President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Moldova on Thursday for a summit of European leaders with strong symbolic value against Vladimir Putin in this small country bordering Ukraine which also lives in fear of Russia. About 50 European leaders are meeting just 20 kilometers from Ukraine to send a message of support to these two former Soviet republics as a new airstrike hit Kiev overnight, killing at least three people.
"I'm happy to be here", launched the Ukrainian president in front of the cameras, before thanking the Moldovan people for "having welcomed many refugees since the first day of the war". "We will reconfirm our support for Ukraine resisting Russian aggression," Moldovan President Maia Sandu said.
As in its first edition in Prague in October, the CPE will give rise to a "family photo". The meeting this time has a notable absentee, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, re-elected on Sunday. Taken in this village near Transnistria, a pro-Russian separatist region of 300,000 inhabitants in the east of the country, it will highlight Putin's isolation.
For Moldova, this is an opportunity to reiterate its impatience to join the EU. "Moldova's place is in the European Union," Maia Sandu said on Wednesday. She received a message of encouragement from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who praised the country's "enormous progress" in its reforms. The question of accession also arises urgently for Ukraine, partly occupied by Russian troops. It obtained the status of official candidate at the same time as Moldova, in June 2022. But the road is still long.
The CPE will be the occasion for some bilateral or small-format discussions between leaders. It could help lower tensions in northern Kosovo, where violence erupted last weekend between police and Serb demonstrators. The French president is due to meet the Kosovar president and the Serbian president on Thursday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in two separate meetings.
He pinned Wednesday "the responsibility of the Kosovar authorities" after the clashes which left 30 wounded among the soldiers of the NATO force. Serbs boycotted April municipal elections in four localities, resulting in the election of Albanian mayors with less than 3.5% turnout. Their enthronement last week by the Kosovar government set fire to the powder.
In addition, the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders, in full negotiation to end their conflict, must also meet under the aegis of Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and the President of the European Council Charles Michel. Yerevan and Baku have been battling for decades for control of the Azerbaijani region of Nagorny Karabakh populated mainly by Armenians.
Negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan have intensified and seem to have registered progress in recent weeks, under the impetus of the EU and the United States. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev previously met at the first summit of the European Political Community (EPC) in Prague.