What does the “European Political Community” proposed by French President Macron entail?

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EU leaders meeting for a summit on Thursday began discussing, with a mixture of interest and skepticism, the idea of ​​a “European Political Community” put forward by French President Emmanuel Macron.

What’s the idea?

Macron suggested the European Political Community proposal to the European Parliament on May 9, as the chamber debated Ukraine’s ambition to one day become a candidate for EU membership.

He presented it as a broad but “light” decision-making structure for political dialogue and cooperation on issues of common interest to European nations, both within the EU and outside.

It was not about replacing EU policies and instruments, he said. Instead, he would establish regular meetings on key topics “to stabilize the European continent”, Macron said during a recent trip to Moldova.

Which countries could participate?

It would include countries wishing to join the EU, such as Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the Western Balkan states. But also those who are happy to be out, like Switzerland and Norway, and maybe even the former British member.

There is a question mark over Turkey, a longtime EU aspirant who sits alongside many European countries in NATO, which has expressed interest in the idea. But Macron insisted the forum would only be reserved for countries that share the EU’s “democratic values”.

How was it received?

Reactions to the proposal range from interest to distrust, some tinged with skepticism. But the general response has been to want to know more before judgment is given.

North Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski, in Brussels on Thursday for an earlier EU-Western Balkans summit, welcomed the initiative but said it “should not and should not be a substitute for full membership in the European Union“.

Ukraine was among the most reserved, fearing it was a gamble to keep its EU candidacy in limbo indefinitely, before being reassured by the 27 European Union countries that it was not the case.

Britain, which six years ago upended its relationship with the EU with its Brexit referendum, was unsurprisingly cold to the idea.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has placed her preferences on other forums, such as the G7 and NATO, where she believes her country has a greater role.

French officials, however, say they still hold out hope that Britain might see value in being part of a European political community.

And the members of the EU?

Some EU countries are instinctively cautious about the ideas put forward by France, the bloc’s heavy power alongside Germany. Others find the initiative ill-defined, or wonder how disparate countries can come together in this format.

But many agree that some sort of forum where European nations can come together to discuss the issues they all face could be helpful.

Germany and others stress that this should not overlap with the work of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, currently sidelined due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, and the Pancontinental Council of Europe, the human rights body based in Strasbourg.

Macron’s Elysee was optimistic, with one official saying the idea was “increasingly being received positively”.

When could this happen?

Thursday’s summit discussion of the idea is described as a “brainstorming” session that would kick off the debate stretching into the European summer.

It will be considered “step by step”, the French presidency said, with the aim of an inaugural meeting in the second half of this year.

(AFP)

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