Leaders from 44 European countries will gather in Prague on Thursday to launch a European Political Community aimed at boosting security and economic prosperity. Critics say the new forum is an attempt to slow European Union enlargement.
The meeting in the capital of the Czech Republic is the brainchild of French President Emmanuel Macron, backed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
The summit, at Prague Castle, will involve a series of meetings on the key challenges Europe faces: security, energy, climate, the economic situation, and migration.
When he launched the idea for the European Political Community, Macron said that it "would allow democratic European nations ... to find a new space for political cooperation, security, energy, transport, investment, infrastructure, the movement of people".
Brussels has billed the initiative as an invaluable "platform for political coordination" among the disparate grouping of 44 nations invited.
But there are deep disagreements, and even open conflict among some of those attending, and there is scepticism that the one-day event will be much more than a glorified photo opportunity.
Russia, which is not invited, will loom over the meeting as discussions focus on the economic and security fallout from its war against its pro-Western neighbour.
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