19th Jul 2018

Big names to stay away from Prague summit

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Spain's Jose Luis Zapatero will not attend the Czech EU presidency's "Eastern Partnership" summit on 7 May, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy also expected to stay away.

London and Madrid on Monday (4 May) confirmed that the two countries will instead send foreign ministers. Mr Brown is "firmly committed" to the project despite his absence, the British embassy to the EU told EUobserver, while Mr Zapatero is too busy with a special meeting on unemployment, the Spanish mission said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

A spokeswoman for the Elysee Palace in Paris said "at this moment" Mr Sarkozy is also not coming. The president is instead scheduled to listen to a report on equal rights in France and attend a World War II commemoration event.

Polish premier Donald Tusk has not confirmed either. The Eastern Partnership summit, disliked by Russia, comes ahead of a potential meeting between Mr Tusk and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in September.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the most senior EU leader to have signed up so far. Italy's Silvio Berlusconi is also going. Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium will attend at the top level, despite earlier rumours they might stay away on human rights grounds.

The potential French absence is being linked to the fact that acting Czech Prime Minister, Miroslav Topolanek, skipped Mr Sarkozy's "Mediterranean Union" summit in Paris last year.

"If big countries such as the UK and France decide not to go, it will send the message that the EU is not really serious about this initiative. In a way, it would be a victory for Russian diplomacy," one EU official said.

The Eastern Partnership is a €600 million EU project to forge closer relations with six former Soviet states on the union's eastern border: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Belarus is to send the lowest-level delegate to the event. First deputy prime minister Vladimir Semashko is hardly known even in Belarus, but Minsk gossip says the energy security specialist may be promoted to prime minister in the coming days.

Moldova - which has no official government following disputed elections on 7 April - is sending acting foreign minister and former ambassador to the EU Andrei Stratan.

The Czech EU presidency said Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will "very probably" come as well as President Viktor Yushchenko, despite long-running personal enmity between the pair.

Senior EU diplomats will on Wednesday finalise the EU's proposed text for the summit's official declaration.

Germany is insisting the document says steps toward visa-free travel will take place "in the long-term," a phrase missing from the original Czech text, an EU diplomat said.

Berlin also dislikes referring to the six states as "European countries," preferring the phrase "countries of eastern Europe" instead. The wording "European countries" echoes Article 49 of the EU treaty, which says all "European countries" are eligible to apply for membership of the EU.

EU and Japan wave light in Trump's 'darkness'

EU leaders and Japanese prime minister signed a series of agreements, including the EU's biggest trade deal ever, designed as an answer to the disruption of the world order by the US president.

Stage set for Trump-Putin finale

Trump hoped to befriend Putin at a showcase summit in Helsinki, following US president's attacks on Nato and British leaders this week.


EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

News in Brief

  1. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  2. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  3. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs
  4. EU Commission launches probe into Hungary's 'Stop Soros' law
  5. EU warns Turkey on anti-terror bill
  6. Report: EU secretly scorns UK's Brexit paper
  7. Hungary: UN treaty could 'inspire millions' of migrants
  8. Nato reacts after Trump disparages Montenegro

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us