The first summit meeting of the new EU-plus forum is to take place in Prague, as the Czech Republic currently holds the rotating EU presidency, just ahead of an informal meeting of EU leaders on 7 October.
“Invitations will be sent out soon” for the summit, scheduled to take place on 6-7 October in Prague, with leaders of the six Western Balkan countries, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan expected to receive them, the EU official told reporters.
The idea for the new forum, a brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron, is to provide a platform for political dialogue and cooperation while including countries aspiring to join the EU and those happy remaining outside the bloc.
The main aim is “to have a political discussion on strategic issues of common interest for the European continent,” the EU official said, adding that the main issues will include Russia’s war against Ukraine, the energy crisis and Europe’s economic situation.
Macron had pitched the idea earlier in May, amid the debate whether to grant Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova EU candidate status, as an option that would allow those EU neighbouring countries currently outside the EU framework to be more closely involved with the bloc.
Some observers had voiced concerns the proposal could mean looking for an ‘alternative’ to EU enlargement, to which France, and de facto most Western European countries, had been sceptical before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine gave the process new momentum.
Czechia’s Minister for European Affairs Mikuláš Bek said on Friday that he doesn’t expect Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit.
According to Mr. Bek, the Ukrainian president will not leave his country until Russia’s invasion comes to an end.
The Czech Republic took over the rotating EU Council presidency on July 1. It has listed the refugee crisis and aid to Ukraine, energy security, defense reinforcement and resilience of the European economy, among others, as its presidency’s main priorities.