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European leaders seek solidarity beyond EU framework

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-06-02 22:04

BULBOACA, Moldova -- Closer integration between EU and non-EU states was a key focus at the one-day summit for European leaders here on Thursday.

During the second summit of the European Political Community (EPC), leaders expressed their hope to cope with ongoing challenges beyond the framework of the EU.

Noting that "this was the first EPC gathering to be held in a non-EU country," Moldovan President Maia Sandu said at the end of the summit that the participants agreed to continue the efforts to integrate further through greater strategic coordination, better connectivity, and more common actions on energy resilience and climate.

Built on the success of the first gathering in Prague, the EPC was a unique opportunity for engagement and improving bilateral relations, said Sandu.

Compared with the previous edition in Prague, the second summit in Moldova attracted slightly more participants, gathering around 50 European leaders. The "EU+" gathering of the EPC has once again received applause from many leaders.

Calling the summit "a powerful symbol," European Council President Charles Michel said at the summit that participating countries have a common political will to coordinate and cooperate in the field of energy, security, and infrastructure.

Over half a year after its establishment, the platform has proven that it has the influence to gather important decision-makers and the potential to discuss pressing issues facing Europe.

During the summit, leaders of Kosovo and Serbia held talks following the protest clashes in Kosovo.

Kosovo's Serbs boycotted the April 23 local elections in four municipalities in northern Kosovo, which allowed ethnic Albanian parties to take control of local administrations despite a turnout rate of less than 3.5 percent.

"Everybody has to try to avoid any kind of escalation and uncoordinated moves," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at the summit.

As part of the EPC's efforts to defuse regional tensions, French and German leaders urged Kosovo to hold new elections in those disputed regions.

As the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron, the EPC aims to push for political coordination in Europe without replacing any existing organization, structure, or process.

However, experts have expressed worries that such a goal might be at risk in the long term.

"Unless the heads of state and government continue to take a genuine interest, after the first few meetings it will become just a foreign ministers' summit," said a recent analysis by the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington-based think tank.

Skeptics of the EPC see the platform as an alternative to EU accession, having voiced concern that the EPC might slow down the pace of new members entering the bloc.

However, Moldova sees the biggest political event it ever hosted as a chance. Granted EU candidate status in June 2022, it looks forward to using the event to further the progress toward becoming an official member of the bloc.

"Our commitment is to make Moldova ready for EU accession by the end of this decade," Sandu said on Thursday, noting that she would urge the EU leadership to support this plan.

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