Stanley Johnson calls for a 'new union with the wider European framework'
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The UK demanded that there be no EU flags at the inaugural meeting of the European Political Community, which took place yesterday in Prague. The new group, dreamt up by French President Emmanuel Macron, is aimed at advancing security and energy cooperation across the continent. It will bring together leaders from nearly every European country, except Russia and Belarus.
Leaders from 44 countries were invited to attend yesterday’s meeting, including all 27 EU leaders, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky.
But in spite of its links with the EU, the UK reportedly asked that there be no EU flags in Prague Castle, where the meeting took place.
According to EURACTIV.cs, UK Prime Minister Liz Truss made the demands ahead of the meeting yesterday.
The EU was represented at the meeting, with President of the European Council Charles Michel chairing the informal dinner session.
European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen also attended the meetings but had no formal role.
Speaking to EURACTIV.cs, a Czech diplomat said: “She had no speech during the official program, she is only attending the event, and she had some bilateral meetings there.”
The Czech Prime Minister, Petr Fiala, said that Europe needed space for an informal exchange of ideas, regardless of EU membership status.
He said: “Our common task was to create an informal platform where we can cooperate, share ideas and develop solutions to return peace and prosperity to Europe. And I think we succeeded.”
Mr Fiala added: “Even the fact that all the European leaders spent a day together in one place and that dozens of bilateral meetings are taking place, it is a benefit.”
However, he said that the European Political Community would not be institutionalised, with no formal conclusions being made from the summit.
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Speaking after the summit, Ms Truss said her attendance was “not about moving closer to Europe”.
She added: “What this is about is about working with all of our European partners to challenge [Vladimir] Putin’s appalling war in Ukraine, but also to work together on the issues that we all face – huge energy costs, rising inflation and also migration across our continent.”
Ms Truss also described Mr Macron as a “friend”, despite claiming during the Tory leadership race that the French President may be either a “friend or foe”.
In a joint statement following the meeting, the two leaders pledged to hold a UK-France summit in 2023 “to take forward a renewed bilateral agenda”.
Mr Macron said it was “very good news” that Truss had decided to attend the meeting.
He added: “Having the UK being engaged in a lot of common initiatives, I think does make sense both for the UK and for us also, because we do share the same continent.
“I do hope this is a new phase of our common relations and that this is the beginning of the day after.”
Earlier this week, Ms Truss reportedly told attendees at a Conservative Party Conference reception that her feud with Mr Macron was just “le banter”.
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