The European Political Community is built for challenging times

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 point of the new forum is simple: to bring together all the nations of Europe, inside and outside the EU, in order to co-ordinate our response to critical threats and to accelerate the path to prosperity.

From the beginning, the community was meant to be a common space flexible enough to accommodate all European nations comfortably. We do not need any new acronyms or any new secretariats. And the intention was not to set up another intergovernmental organisation.

What we do need is an inclusive approach to solutions, faster responses to problems and a place for mediating dialogues between nations — regardless of their membership in different, sometimes overlapping, clubs.

The format chosen was thus as broad as possible: one political leader from each country was invited, together with the presidents of the European Commission and European Council. Space was deliberately left for bilateral and ad hoc meetings, without the straitjacket of official resolutions.

Forty-four European nations, from Iceland to Azerbaijan, accepted the invitation, encompassing not just the geographical extent of our continent but also the scope of the European civilisation. Only the Russian and Belarusian regimes were deliberately left out.

Europe is unusually united on important questions today: the threat posed by Russia is so severe that our other differences seem almost petty. It was natural therefore that the Prague agenda should be dominated by the war, with pledges to maintain support for Ukraine and talks on how to return peace and stability to our continent.

But no less important were the debates on other pressing challenges to our prosperity and wellbeing, particularly the soaring energy prices that are blighting the lives of European citizens, as well as affecting businesses and public institutions.

We have seen a shift in the debate here, with some solutions sketched with greater clarity than before. It was particularly pleasing to see discussions on energy interconnectors in the North Sea and the Balkans and beefing up production capacity with countries such as Norway and Azerbaijan. There was also discussion of various security building and peace monitoring missions in places of need.

The summit offered an opportunity for leaders of nations destined to live together, but who usually do not have much chance to talk. Moreover, there were several important meetings that promise to defuse or even unblock negotiations, notably the one attended by the leaders of Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Before the Prague summit, the president of Turkey and prime minister of Armenia had not met face to face since the countries agreed to improve relations in 2009. That is precisely the kind of outcome that the EPC was designed to foster.

Together with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, I met Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, to discuss Turkish-EU relations in some detail. Several meetings focused on the situation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

Denys Shmyhal, the prime minister of Ukraine, held numerous meetings related to economic and security assistance, including further shipments of arms to his country. I was also briefed about a successful meeting between French president Emmanuel Macron and Liz Truss, the UK prime minister. Dozens of bilateral or trilateral meetings took place during the summit, or on its margins.

This is a critical juncture for Europe. But despite these pressures, the participants displayed unity and a willingness to co-operate. I am proud that the birth of the EPC will be forever connected to the capital of the Czech Republic. And I am convinced that the sceptics are wrong to worry that it will degenerate into a mere talking shop anytime soon. The issues Europe faces are too serious for that to be allowed to happen.

At a time of overlapping crises and ongoing challenges, we need an open platform capable of accommodating different interests from across Europe. We seek free discussion that reinforces mutual understanding and helps us to refine our positions on the most pressing issues of the day. The EPC is a space to do just that.

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