Europe’s leaders gathered in Spain for back-to-back summits of the European Political Community and the European Council. Both failed to deliver key agreements.
On October 5, the leaders of the 27 member states of the European Union and around 20 other European countries met in Granada for the third summit of the European Political Community (EPC).
Founded in 2022 as French President Emmanuel Macron’s pet project, the EPC is meant to provide an informal forum for talks on regional issues free of the procedural burdens of the European Union.
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With renewed conflicts in the South Caucasus and Western Balkans, hopes for the summit were high, and many analysts and diplomats expected a peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia—the culmination of almost a year of talks—to be signed at this summit.
Instead, headlines were dominated by no-shows and the failure to hold the key meetings necessary to deescalate crises.
The silent treatment
While Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—a key player in the South Caucasus and Western Balkans—cited a cold to justify his decision not to attend, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev candidly blamed France’s October 3 announcement of military aid to Armenia for his decision not to attend or finalise any peace accords.
“Due to the well-known position of France, Azerbaijan did not participate in the meeting in Granada,” said the Azerbaijani presidential office. “The head of state emphasised that the provision of weapons by France to Armenia was an approach that was not serving peace, but one intended to inflate a new conflict, and if any new conflict occurs in the region, France would be responsible for causing it.”
Despite existing rival tracks of talks mediated by the US, EU, and Russia, Aliyev voiced support for a new track mediated by Georgia after snubbing the EPC. The move comes after most of the 120,000 Armenians living in Karabakh fled to Armenia after a nine-month blockade and one-day Azerbaijani military operation. Armenian officials warn Azerbaijan could seize territory within Armenia-proper next.
“We are now under imminent threat of invasion,” said Armenian ambassador-designate to the EU Tigran Balayan.
European leaders also hoped to use the summit to cool tensions between Kosovo and Serbia after a deadly clash between armed Serbs and police in the village of Banjska in northern Kosovo. Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti did not attend the EPC summit, and although Kosovo’s less-powerful president Vjosa Osmani did attend, she refused to meet with Serbia’s president, Aleksander Vučić, citing sanctions on Belgrade for its alleged role in the violence as a precondition.
When even the summit’s host, Spain, cancelled a planned press conference at the last minute, the only point of intrigue was an unannounced visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In the wake of Slovakia’s election victory for pro-Russia Robert Fico and growing resistance to aid to Kyiv within the United States Republican party, Zelensky asked European leaders for help strengthening his country’s air defences amid fears of Russian strikes on its energy infrastructure this winter.
“Ukraine’s key priority, particularly as winter approaches, is to strengthen air defense,” wrote Zelensky on X, formerly known as Twitter, from the summit. “We have already laid the groundwork for new agreements with partners and look forward to their approval and implementation.”
He also pledged to work with European partners to strengthen food security and freedom of navigation in the Black Sea.
Continued discord on migration
EU leaders stayed in Granada on October 6 for an informal summit on proposed solutions to the migration crisis.
On October 4, a qualified majority of the EU Council reached a preliminary agreement on the so-called Crisis Regulation to address extraordinary periods of migration that fall beyond the scope of the “mandatory solidarity” deal reached this summer concerning regular periods of migration. The Council will use this preliminary agreement as its joint position in the negotiations with the European Parliament to establish common rules to manage mass arrivals of asylum seekers.
However, Poland and Hungary voted against the agreement—although it passed with a qualified majority anyway—and succeeded in blocking the inclusion of any mention of migration from the joint-EU declaration at the Granada summit.
Speaking at the meeting, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán crudely compared the migration agreement to sexual assault.
“There is no chance to have any kind of compromise and agreement on migration. Politically, it’s impossible. Not today, but generally speaking, for the next years. Because legally we are, how to say it, we are raped. So if you are raped, legally, forced to accept something you don’t like, how would you like to have a compromise and agreement?”
Poland has already scheduled a referendum on the broader EU migration plan to coincide with parliamentary elections on October 15. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the plan a “diktat” and threatened to veto it—although there is no mechanism to veto policy passed by qualified majority.
With all mention of the main agenda item—migration—missing from the summit’s joint statement, the declaration offered welcome but vague platitudes about climate change and enlargement.
“Looking ahead to the prospect of a further enlarged Union, both the EU and future member states need to be ready,” said the declaration. “Aspiring members need to step up their reform efforts, notably in the area of rule of law, in line with the merit-based nature of the accession process and with the assistance of the EU. In parallel, the Union needs to lay the necessary internal groundwork and reforms.”
No further details about which reforms to ready the Union for enlargement were provided.
Photo: © European Union
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