European Summits are a peculiar species; events clearly designed to make participants – heads of State or of Government, thus presumably important but sensitive people – happy; or at least able to fly or drive home with a smiling face and positive feelings in their luggage.
Thus with the October 17-18 European Council. Already the fact is that something purpοrting to be the final step towards Brexit (and away from a no-deal Brexit) was agreed upon. With both Jean-Claude Juncker as departing President of the European Commission and Boris Johnson as fighting-mood Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of (not-so-) Great Britain and (already somehow estranged) Northern Ireland, sporting wide smiles. Now for the Commons to decide – and for economic reality to take the lead over negotiation and politics. The first step of such decision was to lead to some further delay, which causes more confusion than sense of direction.
“Europe”, such as it is, took also in Brussels a position over the Turkish invasion at North-Eastern Syria with the declared intention to create by force a “safety zone” and, eventually, to keep there some part of the refugee wave that came over from the fighting in Syria. Noises of European disapproval were heard over the Turkish move, while the Americans – that is, ever-tweeting Donald Trump and V.P. Pence flying over to Ankara to meet with mercurial Recep Tayyip Erdogan – arranged a cease-fire that de facto satisfied Turkish plans.
Noices of disapproval were also heard at the Summit over Turkish grandstanding in Eastern Mediterranean waters, with head-on infringement of Cypriot rights over its EEZ and continental shelf. Measures, self-styled sanctions, were mentioned against Turkey – but nothing of essence was decided.
On the front of the Western Balkans, EU Foreign Ministers had already put a brake over accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, with the idea of a decoupling (that would allow for the former to progress somehow) being put at rest. Washington voiced displeasure with Europeans for being short-sighted over regional stability, but that’s life! Over to 2020…
On the refugee/immigration issue, the call for more intra-EU solidarity with front-line countries such as Greece or Italy in spreading the burden was re-iterated, as well as the need to think anew the EU-Turkey Joint Statement of 18 March 2016.
Since Greek P.M. Kyriakos Mitsotakis carried away positive feelings on all three fronts (EastMed, Western Balkans, refugee issue), at least insofar official positions are concerned, one more sigh of relief for Summit-watchers.
Now… back to realities on the field.