ECOS By / June 7, 2023

Outcome of the European Political Community meeting in Bulboaca, Moldova, on 1 June 2023

On 1 June 2023, Moldova hosted the second meeting of the European Political Community (EPC) in Bulboaca, just a few kilometres from the Ukrainian border.

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Written by Suzana Anghel with José Ernault.

On 1 June 2023, Moldova hosted the second meeting of the European Political Community (EPC) in Bulboaca, just a few kilometres from the Ukrainian border. The focus of this informal forum of 48 leaders from across the European continent was clearly more on peace and security – with all participants reiterating their unity in support of Ukraine – and less on energy and interconnectivity, the other topic on the agenda. Discussions took place in plenary and roundtable format, showing continuity in method with the inaugural EPC meeting held in Prague in 2022.

Enlargement, although not officially a topic for discussion, was placed at the centre of the debates by the President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, and the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who this time attended the summit in person. The two leaders pleaded for the opening of EU accession negotiations by the end of this year. In addition, Zelenskyy advocated powerfully for a strong signal from NATO at the upcoming summit of the Alliance in Vilnius on 11 July 2023, both regarding Ukraine’s accession and concerning security guarantees on the way to membership. This to some extent transformed the meeting into an informal preparatory meeting for the NATO and European Council meetings later this year, touching on and possibly easing potential sensitivities. No summit declaration was adopted, confirming the EPC’s informal platform format.

A series of side meetings allowed leaders to discuss issues of direct interest to their own countries. Side meetings were also used for mediation purposes in the case of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, and to attempt to put the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue back on track, after the recent spike in violence.

1.     Background

The European Political Community’s second summit meeting took place on 1 June 2023 in Moldova, at Mimi Castle in Bulboaca, 20 kilometres from the Ukrainian border. The leaders of 45 European countries, including all 27 EU-Member States, attended the summit, while the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, declined the invitation at the last minute. The presidents of three EU institutions – the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament – also attended. The event followed on from the inaugural EPC meeting, held in Prague on 6 October 2022, at which 44 leaders from across the European continent came together for the first time to express their unity and support for Ukraine.

EPC summits are held on a bi-annual basis, being hosted alternately by an EU and a non-EU country. The meeting in Bulboaca was the first EPC summit to be hosted by a non-EU country, Moldova. Spain, the country holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of the year, will host the third EPC meeting in October 2023, when an informal European Council meeting is also expected to take place. The United Kingdom is expected to host the fourth EPC summit in a year’s time, during the first half of 2024.

2.     European Political Community: Origins and initial developments

The EPC originated from a proposal made by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, at the closing event of the Conference on the Future of Europe on 9 May 2022. It is a ‘partnership of equals’, which allows EU and non-EU European countries to share an informal platform for political dialogue and cooperation on peace and security at a time of war on the European continent.

Prior to, during and after the Prague summit, there were discussions about the possibility of transforming the EPC initiative, giving it more structure and possibly providing it with a permanent secretariat and a dedicated budget. This path has not been taken thus far, confirming the leaders’ preference for flexibility, something Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has praised. Academics argue that a dedicated institutional framework could bring more clarity on who is in charge of developing the agenda and ensuring business continuity between summits. For now, however, tasks are being undertaken by the host countries with informal help from the EU. There is a fear that the EU’s involvement in the preparatory stages, if continued, could estrange some participants, who might see the Union’s involvement as an attempt to use the EPC as a vehicle to promote its policies rather than as a platform of equals.

3.     The summit’s host: Moldova

The choice of Moldova as host for the second EPC meeting sends a strong signal of support and commitment from the EU to a country that has expressed its European aspirations vibrantly and was granted candidate country status a year ago, along with Ukraine.

Moldova has been on the front line from the moment Russia’s war on Ukraine broke out. The country has had to cope with high numbers of refugees (691 154 arrivals, with 103 281 remaining in Moldova). It has also been constantly challenged by Russia’s multifaceted hybrid war, being continually confronted with disinformation, weaponisation of energy supplies and destabilisation attempts, against which Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned when addressing the European Council back in February 2023. Moldova’s security is intertwined with that of Ukraine, with the latter acting as a de facto security provider, a reality recognised by Sandu.

Since Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine, the EU has provided Moldova with multifaceted – political, financial, humanitarian and military – support. In May 2023, the EU doubled its macro-financial assistance for Moldova, bringing it to a total of €295 million. The Union has also granted temporary trade liberalisation for seven key Moldovan agricultural products. It has meanwhile provided €48 million in humanitarian aid to help Moldova cope with the challenge posed by the high number of war refugees. Moldova’s electricity grid has been synchronised with the continental European grid, and the country has progressively phased out its dependency on Russian gas (with the exception of Transnistria). A €200 million energy support package was presented in November 2022 to help Moldova meet its gas supply needs, and Moldova is now participating in the common gas purchasing mechanism. As regards military support, a day before the EPC summit, the EU High Representative/Vice President of the European Commission (HR/VP), Josep Borrell, inaugurated the European Union Partnership Mission Moldova in Chisinau. The mission’s objective is to help strengthen Moldova’s resilience and ability to counter hybrid threats. The EU has so far pledged up to €80 million through the European Peace Facility to support modernisation of Moldova’s armed forces. A new set of sanctions, adopted on Romania’s initiative, target ‘actions aimed at destabilising’ Moldova.

4.     European Political Community meeting in Bulboaca

Meeting format

The meeting alternated between plenary and roundtable sessions. A plenary session allowed the host, Maia Sandu, to open the summit. She expressed Moldova’s gratitude to Ukraine for standing up for its security, and to the EU and its Member States for their support and assistance. She also mentioned Moldova’s aspirations for EU integration, and commitment to meet the required conditions. Zelenskyy, who was next to take the floor, called for unity and warned the leaders that ‘every doubt we show here in Europe is a trench that Russia will definitely try to occupy’. Three other leaders – the Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte – addressed the plenary. They assured Moldova and Ukraine of their countries’ support, called for unity and, in the case of Rutte, stressed the urgent need to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 aircraft.

Two roundtables were scheduled, one on security and one on energy and interconnectivity, to allow European leaders to discuss the two subjects in depth, in smaller groups. This model had already been successfully used at the inaugural EPC meeting but also earlier at the EU-African Union Summit in 2022. In contrast with the previous summit, the leaders came back together for a working lunch, which took the place of a closing plenary session and was followed by side meetings.

Main results of the meeting

The EPC summit was an opportunity to bring the continent together to discuss security, energy and interconnectivity. In practice, the debates were dominated by two topics: security and enlargement. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, put migration on the agenda, a topic that could return to the fore in a year’s time, when the EPC summit is to be hosted by the UK.

European unity

The European leaders once again sent a strong signal of unity, isolating Russia and Belarus, and demonstrating support for Moldova and Ukraine. At the joint press conference closing the summit, Sandu, Sanchez, and the Czech Prime Minister, Peter Fiala, stressed that the European family was in Moldova standing united in support of peace. Attending the summit, the European Parliament President, Roberta Metsola, stressed that the objective was to show support ‘to Moldova, to Ukraine and to the wider European community’, and underlined that Europe is facing a resilience test which it needs to meet united.


The European continent’s security and its protection from war in all its forms, including hybrid attacks, was the overarching theme of the summit. Ukraine’s security was at the centre of the debates. Zelenskyy pleaded for Ukraine’s accession to NATO and for security guarantees on the way to membership. These two questions remain sensitive for members of the Alliance, who will need to consider them at the July summit in Vilnius. Some have taken a clear stance in support of Ukraine’s accession, with over 10 countries, including recently Romania, signing a ‘declaration of support for Ukraine’s accession to NATO’. Macron stressed that ‘Vilnius must send a clear message to Ukraine and Ukrainians. I favour stronger, concrete very clear security guarantees’, without clarifying their form. Estonian Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, stressed that her own country’s history and experience tells that ‘the only security guarantee is NATO’.

EU enlargement

Enlargement was the surprise topic prompted by Sandu and Zelenskyy, and echoed by several EU leaders. Sandu used the summit to express her country’s European aspirations and to reiterate Moldova’s self-set objective to join the EU by 2030. European Council President Charles Michel said he would put enlargement on the agenda of EU leaders at the end of the year, after the submission by the Commission of its progress reports. Metsola pointed to the ‘adamant firmness‘ of Moldovan citizens in favour of European integration that she had experienced when visiting Chisinau, and the impressive speed shown by Moldova in its response to the Commission’s conditionality, which had led Parliament to vote a resolution in support of opening accession negotiations with Moldova by the end of 2023. She also addressed a strong message to the Western Balkans, pleading for their ‘faster, more urgent and more deep European integration’.

Side meetings in a variable geometry format


A meeting was convened by Charles Michel on the sidelines of the EPC summit to facilitate the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in a context of resurging tensions in the region, with each side accusing the other of ceasefire violations. The meeting was attended by the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz. This meeting followed a similar one held during the Prague EPC summit in October 2022. Michel, who has been actively involved in the peace talks, has met Aliyev and Pashinyan five times in trilateral format since September 2020, and has been engaging in various communication formats (bilateral meetings or phone calls) with both leaders pushing for the conclusion of an agreement on border delimitation and a peace treaty (see Figure 1). Michel announced a new meeting in Brussels on 21 July 2023 and invited participants to reconvene during the EPC summit in Granada in October 2023.

Figure 1 – Timeline of EU-led mediation efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan


Another meeting held on the margins sought to address tensions in north Kosovo following local elections, which were boycotted by the Serb community. The meeting involved Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, Kosovan President Vjosa Osmani, Macron, Scholz, and Borrell. Macron stated that Osmani and Vučić had agreed to consider a French-German plan to ease tensions.

Read this briefing on ‘Outcome of the European Political Community meeting in Bulboaca, Moldova, on 1 June 2023‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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