The relationship between the European Union and China had sourced in recent months after the EU had alleged that China has spread disinformation about the novel coronavirus pandemic and about China’s role in managing the emergence of the pandemic and its spread to the rest of the word. The two sides are now trying to cool down tempers through a video summit, the first such initiative for formal talks since the spread of the pandemic.
Video conferences with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping will be held by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel – the EU’s chief executive and chairman.
“We are ready to work with China. But we also expect China to assume its responsibilities as one of the world’s largest economies,” said a senior official helping prepare the summit. “The pandemic has heightened some (EU) concerns.”
There is no joint statement expected from the summit.
Pressure was sought to be put by China on those EU countries that criticized Beijing’s handling of the novel coronavirus, with extensive use of social media to spread fake reports of European neglect of Covid-19 patients, said EU officials. These have been denied by China.
There were cracks in the relationship between the two trading partners even before the emergence of the pandemic which included differences over China’s attitude towards Hong Kong and an investment pact that is being negotiated.
The EU has also been pressurized by the United States to get tougher with its dealing with China. This has put the EU in a tough spot as it is not in a position to take sides – it needs both the partners while not alienating any one of the two.
“Grave concern” over China’s security law for Hong Kong have been expressed by EU governments. According to concerns and fears of democracy activists, diplomats and some businesses, the new proposed law for Hong Kong will erode the semi-autonomous status of Hong Kong and its role and position as a global financial hub.
A resolution by the EU assembly protesting against the security law in Hong Kong was reacted to angrily by China’s parliament last week end.
The EU and China are signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord and EU wants to work closely with China on issues of global warming and other climate issues. But on the economic side, China has been accused by the EU of not being proactive enough to open up its economy despite a 2019 agreement to do so.
A proposed summit of EU leaders and Xi in September has been postponed by Germany citing the coronavirus. However reports quoting diplomatic sources in the EU have said that the real reason behind this move was the impasse in investment negotiations.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)