In the picturesque city of Granada, Spain, European leaders are convening for two consecutive summits that hold significant implications for the continent’s future. The first of these gatherings, set for Thursday, brings together a coalition of 47 European states, collectively known as the European Political Community (EPC). Notably absent from this assembly are Russia and Belarus, signifying a united front against Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. Following this, on Friday, the 27 European Union (EU) member states will hold an informal meeting, facing a myriad of challenges, with migration management topping the list.
A Relaxed but Purposeful Gathering
While no formal decisions are expected from these summits, their significance lies in the informal nature of the discussions. The European Political Community, initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron, lacks a rigid structure. This informality has its advantages, as it fosters what Steven Blockmans of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) describes as a political “speed dating conference.” Without a predefined agenda or the need to negotiate joint declarations, politicians will have ample opportunities to engage in relaxed working groups. This setting allows leaders who seldom interact to engage in substantive conversations.
Vessela Tcherneva of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) emphasizes that this format also benefits the 20 non-EU countries, affording them a platform to engage at the highest political levels. It becomes evident that in a world rife with geopolitical tensions, dialogue remains the most potent tool in achieving common ground.
Seeking Resolution for Nagorno-Karabakh
For Azerbaijan and Armenia, two nations locked in a longstanding conflict, the informal summit offers a potential avenue to address the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh. Recent events have witnessed the displacement of around 120,000 ethnic Armenians following Azerbaijan’s military occupation of the region. Blockmans advocates for a resolute stance, asserting that territorial disputes in Europe should not be resolved through force, a principle applicable not only to Russian President Vladimir Putin but also to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. If this isolates Azerbaijan, so be it. The rest of Europe would demonstrate a unified commitment to fundamental principles.
In an unexpected turn, Aliyev decided against meeting with Armenian representatives, signaling the complexities of resolving this conflict. The EU has previously brokered numerous talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but the Granada summit presents a fresh challenge.
The Ongoing Ukraine Conundrum
The shadow of Ukraine continues to loom large over the European Political Community meeting in Granada. The attendance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy remains shrouded in secrecy. In the previous Prague summit, European leaders unequivocally supported Ukraine, sending a clear message to Russia. Similarly, in Chisinau, the message resonated that Europe stands behind the entire region, including at-risk states like Moldova.
In Granada, however, merely a photo opportunity might no longer suffice. The need for concrete results is apparent, signaling a shift in expectations. European leaders are under increasing pressure to deliver tangible outcomes.
Ukraine’s Prospects for EU Accession
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s recent statement during a visit to Kyiv echoes the sentiments of many European leaders. She proclaimed that the heart of Europe beats strongest in Ukraine and hinted at the possibility of Ukraine commencing official accession talks. This sentiment is shared by Vessela Tcherneva, who anticipates that Ukraine may receive a date for the commencement of accession talks in December. These discussions will run parallel to deliberations on military and financial support, reflecting the multifaceted challenges facing Ukraine.
Furthermore, the recent election results in Slovakia, which may lead to a government with pro-Russian tendencies, and potential obstacles in the US Congress regarding aid to Ukraine, add complexity to these discussions.
Navigating the Migration Quandary
At the informal EU summit of the 27 member states, migration takes center stage. European Council President Charles Michel initially aimed to discuss strategic issues such as European autonomy, infrastructure, and energy. However, the escalating influx of migrants into the EU has forced a shift in priorities. Italy and other member states are pressing for discussions on short-term solutions. Michel’s advisors advocate limiting discussions to the “external dimension” of migration, focusing on cooperation with third countries like Turkey and Tunisia to prevent migrant flows.
Yet, Tunisian President Kais Saied’s refusal to implement a recently concluded agreement with the EU has disrupted preparations. Italy’s role in these negotiations, especially in light of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s influence, raises questions about the EU’s approach to migration.
Preparing for Expansion
Another critical topic Charles Michel seeks to address in Granada is the EU’s internal reforms to accommodate the expected integration of six West Balkan states, Ukraine, and Moldova. Michel emphasizes the need for a clear understanding of the consequences of this expansion, not only for the new members but also for the EU itself. Discussions regarding the impact on the EU budget could prove particularly intriguing, as Ukraine’s potential accession may transform current net recipients into net contributors.
In closing, Granada serves as the backdrop for these pivotal discussions. As European leaders convene to deliberate on pressing issues, the outcomes of these summits will undoubtedly shape the future trajectory of the continent. Europe’s commitment to dialogue, principled diplomacy, and tangible results will be closely watched by the international community as the region navigates the challenges ahead.