It’s one of the biggest peaks of the year. In the former Soviet republic of Moldova, near the Ukrainian war zone, 50 European states are gathering. Their message: Russia is isolated.
The summit location is only around 20 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. The heads of state and government from almost all European countries are coming. However, two countries are not included: Russia and Belarus. On Thursday, the second summit of the European Political Community (EPG) in the former Soviet Republic of Moldova is supposed to send the signal to them: We stand together – and you are isolated.
Even if the summit is one of the biggest this year: The EPG is hardly known so far. The format was established last October on the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron with a first summit in the Czech capital Prague to improve cooperation between the EU and other European countries.
Small Moldova with its 2.6 million inhabitants also belongs to these countries. The former Soviet republic is one of the poorest countries in Europe – and like Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia, has been an EU candidate for a year. Politically, however, the country remains divided between pro-European and pro-Russian forces. Russian soldiers have been stationed in the breakaway region of Transnistria in the east of the country since the 1990s. There is also a huge Russian army ammunition depot there.
Moldova as “political heart of Europe”
The summit should now demonstrate the solidarity of the Europeans with Moldova. “Moldova is the political heart of Europe this week,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday shortly before the start of the summit. Moldovan President Maia Sandu saw the meeting as evidence of the growing unity on the continent. She expects a sign of solidarity with Ukraine and a signal of support for Moldova.
In addition to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the official agenda of the EPG summit also includes the topics of energy supply and climate protection. This also involves the question of how the still high dependence of European countries on Russian gas and oil can be reduced.
Is Zelensky coming?
It was unclear until shortly before the start of the meeting whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would attend the summit in person. Selenskyj had recently traveled to the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia and to the G7 summit of leading democratic economic powers in Japan. Moldova is comparatively easy to reach for Zelenskyy: It is only a few hours by train from Kiev. In addition, this summit would be the first in which Zelenskyy participates as a member and not only as a guest. Ukraine is part of the EPG.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) wanted to travel from Germany on Thursday morning. It is his first trip to Moldova since he took office almost 18 months ago. In addition to the 27 EU countries, 20 other countries were invited to the meeting. These include Great Britain, Turkey, Norway, Switzerland and the western Balkan states of Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.
Castle from the 19th century as a summit location
What is special about the meetings of the EPG is that there are no joint final declarations. This enables free discussions without the pressure to reach an agreement. After a joint session, there is also plenty of time for group and individual discussions with the participants.
Such a conversation is also planned between Scholz, Macron and the presidents of Serbia and Kosovo on the sidelines of the summit, as government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit confirmed on Wednesday. The four-way meeting is said to be about the ongoing violence in Kosovo. Neighboring Serbia does not want to accept the loss of its former province. The worst violent riots by Serbs and Kosovars in years recently took place there.
When they meet in Moldova, the heads of state and government gather at Mimi Castle, built in the 19th century for the winery of the family of the same name. According to the government, wine barrels with a total capacity of around 300,000 liters can be stored in the basement of the magnificent building. The castle is located about 35 kilometers from the capital Chisinau and today also houses a museum as well as a conference hall and a hotel.
NATO monitors with AWACS
NATO, among others, is responsible for the safety of the participants. According to the defense alliance, Awacs reconnaissance aircraft will be deployed during the summit. They are based on Boeing 707 aircraft and, with their mushroom-shaped radar structure, are able to monitor the airspace within a radius of around 400 kilometers. For example, enemy planes, missiles and drones can be spotted very early on.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.