NEW DELHI: A group of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) — Anna Bonfrisco, Matteo Adinolfi, Valentino Grant, Marco Dreosto, Luisa Regimenti, Alessandro Panza, Stefania Zambelli, Simona Baldassarre, Gianna Gancia and Francesca Donato of the Identity and Democracy Group have asked for reshaping the EU-China relations framework.
Back in February 2020, when China needed help the most, the EU sent tons of goods/equipment to China, spending millions of euros on the process. Germany, France and Italy were major contributors to the aid relief.
In return, when Europe faced the pandemic, the EU Member States received help from China, but China sold for a purchase and did not donate the PPE to Italy, and charged for the very PPE Italy had previously donated to China – Such practice is discouraging and alarming. Spain was forced to return faulty test kits to China, and the Netherlands had to recall 600 000 faulty coronavirus face masks imported from China.
In April, the Italian Identity and Democracy Group MEPs raised a parliamentary question to the European Commission asking that considering the EU-China investment agreement should be signed this year, is the Commission willing “to reshape the EU-China relations framework?” and “to launch a public consultation on the future of EU-China relations?”
In July, High Representative/Vice-President Borrell responded that “the European Commission is working with the Member States and international partners on all fronts to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak” and that “the first priority is to guarantee the health and safety of all EU citizens: protecting people from the spread of the virus, supporting the health systems and health workers while maintaining the flow of goods, mitigating the effects on the economy and helping people get back to their homes”.
High Representative/Vice-President Borrell confirmed that “the COVID-19 website was set up to keep all citizens updated about the evolution of the disease in the EU and informed of the comprehensive response by the Commission”. He further clarified that “following wide consultation, the EU adopted its China strategy in 2016, updated with the Strategic Outlook of March 2019” and that “both remain valid”. He said “as outlined in the Strategic Outlook, the European Union pursues a realist and multi-faceted and differentiated approach to the implementation of its strategic partnership with China”.
High Representative/Vice-President Borrell went on to emphasize that “China is simultaneously a partner with whom the EU has closely aligned objectives, a negotiating partner, with whom the EU needs to find a balance of interests, an economic competitor in pursuit of technological leadership, and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance” and that “the EU will continue to engage with China on all aspects of the relationship — the opportunities and the challenges — on issues on which it agrees and on which it does not”.
In closing, the High Representative/Vice-President reported that “the EU will also continue to adapt to changing economic realities by strengthening its autonomy, reinforcing its industrial base and diversifying its supply chains” and that “the EU is working for a more balanced and reciprocal economic relationship with China, including through the negotiation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment and the Agenda 2025”. He also reassured the MEPs that “launching a public consultation on the future of EU-China relations is not currently in the plans of the Commission”.