can be coordinated and how much EPC will enjoy,” Mujtaba Rahman and Emre Becker of the Eurasia Group said in a note this week.

Tangible policy outputs can also be hampered by the fact that the European Commission and [European] They noted that the council will have a very limited role,” adding that even the scheduling of future meetings (and whether they will take place once or twice a year) remains unclear.

“The truth is that none of those involved in the process really knows if the EPC will succeed or what it could become. Officials involved in organizing Thursday’s meeting together agree that its ultimate goal is still not entirely clear and whether it will survive remains to be seen. In Doubt: “Our number one goal is to ensure its success; It would be if there was a second,” someone says [official]Rahman and Baker said.

However, they noted that the EPC is likely to facilitate a “reset” of the UK and EU and could mark the beginning of more constructive relations between the two sides.

european speed dating

Professor Richard Whitman, Associate Fellow in the Europe Program at Chatham House, described the EPC as “a large-scale speed dating exercise.”

“This is a new organization and I think the question will be whether these 44 individuals have enough in common to move forward with it. They have two issues that they are going to talk about, quite informally with no officials in the room,” he said in an interview with Squawk Box Europe. On CNBC Thursday: “We’re going to be taking a look at Europe’s security, the economy, the climate, immigration, so it’s really big issues but…in a very intimate environment.”

Despite the relative intimacy of the meeting, Whitman said the EPC was a “very disparate group.”

“One third of them are not members of the European Union and from this grouping some do not want to join the European Union, so it is not just a project focused on the European Union. But it is a disparate group of countries – some of which are large energy producers, such as Norway and Azerbaijan, and others who are major consumers of energy like the major European economies.

However, he said the EPC could represent “the beginning of a journey,” and given the exclusion of Russia and Belarus, whether Moscow and the ongoing war in Ukraine were an issue limiting or dividing nations remains to be seen.

“What stands out is that it’s a conversation between all European countries except Russia and its close ally Belarus, so will that lead to something? Do they have the same perspective? Not quite, but it’s clear that Russia is leading a lot of the bigger discussions in Europe because of its war with Ukraine,” he added. .