Zelensky takes center stage at European summit in Moldova, Balkan tensions also dominate talks

Moldova's President Maia Sandu, right, walks with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky as they arrive for the European Political Community Summit at Mimi Castle in Bulboaca, Moldova, Thursday, June 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
By Dénes Albert
4 Min Read

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived at the European Political Community summit in Moldova on Thursday morning where he discussed developments in the ongoing conflict in his country with the leaders of 46 other countries, including Russia.

Zelensky was received by the host of the meeting, Moldovan President Maia Sandu, at Mimi Castle in Bulboaca, near Chisinau. The Ukrainian president thanked her for the humanitarian support offered to Kyiv and for receiving Ukrainian refugees.

Sandu had previously said that the large-scale meeting near the Ukrainian border was a testament to the growing unity of the continent, confirming the participants’ commitment to peace, their condemnation of Russia’s war in Ukraine, and their solidarity with Kyiv.

Zelensky also reaffirmed Ukraine’s ambition to become a full member of both the European Union and NATO.

The creation of the European Political Community was initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron to allow for informal and flexible discussion of topical political issues in a broader context than the European Union and to allow for closer cooperation between EU member states and countries outside the bloc. The first summit was held in Prague in October of last year.

The main themes of this year’s meeting included peace and security, energy and climate protection, and improving the interconnection of infrastructure networks between European countries. It also brought together senior representatives of EU member states and the EU’s central institutions, as well as heads of state or government from 20 European countries.

NATO announced before the summit that it would increase its monitoring of Moldovan airspace, adding that the expansion of the AWACS air surveillance system shows the importance Moldova plays as an ally for the defense alliance.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said upon his arrival that one of the objectives of the meeting was to show unity in respect for international law, adding that Russia had excluded itself from this community by attacking Ukraine.

He revealed that the summit would also discuss stability on the continent as a whole, especially in view of the worrying developments in the Balkans. The EU’s top diplomat stressed that the solution to the situation in Kosovo is certainly not violence and confirmed that he would reiterate this position to the presidents of both Kosovo and Serbia at the meeting.

Speaking ahead of the summit, however, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Kosovar President Vjosa Osmani blamed each other for the tensions. Osmani said Serbia was supporting “illegal structures” in Kosovo, while Vučić said the solution was for Kosovo to recall disputed local leaders from Serb-inhabited areas.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer also said it was important to stop the violence that has broken out in Kosovo. At the same time, he stressed that, while supporting the European integration of Moldova and other Eastern European countries, they should not forget to help the Western Balkan countries in their EU accession efforts.

Share This Article