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EU Leaders Discuss Migration, Ukraine  07/18 06:03

   Leaders from across Europe gathered at a grandiose English country mansion 
on Thursday for a summit clouded by worries about whether the United States 
would remain a reliable ally if Donald Trump wins a second presidency.

   WOODSTOCK, England (AP) -- Leaders from across Europe gathered at a 
grandiose English country mansion on Thursday for a summit clouded by worries 
about whether the United States would remain a reliable ally if Donald Trump 
wins a second presidency.

   Newly elected U.K. Prime Minister Keir Starmer welcomed some 45 heads of 
government to discuss migration, energy security and the threat from Russia as 
he seeks to restore relations between the U.K. and its European Union neighbors 
four years after their acrimonious divorce.

   Starmer told the European Political Community gathering that the U.K. plans 
to take a more active role on the world stage, especially when it comes to 
Ukraine's fight against Russia's invasion and to people-smuggling gangs 
organizing irregular migration.

   He told fellow leaders that under his government the U.K. would be "a friend 
and a partner, ready to work with you -- not part of the European Union, but 
very much part of Europe. Not focused on the differences between us, but on the 
values that we share."

   "Our first task here today is to confirm our steadfast support for Ukraine, 
to unite once again behind those values that we cherish and to say we will face 
down aggression on this continent together," he said, adding that the threat 
from Russia "reaches right across Europe."

   Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a key guest at the meeting, 
aimed at shoring up Europe's support for his country's defense and discussing 
ways to defend democracy. The U.K. accuses Moscow of seeking to undermine 
European democracies with cyberattacks, disinformation and sabotage.

   When Britain agreed earlier this year to hold the one-day summit, 
Conservative leader Rishi Sunak was prime minister. His defeat in a July 4 
election means it's Starmer who welcomed leaders to Blenheim Palace, a Baroque 
country house that was the birthplace of World War II Prime Minister Winston 
Churchill.

   "It's an incredibly useful occasion for Keir Starmer, because it gives him 
the chance to get to know a lot of European leaders," said Jill Rutter, a 
senior research fellow at the Institute for Government think tank. "It's like 
Rishi Sunak organized a dating party for him."

   The guest list includes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President 
Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Polish Prime Minister 
Donald Tusk and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

   The meeting is the fourth for the EPC group, a brainchild of Macron. It was 
established in 2022 as a forum for countries both inside and outside the 
27-nation EU after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine shattered Europe's 
sense of security. Previous meetings of the group have been held in the Czech 
capital, Prague; Chisinau, Moldova; and Granada, Spain.

   The U.K. hopes this will be the best-attended summit to date, though EU 
chief Ursula von der Leyen stayed away as she fights to secure a second term as 
European Commission president from lawmakers in the European Parliament. 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also a no-show.

   Starmer's center-left government aims to rebuild ties with the EU strained 
by years of ill-tempered wrangling over Brexit divorce terms. A key priority is 
a new U.K.-EU security pact that Starmer hopes to strike soon.

   "We are confident that a new chapter will be opened with the U.K.," European 
Council President Charles Michel said as he arrived.

   The U.K. plans to work more closely with the European police agency Europol 
against people smuggling, part of measures to beef up border security following 
Starmer's decision to scrap the Conservatives' contentious and unrealized plan 
to send migrants arriving in the U.K. by boat on a one-way trip to Rwanda.

   Delegates gathered at Blenheim Palace, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) 
northwest of London, will be treated to full British hospitality, including 
strawberries with cream and a reception hosted by King Charles III.

   Many thoughts will likely stray to the U.S., where the weekend assassination 
attempt on Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, underscored how febrile 
and polarized politics has become ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

   Trump's skepticism about NATO has long worried U.S. allies. Trump's choice 
of Sen. JD Vance, an opponent of U.S. military aid to Ukraine, as vice 
presidential running mate has heightened concerns.

   "European countries must stand on their own legs more than ever," said 
Netherlands Prime Minister Dick Schoof.

   That sentiment was echoed by several other leaders, but not by Hungary's 
pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Orbn, who has riled other EU nations with a 
series of rogue meetings with foreign leaders about Ukraine, including Russian 
President Vladimir Putin.

   Orban said a Trump victory would be "the best news for everybody, because 
he's a man of the people."

 
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