The European Union foreign ministers stressed the need to review the bloc's relations with Beijing to take a unified stance, including reducing economic dependence on it and ways to deal with security challenges and pushing Beijing to pursue a more stringent policy towards Moscow in the Ukraine file.


EDITED BY | HUGH GEY

EXCLUSIVE FILES

13 MAY 2023 - OSLO


   German Foreign Minister Analina Baerbock and other top EU diplomats said the bloc should learn from past mistakes when reviewing its relations with China.

Birbock spoke at a meeting in Stockholm where EU foreign ministers discussed how to review the bloc's relations with Beijing to take a unified stance, including reducing economic dependence on it and how to deal with security challenges and pushing Beijing to pursue a more stringent policy towards Moscow in the Ukraine file.

China and Western countries are clashing over several files, including Ukraine, Taiwan, human rights, and the Uyghurs. But Westerners did not adopt a unified approach to all these issues.

The past has shown that hope for strong economic ties that provide security can be illusory, Berbock said, referring to their assumption that Russia would not risk multibillion-dollar gas deals with the bloc by going to war with Ukraine. She, like other ministers, referred to reducing security risks associated with dependency, calling for the bloc to unite and use the power of the common market "with confidence".
Earlier today, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis called on his counterparts in the European Union not to repeat the mistakes that were made with Russia when dealing with China. And the minister added today, Friday: "In some cases, we see that the path and customs have not changed."

He went on to say that European countries should bear in mind a scenario in which trade relations with China are not reduced voluntarily but "because the situation, for example, in the Taiwan Strait changed by force." “China is building a new world order,” the minister explained, and the EU cannot be a passive spectator.
According to data from the European Commission, China is the largest trading partner of the European Union with regard to imports, with a share of 20.8% in 2022, and with regard to some important raw materials, it is almost monopolized by China.
"We have to recalibrate our attitude towards China," said Josep Borrell, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, at the outset of the meeting, adding that "China is an important competitor, not just a supplier of cheap goods." He said there is a need to reduce dependencies but to continue dealing with Beijing.

Borrell briefed the ministers on a working paper attached to an explanatory letter aimed at preparing for the European summit scheduled for June 30. And the letter, seen by Agence France-Presse, stresses that "China has changed a lot ... the rise of nationalism and ideology, the intensification of competition between the United States and China, which is influential in all political fields, and the fact that China is in the process of transformation, all of which require the definition of a coherent strategy."

The European official added, "China burns more coal than the rest of the world combined," adding that climate change cannot be resolved "without strong participation with China," referring to the complexity of the bloc's relations with Beijing.

For his part, Chinese Foreign Minister Chen Gang considered that China and Europe should together renounce the "cold war mentality", coinciding with a ministerial meeting of the European Union aimed at "adjusting" the European position towards Beijing.

"Today some people escalate talk of democracy in the face of tyranny, and they go so far as to talk about a new cold war," Chen Gang told a press conference during a visit to Oslo. "If a new cold war takes place, the result will be more catastrophic" than the previous one, he added. He stressed that both China and Europe should "reject the Cold War mentality."

Brussels angered Beijing by proposing to the 27 countries to restrict the export potential of eight Chinese companies accused of re-exporting goods to Russia with electronic components and sensitive technologies such as semiconductors and integrated circuits. But China's Foreign Minister Chen Gang, who is touring Europe, warned in Berlin that Beijing would "respond" if such measures were adopted.


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