Europe gathers in Iceland to show unity against Russia

A year after Russia was ousted, the leaders of the 46 member states of the Council of Europe meet at a summit in Iceland on Tuesday afternoon to show their unity against Moscow.

The summit, only the fourth for the pan-European organization in its nearly 75 years of existence, aims to increase the means of holding Russia criminally accountable for the destruction and crimes caused by the invasion of Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni, who have been receiving Volodymyr Zelensky since Saturday, will lead the European family to Reykjavik.

Without the Ukrainian president: Ending a European tour that has already taken him to Rome, Berlin, Paris and London, Mr Zelensky, organizers had long expected, would intervene by videoconferencing.

On Twitter on Monday, the Ukrainian head of state announced a “coming home” promise of “powerful new weapons” as his country prepares to retaliate against Russian forces.

As Moscow signals a protracted war despite heavy losses, Europe wants to show it stands with Kiev – whatever the outcome of this tough assault on fortified Russian positions.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday, “We will continue to support Ukraine for as long as necessary.”

And “nothing will be done on Ukraine without Ukraine”, he promised, at a time when Kiev worries it will find itself pressured by its allies to negotiate with Moscow if it fails to quickly deploy the expected military doesn’t get success.

– Tribunal for Ukraine –

Icelandic organizers hope the nearly 24-hour summit, which prompted peaceful Reykjavik to bring in police reinforcements from abroad, will produce “concrete results”.

Two months after the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a “register of damages” caused by Russia’s aggression should be launched specifically.

An Icelandic coast guard vessel patrols near Reykjavik, where the Council of Europe summit opens, May 15, 2023 (AFP – John McDougall)

The register would be “a first step and a big step towards the compensation paid by Russia”, according to Ms von der Leyen, who like others in Europe has defended the creation of a special tribunal for war crimes in Ukraine. Is. The Hague.

MM Macron, Sunak and Scholz, all three of whom will speak in Reykjavik late Tuesday, are expected to show their support for the initiative, which is also backed by Washington.

A round table and then a dinner of European leaders should specify “how the Council of Europe can actively help Ukrainians as members of this great European democratic family”, underlined Elysee. According to those around him, the French head of state would defend a Europe “united around (its) values”.

Russia was a member of the Council of Europe until March 2022, a rare European or Western forum in that it is part of the Arctic Council – from which Moscow has also been sidelined – and the OSCE (International Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).

Moscow had been banned from the Council of Europe as a result of its invasion of Ukraine but was preparing to leave the organization anyway.

In addition to the 27 members of the European Union, the legal territory of the Council of Europe – totaling 675 million inhabitants – includes some twenty other nations, including Turkey and the United Kingdom. It is best known for its jurisdiction, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Despite its displayed unity, the Council of Europe is not free from cracks.

The summit would thus bring together two states in conflict, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

As for the United Kingdom – Mr Sunak’s involvement has long remained uncertain – he regularly throws red balls at the ECHR, which he sees as an excessive deterrent to toughening its immigration policy.

According to Reykjavík, the meeting should also address current topics such as “the democratic decline seen in Europe” or the success of artificial intelligence.

The summit comes as a prelude to the G7 starting Friday in Japan, where MM. Macron, Sunak, Scholz and Ms. Meloni must find US President Joe Biden, among others.

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