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GRANADA, Spain — A summit bringing together nearly 50 European leaders, dozens of aides and legions of journalists ended like a damp squib when participants failed to make significant progress in resolving conflicts on the doorstep. Europe – or any other regional problem.
The third edition of Emmanuel Macron’s favorite project, the European Political Community, was billed by advisors as an opportunity to broker peace between warring Armenia and Azerbaijan, defuse tensions in the Balkans and hold a strategic conversation about the continent’s security.
Although leaders rallied around Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was in Grenada to shore up European support in the face of American nervousness over aid to Ukraine, they failed to make progress in other conflicts in the absence of key actors.
Hope among participants to take action to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh failed when Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey decided to skip the rally. The leaders had hoped to host the first meeting between Aliyev and Armenia’s Nikol Pashinyan since Azerbaijan launched a blitzkrieg offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh, triggering an exodus of 100,000 refugees.
Azerbaijan accused France of bias in the negotiations and eventually agreed to talks, but only under the auspices of the EU in Brussels, according to Aliyev’s presidential adviser Hikmet Hajiyev on Twitter. social networks.
Attempts to defuse tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have also been unsuccessful. Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani has refused to talk with her Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić unless sanctions are imposed against Belgrade following a Serbian incursion into Kosovo.
The sense of futility of the informal summit peaked when host country Spain canceled at the last minute a planned news conference, the expected highlight of the summit for around 700 journalists. It was supposed to include declarations and officially mark the transfer of leadership of the European Political Community from Spain to the United Kingdom.
A “market” for leaders
The leaders’ lack of enthusiasm for the summit was evident early in the day, when many guests didn’t bother to stop and share a few thoughts with the mass of waiting journalists. The Italian Giorgia Meloni passed nearby, talking on her cell phone.
Neither German Chancellor Olaf Scholz nor the British Rishi Sunak spoke to the press. Emmanuel Macron – whose idea was to create the European Political Community – had nothing to say when he arrived at the meeting.
During a press conference at the end of the day, the French president showed courage regarding the events of the day. In addition to strengthening cooperation to combat cybercrime among the 47 members of the EPC, he touted the talks on Armenia – held in the absence of the main antagonist, Azerbaijan – as proof of the usefulness of the meeting.
Asked about the US blocking aid to Ukraine, the French president called the billions of dollars in US support a “wonderful complement” to the EU contribution. but warned that this “cannot replace our European mobilization”. But the president, who came up with the original idea for the EPC, took fewer questions from reporters than usual before joining other leaders for an evening tour of the Alhambra.
The Spanish presidency refused to explain why the main press conference was canceled. According to an EU diplomat, although there were “no fundamental questions”, there was virtually no need to make statements to the press.
“It’s a mini-UN, it’s a marketplace where leaders can negotiate and negotiate,” said the diplomat, who requested anonymity to discuss the issue candidly.
When Macron launched the EPC following Russian aggression against Ukraine in May 2022, his lofty ambitions were to create “a new space of cooperation” and contribute to peace and security, not to ‘be a simple Davos for leaders.
Although little progress has been made on resolving the conflict, discussions focused on migration, a hot topic for Britain’s Rishi Sunak, whose country has had few opportunities to discuss the issue with European countries since Brexit.
A side event between Sunak, Meloni and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama resulted in commitments to increase cooperation on information sharing and anti-trafficking operations in transit and departure countries, according to Macron.