EU mulls review of China policy, again

Foreign policy chief Borrell to present report after the summer, following conclusion in April that no update was needed.

EU mulls review of China policy, again

The European Union’s executive and diplomatic arms are preparing a report reviewing its relationship with China, according to the bloc’s foreign policy chief.

Josep Borrell’s revelation is a surprise as this will be the second time this year that the European Commission and Borrell carry out such an exercise, after concluding in April that there’s no need to update the EU’s China strategy, adopted in 2019.

Two senior EU diplomats said the bloc has been under pressure from Beijing — as well as some member countries — to remove its description of China as a systemic rival, though Borrell did not say if this would be part of his consideration.

It is also understood that the EU’s diplomatic branch is keen to revive the once-annual EU-China summit, halted during the pandemic, which would feature heads of the European Council and Commission, and Premier Li Keqiang, China’s No. 2 official. But Beijing has so far refused to meet the EU’s precondition of restarting a human rights dialogue.

“After the summer, I will present a report, together with the [European] Commission, to the European Council, analyzing our relationship with China to see if it is necessary to review the current strategy,” Borrell told Spanish newspaper El Pais, which published his interview on Thursday.

A senior EU official said the planned document would be “some sort of an implementation report” modeled on the 2019 document — referring to China simultaneously as a partner, an economic competitor and a systemic rival. The goal is to present it to EU national leaders ahead of the Council meeting in October.

The official added that there is a need to “generate some unity” as EU member countries have started contacting high-ranking Chinese officials on a bilateral basis over the last few months. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, for instance, held a virtual meeting with President Xi Jinping in early July.

Other EU countries, most notably Lithuania, have been calling for a tougher stance on China in the face of human rights violations. Borrell seemed to have shot down such an approach.

“Despite our different views over the Hong Kong or the Uyghur cases, what [former U.S. President Donald] Trump called the economic decoupling with China is something beyond our intentions and is contrary to our interests,” said Borrell, who last met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Uzbekistan earlier this month.

The 27 EU leaders are expected to discuss China during an informal gathering in Slovenia — currently the country holding the Council presidency — in early September.

Over the last year, the EU has adopted a tougher line on China, taking the unprecedented move to impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in Xinjiang’s mass internment policy and to work with the U.S. on selective policies, such as confronting China’s Belt and Road initiative.

Sarah Anne Aarup contributed reporting.

Source : Politico EU More   

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EU and Cuba clash over condemnation of protest crackdown

Cuban foreign minister says EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 'lies and manipulates.'

EU and Cuba clash over condemnation of protest crackdown

EU-Cuba relations dramatically soured after Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla blasted an EU statement and accused the bloc’s foreign policy chief of lying about protests in the country.

On Thursday afternoon, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell issued a statement on behalf of the 27 EU countries, saying that Brussels was “very concerned about the repression” of recent protests on the Caribbean island and calling on Cuban authorities to respect human rights and “release all arbitrarily detained protesters,” including journalists.

“The public demonstrations reflect legitimate grievances in the population about the lack of food, medicines, water and power, as well as freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” the EU statement said. “We unequivocally support the right of all Cuban citizens to express their views peacefully, to make demands for change … The Cuban people are suffering, and all necessary measures should be taken by the government to address this.”

Just two hours later, Rodríguez Parrilla took to Twitter to “strongly reject the statement of the EU High Representative.” He went on to attack Borrell directly, saying that “he does not dare to mention by name the genocidal U.S. blockade that violates European sovereignty and imposes its laws and courts. On Cuba, he lies and manipulates.”

Rodríguez Parrilla suggested that Borrell should “deal with brutal police repression in the EU” — without specifying what he was talking about.

The remarks about the U.S. blockade were a reference to the American embargo against Cuba, which includes various business and travel restrictions. The EU has, however, repeatedly urged the U.S. to withdraw those sanctions, and the EU statement from Thursday indirectly refers to the embargo by saying that “the easing of external restrictions, including on remittances and travel, would be helpful” to address Cuba’s economic problems.

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets earlier this month, calling for President Miguel Díaz-Canel to step down as they accuse him of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic and bearing the responsibility for economic problems and food and medicine shortages.

Cuba has faced one of its biggest economic crises since the fall of the Soviet Union. The pandemic-driven collapse of tourism, a critical source of income for the country, has aggravated economic woes.

According to the exile group Cubalex, which is tracking the arrests of protesters, more than 700 Cubans have been detained since the protests started earlier this month.

Source : Politico EU More   

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