If there is one thing that European Political Community summits deliver, it is the nice photos of European unity and solidarity in times of war. The first, at the Prague Castle in October 2022, witnessed the first reunion of all European leaders since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, except for Russia and Belarus (and Ukraine). The second, at the Mimi Castle of Chisinau, staged the leaders a few kilometers away from the frontlines, giving a major political boost to fragile Moldova, in the presence of Volodymyr Zelensky.
This alone gave value to this new platform, a brainchild of French president Emmanuel Macron in 2022, with the stated goal of building “strategic intimacy” among Europeans through informal and inclusive discussions on shared challenges for the continent. The initiative is the expression of a need to rethink foreign and security policy coordination in wider Europe, at a time of major geopolitical shifts.
The photo of the third summit in Granada, from the lavish Alhambra Palace, promises to be just as scenic. But the story behind the cover is less self-evident. The summit will be the hors d’oeuvre on the eve of an informal European Council, in which 27 EU leaders will reconvene to discuss enlargement, EU reform, and how to increase Europe’s resilience. As such, it is the first “routine summit” of the EPC, while the contours and objectives of the platform are not yet clear.
There is no shortage of crises for the EPC to tackle in wider Europe, as the fringes of the European Union and NATO have rarely witnessed such levels of tensions. In addition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two flashpoints are in a crisis mode. The first is between Azerbaijan and Armenia, with the Azerbaijani final takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh. The second is in the Western Balkans, with renewed escalation between Serbia and Kosovo.
Yet, as the late cancellation of Azerbaijani president participation shows, this is a tricky situation for the EPC. Instead of showcasing European agency in dealing with crises unraveling on their continent, it might instead underline their difficulties to defuse tensions and sustain mediation efforts. This in turn raises the question of what the EPC aims to achieve. As it enters its second year of existence, many observers still fail to capture the added value of the initiative, as it does not translate into concrete and tangible deliverables—the usual metric to measure success of diplomatic gatherings.