Liz Truss will attend the inaugural summit of the European Political Community (EPC) next week, a new forum proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron to bring together nations within the EU and those outside the bloc.
Truss’ decision marks a ‘significant attempt’ to ‘mend the UK’s strained relationship with the EU’, said the FinancialTimes. He will be considered an “olive branch” for Macron, the newspaper adds.
Truss will join the group’s first meeting in Prague on October 6, just months after the prime minister criticized the summit in his previous role as foreign minister.
And her attitude towards Macron and France was questioned in the Conservative leadership election when she was asked whether she considered the president “friend or foe”. She replied controversially, “Time will tell.”
What is EPC?
The summit is the brainchild of Macron, who hopes it can bring together European nations from inside and outside the EU.
The French president announced it in May, in a speech on the occasion of Europe Day. He said the leaders had a “historic obligation” to form a “new European organisation” which “would allow democratic European nations to find a new space for political cooperation, security, cooperation in the fields of energy, transport, investment, infrastructure [and] movement of people”.
The EPC includes EU leaders, as well as candidate countries such as Ukraine, the Western Balkans and Turkey, and neighbors who do not explicitly wish to join the Union, such as Norway, Switzerland and the UK.
Why does Truss want to attend?
Truss’ newfound enthusiasm for the band will “raise eyebrows,” said The Independentgiven that she had explicitly criticized the project just a few months ago when she was foreign minister.
In June, she said she had not “joined” a Europe-wide political community. But in a significant about-face, the prime minister even expressed his willingness to host the next EPC summit in London.
Truss believes the new group offers an opportunity to rebuild the UK’s relationship with the EU in the wake of Brexit. “It’s good that the EU is thinking about its relationship with us after Brexit and vice versa,” said a Truss supporter.
The UK’s participation in the summit could also help ease tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the part of Britain’s Brexit deal with the EU that has proven the most contentious.
Is the presence of Truss a risk?
For Truss, joining a European political project is a “high risk” step, which comes at a “sensitive moment”, Policy said. This is all the more true given the largely eurosceptic complexion of her Conservative Party after Brexit, not to mention the fact that “she is already fighting to save her skin”, added the news site, after first “disastrous” weeks in power.
The move certainly proved popular with Tories who did not want Britain to leave the UK. Former cabinet minister David Lidington, who backed Remain in the Brexit referendum, yesterday said Truss’ presence would be a ‘very welcome development’.
What does the EU think of the project?
“Critics within the EU are wary of what they see as a ‘vague’ project led by France,” said the BBC reported.
Some have expressed concern that France, “a notorious skeptic of EU enlargement”, will use EPC as a way to create a “parking lot” for countries wishing to join the EU. EU. However, Brussels officials have stressed that the new community will not “replace” its own enlargement policy.
Many within the EU have welcomed the UK’s participation in the group. They see Truss’ decision to attend as a ‘positive signal’ after UK relations with Europe turned ‘sour’ under Boris Johnson, particularly over the Northern Ireland Protocol, a said the FT.
“[Truss’s] participation sends a positive signal about the wider neighborhood engagement,” a senior EU diplomat told the newspaper. “It would also have been worrying if she had decided not to attend.”