30th May 2023

US mini-summit seen as fresh snub in Brussels

The US decision not to invite any EU officials to a top-level security event in Prague is being seen as a fresh put-down by some in Brussels.

US leader Barack Obama will in the Czech capital on Thursday (8 April) sign a nuclear arms reduction treaty with his Russian counterpart before hosting a dinner with 11 heads of state and government from selected European countries.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • President Obama arriving for an EU summit in Prague in 2009 (Photo: aic.cz)

The guest list includes Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic itself, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. But no EU personalities, such as the bloc's new foreign relations chief, Catherine Ashton, or its new president, Herman Van Rompuy, were asked to come.

The White House says the dinner is designed for Mr Obama to understand the "unique perspective" of former Communist and Soviet countries on security issues in Europe.

It comes amid concerns in eastern EU capitals that the US is prioritising relations with Moscow while pulling back from plans to build new military bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

It also comes after Mr Obama cancelled an US-EU summit due to take place in Madrid in May. US and EU officials later suggested that future summits should be held only "when we both feel the need for one," rather than on a regular basis.

The developments embarrassed the Spanish EU presidency and have prompted questions of whether Washington continues to see the EU as an important player on the world stage.

The European Commission brushed off the significance of the Prague dinner in an official statement on Thursday.

"There are regular contacts between the US and member states and we don't have to intervene in all of them and to be invited to all of these meetings, so it's certainly not negative information for us," a commission spokesman said.

Asked by EUobserver if the Prague event risks being seen as another snub to the EU, a US diplomat said: "Both the president and the secretary of state have spoken of the great importance the EU holds for the US. We're not trying to distract or subtract from one relationship by also having another."

But the positive interpretation of events is not shared by everybody in the EU capital.

"At a time when the European Union is struggling to shape its foreign policy structures to have more influence on a global level this meeting represents a 'lose-lose' situation for both the EU member states attending the dinner summit and the European Union," the leader of the Liberal group in the EU parliament and former Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, said.

"This dinner points yet again to the fact that the European Union needs to make a common foreign policy a reality so that President Obama knows whom to call or who to invite for dinner."

A prominent EU diplomat told this website: "He didn't go to Madrid. Now we get this format in Prague. You could certainly ask some questions [about Mr Obama's ongoing commitment to the EU]."


Equatorial Guinea: a 'tough nut' for the EU

The relationship between one of Africa's smallest countries, run by the world's longest-serving dictator, remains difficult — especially after the European Parliament broke its 20-year silence on human rights in the country.

Latest News

  1. EU clashes over protection of workers exposed to asbestos
  2. EU to blacklist nine Russians over jailing of dissident
  3. Russia-Ukraine relations the Year After the war
  4. Why creating a new legal class of 'climate refugees' is a bad idea
  5. Equatorial Guinea: a 'tough nut' for the EU
  6. New EU ethics body and Moldova conference This WEEK
  7. How the EU's money for waste went to waste in Lebanon
  8. EU criminal complicity in Libya needs recognition, says expert

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us