Virtual EU-China summit to ease tensions

Europeans and Chinese are meeting virtually this Monday to try to resolve their many differences, from the Hong Kong crisis to the disinformation campaigns on the Covid-19 pandemic, to prepare the basis for the signing of an investment protection agreement.

Despite a climate of mutual distrust, Europeans and Chinese are organizing a video conference summit on Monday, June 22, to try to resolve their many differences and prepare for an additional meeting with their leaders, with the goal of signing an investment protection agreement.

EU Representatives Charles Michel, President-in-Office of the Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the Commission, will meet at 10 am (8 hGMT) with Prime Minister Li Keqiang. President Xi Jinping is expected to attend the meeting, according to Chinese officials.

“China attaches great importance to this meeting and is ready to work with the EU to achieve positive results,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

Each expressed their expectations and concerns during preparatory meetings. Disbelief dominates and shows through in the form of hidden warnings. Europeans are concerned about Beijing’s growing grip on Hong Kong with the question of territorial independence and the attacks on fundamental freedoms.

Europe, in a vice between Washinton and Beijing?

The EU demanded the release of several human rights defenders on Friday. She also condemned the disinformation campaigns orchestrated by China on the Covid-19 pandemic. Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, transmitted the message to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during an interview on June 15.

The European Parliament supported these pressures with the adoption on Friday of a very harsh resolution in support of Hong Kong. Elected officials have demanded sanctions on the leaders who are guilty of the repression if the new security legislation adopted in Beijing is applied to the territory.

The Chinese, for their part, are concerned about the new European legislation on foreign investment and the EU’s distance to them.

Beijing, which is engaged in a commercial and political conflict with Washington, seeks support, but Europeans refuse to be trapped in the tension between the two powers.

The Trump administration has a very negative view of the summit. “The Chinese Communist Party wants to force you to choose” between the US and China, warned US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Ambitious agreement

“Despite the many differences with the US administration, the Transatlantic Partnership remains the most important relationship for the EU,” said Josep Borrell.

But “China is a necessary partner,” he insisted. According to the Commission, trade in goods between China and the EU was worth € 1.5 billion a day.

“The relationship with China is complex and will continue to be,” says Borrell. It must be “based on trust, openness and reciprocity”. Beijing responded with an implicit warning.

“China hopes that the EU will create a fair, impartial and non-discriminatory environment” for investment, said its EU ambassador Zang Ming. “The capital is very sensitive and loose. In the event of a change of wind, the capital will vote with its feet,” he warned.

Europeans and Chinese have started negotiations to conclude an investment protection agreement that is of great interest to Beijing. “China has committed to quitting on time,” said his ambassador. But Europeans still see no progress.

The postponement of the extraordinary summit of President Xi, scheduled in September in Leipzig by German Chancellor Angela Merkel with all her counterparts, gives the negotiators some extra time. The virtual summit should give a signal in this direction.

“We need to continue the negotiations. We need a good agreement and we are not there yet. We will take the necessary time,” the European Commission said.

“A bad deal is not an option,” the German ambassador to Brussels warned Michael Clauss on Sunday. Germany assumes six-year EU presidency on 1 Januaryyour July.

With AFP