The inaugural meeting of the European Political Community (EPC) convened on 6th October 2022 in Prague gathered leaders from EU-27 and another 17 leaders of non-EU nations. In an era marked by challenges to Europe's stability and security, the imperative for open dialogue, attentive listening, and mutual understanding becomes increasingly apparent, as Charles Michel, European Council President, voiced in his speech during the first EPC summit. The inaugural meeting of the EPC summit exemplified this commitment, as leaders engaged in discussions to address pressing issues of regional concern. Two main issues dominated the agenda at the EPC summit in Prague. First, the ongoing war in Ukraine, with Russia's aggression at the forefront, emerged as a crucial topic for deliberation. The leaders collectively aimed to find viable solutions and strategies to promote peace, stability, and respect for international norms in the face of this crisis. Second, the 44 leaders also devoted considerable attention to the energy crisis, recognizing its profound implications for the entire European continent.
Moldova has made history by becoming the first non-EU country to host the second reunion of the European Political Community. Moldova President Maia Sandu, in her address at the EPC summit in Prague, emphasized the community's shared objective of promoting lasting peace and upholding international law. She reiterated the commitment to extend support to Ukraine in its pursuit of sovereignty and peace. Undoubtedly, the theme of peace and security will continue to take center stage at the upcoming summit in Chisinau. Apart from peace and security, what other key issues one should expect to be addressed at the second EPC summit?
First, energy resilience
The current global energy crisis has unleashed a surge in fuel and electricity prices, leading to widespread shortages and adversely impacting consumers, businesses, and entire economies. The resilience of the energy system has encountered formidable challenges in recent years, necessitating decisive action from governments, businesses, and consumers worldwide. Several factors have converged to create this predicament, including disruptions in the supply chain triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, heightened demand stemming from economic recovery efforts, the Russian war in Ukraine, and the onslaught of extreme weather events. Consequently, governments and energy regulators have faced mounting pressure to safeguard the security of energy supply and establish mechanisms for price stabilization.
Given such circumstances, it remains imperative for the EPC summit to follow-up on the discussions from the first summit and prioritize the maintenance of energy system resilience, security of supply, and price stabilization. The unique format of the summit, which allows for bilateral discussions rather than being bound by strict rules and regulations, provides an opportune platform for leaders to address the issue of reducing geopolitical tensions that significantly contribute to exacerbating the energy crisis and impede the smooth functioning of energy markets. In this sense, leaders attending the EPC in Chisinau should engage in a constructive dialogue: this could involve diplomatic efforts, negotiations, and the promotion of cooperation between nations to foster trust and find common ground. By addressing the underlying causes of disputes and working towards mutually beneficial solutions, the EPC can contribute to the stability of energy supplies and mitigate the impact of geopolitical factors on energy prices.
To achieve this, the EPC gathering can effectively leverage the proposals put forth during the 31st session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). This session focused on identifying strategies to simultaneously enhance energy security, affordability, and achieve net-zero emissions. The UNECE introduced a series of energy resilience dialogues in September 2022, providing a platform for diverse stakeholders such as member states, academia, technical experts, and industry representatives to exchange ideas and perspectives. The leaders of the EPC can build upon the outcomes and findings of these dialogues to advance their efforts in establishing more secure, affordable, safe, and environmentally friendly energy systems. By considering and integrating the insights and recommendations generated through the UNECE energy resilience dialogues, the EPC can enhance its approach towards achieving its energy-related goals.
One notable initiative that EPC members could explore is the “Pathways to Sustainable Energy” project. This initiative combines energy scenario modeling, policy dialogue, technological research, and the development of an early-warning system concept. This project can serve as a valuable resource for EPC members, providing them with a comprehensive understanding of different energy pathways and their potential implications. The project's early-warning system concept could prove instrumental in monitoring and forecasting progress towards sustainable energy objectives, allowing for timely interventions and adjustments if necessary. By capitalizing on the insights gained from the UNECE energy resilience dialogues and initiatives like the Pathways to Sustainable Energy project, the EPC leaders can engage in informed discussions and exchange best practices to promote energy security, affordability, and sustainability.
Second, climate action
Another pressing issue that warrants EPC's attention is climate change and environmental sustainability. As the threat of climate change looms large, European nations must work collectively to mitigate its impact and transition to a greener future. The EPC can play a vital role in coordinating efforts to combat climate change, promote renewable energy sources, and develop strategies for climate resilience. By addressing environmental concerns, the community can contribute significantly to the well-being of its citizens and safeguard the planet for future generations.
In order to effectively address the climate crisis, it is essential for the leaders at the EPC to base their discussions on the latest findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. This report presents a comprehensive analysis of various feasible and effective options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to human-caused climate change. Published in March 2023, it underscores the importance of climate resilient development, which combines adaptation and mitigation efforts to advance sustainable development for all. During the EPC discussions, leaders should advocate for accelerated climate action based on the findings of the IPCG report that highlights the urgent need for a significant increase in financial resources dedicated to climate-related initiatives. By advocating for a substantial scale-up in financial support in climate-resilient projects, for example, leaders can help overcome this barrier and drive meaningful change. Currently, the 75 such projects listed by the UN Environmental Programme can serve as useful starting points.
In addition to financial considerations, leaders at the EPC discussions should emphasize the need for robust international cooperation. Collaborative efforts among nations are essential for sharing knowledge, best practices, and technological advancements. The EPC's format offers a distinctive advantage as it extends beyond a multilateral setting and provides a platform for bilateral meetings. This unique opportunity allows leaders to engage in discussions and reach crucial agreements such as the Green Partnerships, for example (the most recent one was established between EU member states and the Republic of Korea on 22 May). With the implementation of the European Green Deal, the European Union stands at the forefront of the global fight against climate change and environmental degradation. For the participating parties at the EPC, the summit provides the means to pursue the establishment of green partnerships with EU member-states, and in this way to reaffirm their unwavering commitment to limiting global temperature rise to below 1.5°C and achieving climate neutrality by no later than 2050.
Firstly, the preservation of peace and security will and should remain paramount for this EPC agenda. Secondly, the EPC summit indeed provides an ideal setting for leaders to discuss and endorse comprehensive strategies that encompass other aspects of the energy and climate crisis. Collaboration among member nations in areas such as research and development, technology transfer, and cross-border trade can foster innovation and strengthen energy resilience and climate action.
However, since the vision for the EPC is to serve as a key discussion forum on critical issues, its agenda should explore a broader mandate to address a range of significant challenges beyond the issue of peace and security and the connected topic of energy security. In this way, the leaders attending the EPC will showcase that they understand that peace and security requires proactive action steps that prevent a crisis rather than just dealing with the consequences of it.
A broader mandate for the ECP
In addition to its steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine, and how to approach the energy and climate crisis, the EPC could address key challenges such as economic cooperation, social cohesion, and the digital transformation. By enhancing economic ties among member nations, for example, EPC can foster prosperity and stability, facilitating the sustainable growth of both individual economies and the European continent as a whole. This summit can explore avenues for promoting trade, investment, and innovation, while also addressing disparities and promoting inclusive economic development across the region. Social cohesion and inclusion should be on the agenda of the EPC. Europe is home to diverse societies, and ensuring that all individuals have equal rights, opportunities, and access to essential services is crucial for a harmonious and prosperous continent. The EPC can foster dialogue and cooperation in areas such as education, healthcare, social welfare, and human rights to promote inclusivity, combat discrimination, and address socio-economic inequalities. Furthermore, the digital transformation and cybersecurity are emerging challenges that demand the attention of the summit. In an increasingly interconnected world, digital technologies offer immense opportunities but also pose risks. The EPC can facilitate collaboration among member nations to strengthen cybersecurity measures, promote digital literacy, and develop common standards and regulations to ensure the secure and responsible use of digital technologies across Europe.
By expanding its agenda and tackling these issues collectively, the EPC will reinforce its role as a platform for political coordination and foster the progress, well-being, and unity of the European continent.
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