The European Political Community will meet for the first time in Prague on the 6 October 2022, and leaders of 44 countries have been invited. This Insight explains what the European Political Community is, and which countries are involved.

Whose idea was the European Political Community?

President Emmanuel Macron of France made a speech in the European Parliament on 9 May 2022 proposing the creation of a European Political Community (EPC). He said this would be a new European organisation to provide a space for democratic European nations with “shared core values” to find space for cooperation. He suggested areas for cooperation might include political coordination, security cooperation, energy and the free movement of people, particularly young people.

Macron suggested the EPC would be open to countries such as Ukraine and the Western Balkan states which are seeking to join the EU. It would also be open to countries that have left the EU, ie the UK.

The speech by President Macron came at the closing ceremony of the EU-sponsored Conference on the Future of Europe, which had produced a set of proposals to reform the EU. In welcoming these proposals to deepen EU integration while proposing a new institutional architecture involving non-EU countries, Macron was echoing previous proposals for a two-tier or multi-speed Europe.

How did European leaders react?

There were concerns from some countries seeking to join the EU that the proposed European Political Community would be a way of denying them full EU membership. Macron has suggested the EU accession process for some recent applicants to join, such as Ukraine, might take decades.

Initially, reservations were expressed about the proposals in Ukraine.  The Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba said “no alternatives to the European integration of Ukraine will be acceptable”. North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski said Macron’s proposal was a good idea but said it “must not be a substitute for full European Union membership”.

The proposal was also viewed with wariness by some existing members of the EU, partly because it was viewed as a way of blocking enlargement.

The proposal was discussed at the European Council (EU heads of state or government) meeting on 23-24 June 2022. The conclusions of the meeting noted the objective of the EPC would be “to foster political dialogue and cooperation to address issues of common interest so as to strengthen the security, stability and prosperity of the European continent”. However, it stressed that this framework would “not replace existing EU policies and instruments, notably enlargement, and will fully respect the European Union’s decision-making autonomy”.

Following the meeting, Macron confirmed the first meeting of the EPC would take place in Prague in October. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel said the EPC would likely meet in the format of political leaders only.

Momentum for the initiative developed over the summer. In August, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the EPC could facilitate a “regular exchange at the political level” once or twice a year among European leaders on issues affecting the whole continent.

How did the UK react?

Liz Truss said in June, when still foreign secretary, the UK did not support the EPC proposal. She emphasised that the UK saw NATO as the key guarantor of security in Europe and the G7 as the key economic alliance. However, a few weeks after becoming Prime Minister in September 2022 she indicated she would be attending.

It was reported the Government had also proposed that the UK host the second meeting of the EPC next year. It has also been reported that the UK has proposed changing the name of the EPC to  European Political Forum in order to remove possible connotations with the European Communities, the forerunners of the EU.

The Prime Minister was reportedly keen to discuss energy security and migration with her European counterparts, but remained sceptical of the need for another multilateral forum. The UK Government also wanted to ensure the role of the EU institutions in the body was limited, and to keep it as a relatively informal intergovernmental forum.

Who is taking part in the first meeting?

Leaders of the following 44 countries have been invited to take part in the first meeting of the EPC:

What will it discuss?

According to the Czech Presidency of the EU, the meeting will most likely discuss security matters, energy, climate change and the economic situation in Europe. The meeting is not expected to produce a formal declaration or formal conclusions.

Future meetings could alternate between EU and non-EU countries. As well as the UK, Moldova has offered to host the next meeting.

Further reading

About the author: Stefano Fella is a researcher at the House of Commons Library, specialising in UK-EU relations, the EU and European countries.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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