Britain is weighing whether to join a new European political “club of nations” starting next month, after its complicated divorce from the European Union.
The first meeting of the “European Political Community” will be held in Prague on October 6. (Currently, the Czech Republic holds the rotating presidency of the European Union’s executive body, the Council of Europe.)
A final decision has yet to be made as Downing Street wants to know more details about the summit before Prime Minister Liz Truss attends.
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Britain’s economic problems and energy crisis could bring Truss to the table, but there are concerns that the new UK prime minister will reject the offer to avoid antagonizing some conservative Eurosceptics.
The European political community is the idealization of French President Emmanuel Macron. In May, he proposed a “new space” for cooperation, suggesting the group could discuss security, energy and transport, as well as the mobility of people, especially youth. Its aim is to establish a forum that transcends the 27 member states of the European Union.
Similar ideas were suggested decades ago, but this is the first major push for a European forum since Brexit. Now, UK officials are seeking assurances that countries or companies from existing gatherings will not dominate the gathering in order to accommodate new players.
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All 27 EU members, plus the UK, Ukraine, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, should be invited. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan can also be invited, along with six Western Balkan countries.
There are indications that the UK wants to consult the Ukrainian government and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) before responding.
A tentative agenda suggests discussions will focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s economy and the energy crisis. However, there are few details of what a “political community” could look like in the long term, and critics in the EU see the plan led by the French leader as “vague”, according to British broadcaster BBC.
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France, which has been reported to be skeptical of EU enlargement, is also suspected of wanting to create a “parking lot” for countries that want to join the bloc. EU leaders insisted the community should not “replace” their enlargement policy.
Ukraine became an official candidate country for the EU in June, while several Western Balkan countries have been trying to join the bloc for years.
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