The EPC Summit is a high-level platform for political dialogue, so particular attention is paid both to the agenda as well as leaders’ participation.
The EPC’s inaugural summit in Prague on 6 October 2022 was attended by 41 heads of state or government, as well as President of the European Council Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Two roundtables were held during the summit: one on peace and security, co-facilitated by Slovakia and Moldova, and the other on energy, climate and economy, co-facilitated by Greece and Switzerland. It is important to note that the countries themselves choose to chair the roundtable if interested.
At the first summit, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was absent to open the political year of Parliament and President Zelenskyy made an online appearance.
At the second summit, EPC host Moldova invited three new countries to take part, San Marino, Andorra, and Monaco, as well as an EU addition, President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola. As such, the number of invitations rose to 47. Apart from Russia and Belarus, which were not invited, the EPC now comprises all countries in the European region except the Holy See.
The roundtables at the Moldova summit were devoted to two themes. Two roundtables were held on security, one co-facilitated by the UK and Poland and the other by EU President Michel and Ukraine. The other two on energy and connectivity that were co-facilitated by Moldova and Spain as well as Belgium and Norway. Beyond topic areas of interest, the distribution of co-chairs was conceived to balance EU and non-EU voices.
Two delegations were unable to participate in the second summit – Turkey and San Marino. Although not officially confirmed, the most plausible explanation for Turkish President Erdoğan’s absence was linked to the formation of the new government following his re-election as President. San Marino Prime Minister Luca Beccari’s absence was due to a state visit to Cuba.
Leader-level participation is important politically and symbolically. It also carries practical weight, translating into bilateral and/or multilateral initiatives on the margins of summits. For example, the first summit attended by Ukrainian Prime Minister Shmyhal resulted in no initiatives undertaken by Ukraine, whereas Zelenskyy’s presence led to Ukraine’s engagement in 7 different initiatives at the second summit.
Despite a record turnout of 49 leaders, the third EPC Summit suffered from the absence of Turkey’s President Erdoğan, his second in a row, and Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev, the instigator of another armed offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh causing over 100,000 Armenians to flee and require humanitarian assistance.
Kosovo’s powerful Prime Minister Albin Kurti also abstained, protesting Serbia’s alleged involvement in the 24 September 2023 attack in northern Kosovo. Kosovo’s President, who holds a largely ceremonial function, attended again instead but this time refused to meet the Serbian President Vučić.
Three roundtable discussions on (1) digitalisation, (2) energy, environment and the green transition, and (3) multilateralism and geostrategy were foreseen in order to expand coordination and consultation to the wider European level on priorities of the Spanish rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
Notwithstanding the Spanish Presidency’s attempts to keep migration off the agenda, the UK and Italy set up an unforeseen roundtable to discuss a series of political initiatives with France, Albania and the European Commission on migration as well as bilateral deals between the UK and Belgium, Bulgaria and Serbia to increase intelligence-sharing and operational co-operation on organised crime.