The annual meeting between the two sides began in 2022 in Paris during the French presidency of the Council of the EU, just days before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Last year, it took place in Stockholm, when the rotating presidency fell to Sweden.
This time, however, Belgium — which is currently presiding over the Council of the EU — opted not to be a cohost. “They did send Princess Astrid to join the ministers for lunch,” said a European diplomat. “But that’s about it.” The Belgian foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
The other notable absentees were China and the United States.
While Beijing has never been on the guest list, the U.S. was invited to the Stockholm meeting last year, with U.S. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet attending.
“I don’t know the reasons why, whether they [U.S. and China] were invited, or what was the reason they did not attend this,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Jalil Jilani said.
Borrell pledged to beef up the EU’s role in Indo-Pacific security, even though he acknowledged the EU’s core focus is on Ukraine and the Middle East.