President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said that the European Union must act more actively and independently in defense and security policy, but at the same time pay attention to the partnership with the United States and other NATO allies. He made the remarks after an informal meeting of the presidents and prime ministers of the member states, which did not issue any unified specific conclusions from member states.
The leaders of the EU countries discussed a stronger common defense and future relations with China. However, their differing views were not united into one common policy during a working dinner in Slovenia. Several politicians, including Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, spoke briefly about the need to jointly address the rise in energy prices, but there was no major debate on the subject.
Presidents and prime ministers of the member states met for the first time since the failure of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, which, according to several European politicians, showed the EU’s over-dependence on Washington. Their debate also revolved around the September conclusion of a security pact between the United States, Britain, and Australia, known by the acronym AUKUS, which, according to some leaders, also added to the urgency of ideas for greater military independence of the bloc.
“For the EU to become more effective and assertive on the international stage, it must strengthen its ability to act independently,” Michel said after the meeting in a statement that, unlike similar informal summits, was not a joint communiqué of leaders. According to the head of the summits, the union must also better promote its interests concerning China, which is a “competitor, partner and systemic adversary.”
Strengthening the EU’s global role?
Leaders of the EU institutions have been talking about strengthening the EU’s global role since the new European Commission took office two years ago. However, due to the disunity of the member states, which have to decide unanimously on foreign and security policy issues, a stronger approach towards powers such as China and Russia has not yet been achieved.
The bloc is also divided on the issue of creating its military forces, which is being promoted by France and Germany, but some states in the eastern wing of the Union are more reticent and want to maintain cooperation in NATO.
According to Michel, leaders will return to global strategy and security policy at the December summit and the March summit, the main topic of which will be a common defense.
Further discussion on the rise in energy prices expected
At the end of the dinner, Czech Prime Minister Babiš and the prime ministers of Spain and Greece briefly addressed the topic of the rapid rise in energy prices, the impact of which many countries want to mitigate through joint measures. They are calling, for example, for joint purchase of energy or a change in the rule that electricity and gas prices are tied up on the EU market, which is currently making electricity more expensive. However, other countries, led by Germany, are rather skeptical about reform proposals.
Michel rejected the wider discussion, saying that the leaders were going to devote a substantial part of the regular summit in two weeks in Brussels to the topic. There, they will already have proposals for possible measures on the table, which the European Commission will present next week.