Edi Rama is the prime minister of Albania. Mark Rutte is prime minister of the Netherlands.
As Russia launched its brutal invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Europe suddenly awoke realizing peace on the Continent is not guaranteed. This unprecedented and unjustified war is an attack on the international legal order, and as such, it constitutes a threat to our own freedom and security.
With this war, Russian President Vladimir Putin hoped to sow division between the countries of Europe, but in fact, he achieved the opposite. We stand united — not just the members of the European Union, but all European countries.
We will do everything in our power to help Ukraine regain its full sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we will support its reconstruction. But the fact is that Russia’s unprovoked aggression also forces us all to rethink some fundamentals about this Continent we all share, and how to best protect our democracy and common values. The need for a strong, ongoing, united European response is self-evident.
That is why we fully support French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for a European Political Community (EPC).
The EPC should be a place where all democratic European countries can discuss common concerns and challenges, and devise solutions. It should be driven not by bureaucracy but by flexibility. It should be guided not by fixed agendas but by priorities that concern us all — including the war in Ukraine, energy dependence and food security.
We need a platform that doesn’t overlap with the strong regional organizations we already have in Europe or supplant the well-structured process of EU accession for candidate countries. The EPC should be a workspace where we can meet and do business, whether an EU member or not.
We are very much looking forward to our first meeting in the beautiful city of Prague on October 6. And we strongly believe there’s an important and ambitious agenda to discuss right from the start.
For one, we see great potential for expanding and integrating our Continent’s energy and transport networks; and in the EPC, we can discuss how to work toward an interconnected and climate-neutral energy system in Europe. Prioritizing investment in European energy production will further help to ensure full independence from Russian energy exports, while all European countries should, of course, work to address the rise in energy prices in the short term.
At the same time, the climate crisis remains one of the biggest challenges we face — we can see this every day across our Continent. As such, we must coordinate, including to advance the ambition expressed at Glasgow’s COP26 on financing developing countries’ climate adaptation.
Another major challenge is cybersecurity. All our countries face cyber threats, and we should increase our collective cyber resilience by working together to secure our institutions and networks.
Beyond these challenges, we must also invest in a positive agenda for our common future.
First and foremost, this means investing in our youth. Therefore, we should discuss pan-European higher education, research and innovation capabilities, competitiveness and sustainability — and we must do so sooner rather than later. We must continue to promote exchanges involving young people and cooperation between universities, and we can use the EPC to share best practices in this area.
Finally, we should also discuss how to improve intra-European trade. We need a robust framework for economic growth and social convergence for all parts of Europe. It’s crucial that we support regional and subregional economic cooperation initiatives and invest in regional transport and trade connectivity.
The EPC presents us with a critical opportunity to face our shared challenges head on. Europe must shape its own future, and the only way to do so is to work together as democratic members of the European family. Working together makes us stronger, safer and more prosperous. So, in Prague, let us establish a forum that’s inclusive and effective.
You can count on us to help achieve this.