The April 1st EU-China Summit was anything business as usual, taking place in a very sober atmosphere against the backdrop of the Russian war still unravelling in Ukraine.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reported however a very open and a very frank exchange with President Xi and Prime Minister Li. It was clear, she said, that this is not only a defining moment for our continent, but it is also a defining moment for our relationship with the rest of the world.
“Looking at the facts on the ground in Ukraine, the suffering of the citizens, the shelling and the bombing of cities, the millions forced to flee, it is clear that this is a humanitarian disaster that was created by choice. We are supporting Ukraine and its people as they face an unjustified aggression. The war is also a violation of common principles and rules and, first and foremost, of the UN Charter. An overwhelming majority of UN members stand united in condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. There must be respect for international law, as well as for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. And therefore, China, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has a very special responsibility. This is what we discussed in a very frank and open manner.
“We, the European Union, are determined to support the multilateral order. Together with our international partners, we have taken action. We have adopted massive sanctions that are effective. More than 40 countries in total have joined these sanctions. So we also made very clear that China should, if not support, at least not interfere with our sanctions. We discussed that, and also the fact that no European citizen would understand any support to Russia’s ability to wage war. Moreover, it would lead to a major reputational damage for China here in Europe.
“The reputational risks are also driving forces in the exodus of international companies from Russia. The business sector is watching very closely the events and evaluating how countries are positioning themselves. This is a question of trust, of reliability and, of course, of decisions on long-term investments. Let me remind you that every day, China and the European Union trade almost EUR 2 billion worth of goods and services. In comparison, trade between China and Russia is only some EUR 330 million per day. So a prolongation of the war, and the disruptions it brings to the world economy, is therefore in no-one’s interest, certainly not in China’s.
“Beyond the Russian invasion in Ukraine and its consequences, we, of course, also discussed bilateral issues. We continue to cooperate constructively on climate issues. We want to build on this to prepare for COP27 in Sharm El-Sheik. The current high prices of fossil fuels are also important to watch because they should not bring us to allow a lock-in to fossil fuels, but they should, on the contrary, move us forward towards more strategic investment in renewables and investment in a decarbonised economy.
“We can also cooperate in the fight against COVID-19. I have always said that we are in it for the long haul. And to set the record straight – I think that figures always count, also over time – the European Union is the world’s frontrunner when it comes to providing vaccines to the world. To date, the European Union has exported over 2 billion doses of vaccines, of which over 400 million are donated, 85% through COVAX. China, in comparison, has exported 1.2 billion doses, and donated bilaterally 115 million doses and via COVAX 220 million doses. Of course, we acknowledge that Omicron is hitting China hard. 30% of its economy and 25% of its population are in lockdown right now. We have a mutual interest in ensuring widespread vaccination with the effective mRNA vaccine technology to stop the pandemic. We see, by experience, here in Europe, that the best protection against Omicron’s impact is full vaccination and boosters. In Europe, 70% of the population are fully vaccinated and 52% are boosted. And we are always willing to share expertise and support in this matter with China.
“But we also made clear to China that a number of important differences need to be addressed. China must stop its unjustified trade measures against Lithuania, which violate WTO rules and disrupt the EU’s Internal Market. Until it does, we will pursue our case in front of the WTO. China must also lift its sanctions against members of the European Parliament. It must address global concerns on human rights and labour rights, in particular as concerns the situation in the Xinjiang region. And we need a level playing field in our trade and investment relations. China needs to improve the access and conditions for our companies on the Chinese market.
“To conclude, this Summit was an important opportunity for us to convey Europe’s deep concerns about Russia’s war and aggression against Ukraine, and our determination not to let it stand. And we know that the world has taken a very clear stance on this.”
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