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European Union FMs meet on Friday to prepare for China strategy

Bled, Slovenia: China featured prominently on the second day of the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) under Slovenia’s EU Presidency with top EU experts and officials referring to Beijing’s coercive Economic strategy besides the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative in Europe.

This dialogue on China set the tone for EU foreign ministers talks on China on Friday, with Beijing’s recent diplomatic row with Lithuania over Taiwan expected to figure high on the agenda, ET has learnt.

Speaking at a BSF panel Milan Roćen, Special Advisor of the President of Montenegro reflected views on China. “We are now seeing something that Napoleon actually predicted hundreds of years ago. He said ‘let China sleep, but when China wakes up, the entire globe will shake.”

According to senior Dutch Foreign Ministry official who spoke at BSF, ‘From the strategic perspective, we are looking at a changing world order that we have to come to terms with and that is moving from geopolitics to geoeconomics, from the Pax Americana…to what I would call comprehensive competition….”

The talks will review the EU-China ties in middle of full blown crisis in Afghanistan. The Ministers will deliberate on what many experts in Europe describe as complex but multifaceted ties with Beijing. The Lithuania-China ties have brought to fore fragility of ties.

China expelled Lithuania’s ambassador to Beijing in August over plans to open a “Taiwanese” representative office in Vilnius. Lithuania has seen exports from China via rail disrupted and some export licenses revoked.

A European Union has panel called on the bloc to strengthen ties with Taiwan, the latest show of support from an expanding united front of democracies against an increasingly assertive China.
The European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday adopted a report that urged the EU to begin work on a bilateral investment agreement with Taiwan. It also suggested the bloc rename its trade office in Taipei the “European Union Office in Taiwan,” according to a June version of the document on the parliament’s website.

European Parliament lawmakers insist that any change to Chinese-Taiwanese cross-strait relations must be neither unilateral nor against the will of Taiwanese citizens.

On Wednesday, the Chinese Mission to the European Union said in a statement that the move seriously violated the one-China principle.

“These moves exceed far beyond the scope of normal nonofficial economic and trade cooperation and cultural exchanges between the EU, its member states and Taiwan, constitute serious violations of the one-China principle and undercut mutual trust and cooperation between China and the EU,” the mission said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular press briefing Thursday in Beijing that the EU should “stop provocative and confrontational moves.”

But some European countries are also seeking collaboration with both Beijing and Moscow on Afghanistan. Friday’s talks will launch the EU’s China policy for 2022.

EU Parliament will also make policy recommendations on the broader China relationship this month, while the EU will also release more details on its Indo-Pacific and connectivity strategy, both of which are designed to counter China’s influence, according to a report in the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The European Council is planning to meet in October to discuss China strategy, while there are also plans to host an EU-China summit before the end of the year, according to SCMP report.

The EU could also launch a suite of new legislative tools designed to hit back at China, including one on economic coercion and another on forced labour, SCMP report claimed.

It may be recalled that earlier this year EU Parliament did not approve trade and investment treaty with China putting it into cold storage.

( Originally published on Sep 02, 2021 )