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France24: European leaders meet in Moldova to tackle regional crises and pressure Moscow

1-6-2023 |

The European Political Community (EPC), which groups 27 EU members with 40 of their allies and excludes Russia and Belarus, chose Ukraine's tiny neighbour Moldova for its second summit.

Holding the summit outside Chisinau shows solidarity with Moldova in the face of Russian destabilisation operations and support for its EU membership bid.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who arrived at the summit’s site on Thursday morning, will be seeking not just solidarity but progress on Ukraine's parallel bids to join NATO and the European Union.

Macron acknowledged that Ukraine's forces battling Russian invaders in the east and south of their country are "protecting Europe".

And he said the allies should find a way to offer "tangible and credible security guarantees to Ukraine" while the eventual questions of EU and NATO membership are pending.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose country left the European Union but remains in NATO, said, "Putin's utter contempt of other countries' sovereignty" showed the need for unity.

"We cannot address these problems without Europe's governments and institutions working closely together," he said.

With up to 47 heads of state and government invited, not much time has been set aside for a general group discussion, but diplomats hope side meetings will deal with practical issues.

Macron and Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz will convene a meeting between foes Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

Yerevan and Baku have fought for decades over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, but have both been invited to the EPC as Washington and Brussels push for a peace deal.

Another long-standing European conflict, the standoff between Serbia and Kosovo, will be on the agenda, with leaders from Pristina and Belgrade under pressure to dial down tensions.

Finally, for Moldova itself, the summit will mark a crucial step on its route from being a former Soviet republic part-occupied by Russian "peacekeepers" towards a European future.

Summit host President Maia Sandu wants – as do Ukraine and Georgia – to begin formal EU membership negotiations this year, to "save our democracy" from Russian interference.

She received powerful backing on the eve of the summit from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who hailed Moldova's "big progress" in EU-requested reforms.

"Moldova is at the heart of Europe. Moldova is Europe. And today and tomorrow, the whole of Europe is Moldova," von der Leyen said.

Source: France24