EU Leaders Discuss Influence and Defense of the Union at Balkan Summit

European Union leaders gather at an informal summit for the first time since the chaotic withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan and the cancellation of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal between Australia and France as a result of a tripartite pact between the United States, Australia and Britain, as reported by international agencies.

According to EU leaders, these events show the need for greater European independence in the field of defense, notes the Associated Press.

At a dinner yesterday at Brdo Castle in Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency, EU heads of state and government also discussed strained relations with China and rising natural gas prices.

Talks focused on the EU's role on the international stage in light of recent geopolitical developments, including the situation in Afghanistan and the submarine deal. "Learning from recent crises, we are determined to strengthen our forces and increase our resilience by reducing our critical dependencies," European Council President Charles Michel said after the meeting.

"To become more effective and confident on the international stage, the EU needs to increase its ability to act independently," he said. Michel also called for greater strategic autonomy through an EU-NATO partnership. "NATO is at the heart of security, which we rely on, but at the same time we see that we need to be able to act more independently to make our alliances stronger," he said. "Strong allies make strong alliances," Michelle concurred.

On the subject of China, the President of the European Council said that the union would defend its interests in its relations with China, which it considers a "competitor, partner and systemic rival".

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