Diplomacy: EU to recalibrate relations with China

Diplomacy: EU to recalibrate relations with China

Does the EU have to distance itself further from China? And if so, how much? At an EU meeting, Foreign Minister Baerbock warns against relying too much on the “principle of hope” when dealing with Beijing.

The EU is heading towards a realignment of its relations with China. At a meeting of foreign ministers in Sweden, numerous participants supported demands to make the European Union more independent of the rising superpower. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said it was about learning from past mistakes. It has been seen that it can be deceptive to hope that one can provide security through economic dependencies.

Baerbock was alluding to the fact that Europe had long believed that Russia would not dare to risk the billion-euro gas deals with EU countries by going to war against Ukraine. The EU is currently heavily dependent on China for the supply of raw materials such as rare earths. These are used, for example, for the production of e-cars and wind turbines.

Specifically, Baerbock, like other foreign ministers, spoke out in favor of minimizing the security risks posed by these dependencies. From their point of view, there must be close cooperation between the EU countries. “We are not the largest countries in the world, but the European Union as a whole, especially the European internal market, of course has a power and a strength that we should not underestimate and (…) should also use confidently,” said she. “Our strength is our togetherness.”

At the same time, Baerbock emphasized that it was not about severing economic relations with China. “We as Europeans do not want decoupling,” she said.

What happens if China attacks Taiwan?

Other foreign ministers made similar statements or even went a step further. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis advocated dealing with extreme scenarios – for example a situation in which economic relations with China would be broken off because of the Chinese attack on Taiwan.

“Any unilateral change in the status quo and the use of force could have massive economic, political and security consequences,” warned EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a discussion paper for the meeting. He also made it clear that he believes that relations between the EU and China can only be further developed if China presses Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.

The question of sanctions remains open

Meanwhile, it remained unclear whether and if so, the EU would react to the alleged circumvention of its Russia sanctions via Chinese companies. Against the background of corresponding allegations, the EU Commission recently proposed creating the legal possibility for the eleventh package of sanctions to restrict selected exports to certain third countries.

According to diplomats, however, the initiative is not viewed unreservedly positively by all EU countries. The danger is that some member states may not have the courage or the will to put countries like China on such a list because of possible retaliatory measures. In this case, the instrument would only help if its mere existence had a deterrent effect. This is because the approval of all 27 EU states would be required for the listing of each country and each product.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Landsbergis openly acknowledged this problem in Sweden. “I’m not sure a land-based ban would be efficient,” he said. And when asked why, he added: “I don’t think we could agree on that.”

China is Germany’s most important trading partner

Germany is one of the countries for which China is economically very important. The People’s Republic was Germany’s most important trading partner for the seventh time in a row last year – ahead of the USA. According to preliminary information from the Federal Statistical Office, goods worth 298.6 billion euros were traded in 2022 (exports and imports).

Estonia’s Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said in Stockholm on the subject: “We are economically too dependent.” China also uses this politically. You have to acknowledge this and react to it together.

Source: Stern

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts