6th Jun 2023

Leaders to hold Greece talks in margins of EU summit

Energy, foreign affairs, and the economy will be on the EU leaders’ official agenda at Thursday and Friday's (19 and 20 March) summit.

But Greece will be the "elephant in the room", according to one diplomat from a non-eurozone country, with a crucial meeting also to take place between Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and a handful of EU power brokers.

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  • EU leaders will endorse plans for Energy Union (Photo: south-stream-offshore.com)

Tsipras will meet on Thursday evening with German chancelor Angela Merkel, French president Francois Hollande, and with the presidents of the European Council, commission and central bank - Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and Mario Draghi. The president of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, will also participate.

Tsipras had been angling for such a meeting for some time to make a deal on easing Greece’s debt obligations.

"Elected officials will negotiate with elected officials and technocrats will deal with technocrats," he said to the Greek parliament on Wednesday.

His European partners refused to put Greece on the official summit agenda, saying it must first implement the Eurogroup agreement on reforms.

Merkel is "willing to go a long way to find a compromise", according to an aide quoted by the Bloomberg news agency.

But the chancellor will tell Tsipras she expects Greece to play by the rules, the aide said.

Energy union

The main topic of the summit is Energy Union. The initiative was launched by Tusk, who was at the time still Polish prime minister.

EU leaders will endorse a plan unveiled by the commission in February. It has five elements: energy efficiency; integrated markets; decarbonisation of the economy; research and innovation; and energy security.

Tusk added one topic to the discussion, on transparency of energy contracts.

The objective is to prevent EU states from signing deals that are against EU rules and is mainly aimed at Russian gas giant Gazprom, which signed several anti-EU agreements with EU states in recent years.

"The temperature was high" when EU ministers talked about the subject, a council official said.

“[But] Tusk sees no rational reason why the EU should preserve room for contracts which are illegal or against the interest of Europe’s energy security”.

EU leaders should agree to the principle of more transparency but will ask for a precise definition of the concept.

"Some member states refuse to put everything on the table and let the commission decide what is harmful. We need legal rules," explained an EU national diplomat.

Ukraine and Russia

EU leaders will also discus the situation in Ukraine, taking stock of the situation since Merkel and Hollande helped to negotiate the Minsk 2 ceasefire agreement in February.

No new sanctions against Russia will be decided at the summit.

EU leaders should instead endorse a Franco-German recommendation linking the lifting of existing sanctions to the full implementation of the Minsk 2 agreement, including monitoring by the OSCE of the Ukraine-Russia border.

While hawkish countries like Britain or the Baltic states wanted to threaten further measures, the recommendation will ensure that more dovish countries like Austria, Hungary, or Greece continue to support EU policy.

"I don’t see any fracturing between the 28," said another EU national diplomat.

Russia will also be at the centre of a discussion on what the diplomat called a "sophisticated and systematic campaign of disinformation."

"We need to recognise the scale of it and talk about how to deal with it," he said.

EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini will be asked to prepare for June "an action plan on strategic communication and support for media freedom", although the council official stressed that "responsibility to address disinformation is and will stay in member states hands".


The situation in Libya, where political instability has aggravated problems linked to terrorism and irregular migration for Europe, will be also on the summit agenda.

EU leaders will express their support for UN efforts to broker a deal between Libyan parties and create a government of national unity.

On Monday (16 March), EU foreign affairs ministers asked Mogherini to prepare a plan for an EU military operation in Libya once the situation has stabilised. But member state sources said this is not an immediate prospect.


After a discussion on the economic situation in Europe, the 28 leaders will reconfirm their commitment to conclude the transatlantic agreement negotiations by the end of the year.

They will discuss how to address the European public mistrust towards the transatlantic agreement negotiations between the EU and the US.

"We need to better explain the TTIP and we need more transparency from EU institutions and in the member states," said a source.

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