If Vladimir Putin, in the style of Andy Warhol, never reads and only pays attention to the images, the one that this Thursday came out of the Mimi castle, on the outskirts of Chisinau, in Moldova, is one that he certainly did not overlook. In the center of the photo, the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelensky, in battle uniform. Next to him, also in green hope, the local president, Maia Sandu. And flanking them, on all sides, in three rows, up to 50 heads of state, government and the main community authorities. Europe practically in its entirety, from the Mediterranean to the Arctic and from the Atlantic to the Caucasus, passing through the Balkans. Almost the entire Europe with the invaded and the threatened. Socialists, liberals and conservatives, those from the EU and their neighbors, all reminding Moscow how lonely it is.

Just one year ago, Emmanuel Macron asked a key question: How can we politically structure Europe given that the doors of the EU are closed for the next generations? He, like Mitterrand before him, wanted a forum in which “all the States that comprise it can maintain a permanent and organized dialogue in conditions of equal dignity.” To talk about security, cooperation, strategic alliances, energy or stability. And after two appointments in eight months, that is what the European Political Community (CPE) is becoming, with almost 50 seats, starting with the 27, the Balkans, the candidates for accession, former Russian dominions, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Norway or Iceland.

It is not just a matter of offering the most solid front possible against Putin, in the heart of his sphere of influence, since guests such as Turkey or Serbia are not clear about that position. But to iron out rough edges and find ways to channel the many existing rivalries. If the EU has succeeded at anything, it is that neighbors who killed each other for centuries now solve their problems with quotas and endless meetings. Perhaps Brussels cannot offer entry to everyone, but it can offer a closeness so that the notion of combat disappears from their political vocabularies. That goes for the disputes between Ankara, Athens and Nicosia. For the threatened dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, for which Josep Borrell mediates. For Armenia and Azerbaijan, who are seeking meeting points through the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and with Macron and Scholz in the room. Or, on another level, to close wounds between the 27th and London, after Brexit.

The European Political Community held its second meeting 10 kilometers from Transnistria, the area controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, and 20 from the Ukrainian border. It started with the arrival of Zelenski, the first, and ended with a generic statement by President Maia Sandu, the Czech Petr Fiala and the Spanish Pedro Sánchez, since Spain will host the third meeting, in October, in Granada.

There is no structure, defined objectives or a fixed working method. There was a public session for the gallery, but the key is in the informal exchanges in small groups and the dozens of bilateral talks. Sánchez himself had several, with Switzerland, the Netherlands and Zelenski. It is about seeing each other, getting closer, getting to know each other. Lose the fear, but not the respect. That they forget quarrels and find common ground and ways to connect, the most repeated word. And that a kind of road map be drawn up, in the very long term and without pretensions or pressure, so that the interests of these 50, which today seem completely irreconcilable, impossible, will soon only be difficult.

Now that there is more mistrust, grudges and fights than ever, it helps that all the leaders of the continent see each other often, without a document of conclusions or a script. And it does not remain that shared interests clearly prevail, especially security, and not only common values. Before trying to institutionalize anything, you need confidence, knowledge, drive. And the EPC seems a propitious framework, better than Davos, the OSCE or any occurrence of the Council of Europe. For now there are few more than family photos and symbolism, but Europe is full of problems, enemies and deficiencies and more than ever in need of symbols, leaders and inspiration.

“It would be a mistake to dismiss the fledgling pan-European institution as irrelevant. Among other things, the new club offers a tangible home for Ukraine, making it clear that the country belongs to the great European family. It provides full, equal and easily accessible membership to a community of states that share important territorial and security interests. And unlike joining the EU, there are no boxes to tick, no milestones, and no conditions to meet,” say Luuk van Middelaar, Hans Kribbe and Sébastien Lumet of the Brussels Institute. for Geopolitics (BIG).

There are many on the continent who do not take the initiative very seriously, including some delegations. They believe that it can be redundant, or empty like the Conference on the future of Europe. And others fear that it will vanish when the war is over. There is no plan, which they are not used to, but they seem not to remember that the community origins were not very different. But for those who are not within the Union, those who know that they will not be for decades, or ever, it is something to cling to, a place to be face to face, listen and be heard without corsets or complexes, “in a flexible and frank format,” said Sánchez. And now that the 27 have seen the ears of the wolf, for the first time they have some weight. The CEP is not much today, but nobody knows what it could be in five or 10 years. If it ends in nothing the expense and the sacrifice will have been insignificant. If it goes well, the investment can have the best return imaginable.

“The European Political Community, which skeptics regard as empty chitchat, represents an adequate and timely response to the demise of the post-Cold War European order. The new club allows its members to band together and strategize as sovereign states in not dissimilar ways to what those states did in 1989 and 1945, or in 1815 and even 1648, when difficult questions about war, peace and order demanded novel answers.Faced with the same questions in the present, Europe is returning to its past. , to the often forgotten diplomatic methods and practices that once gave rise to the modern state system itself,” the BIG experts add.

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