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#EUChina - ‘China has to convince us that it is worth having an investment agreement’ #EU2020DE

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Today’s (14 September) EU-China summit took place at a time when US-China tensions are escalating, worrying reports of human rights violations have emerged, relations have been strained on cybersecurity, and when both sides are struggling with the enormous challenges of COVID-19 and restoring economic growth in the wake of the pandemic.

‘A player, not a playing field’

President of the European Council Charles Michel said: “Europe needs to be a player, not a playing field” and asserted that today’s meeting represented another step forward in forging a more balanced relationship with China. He said that Europe wanted a relationship with China that is based on reciprocity, responsibility, and basic fairness.

Michel said that on average the EU traded over 1 billion euros a day with China, but he said that Europe had to insist on more reciprocity and a level playing field.

‘China has to convince us that it is worth having an investment agreement’

As widely anticipated, the summit failed to reach an ambitious EU-China Comprehensive Investment Agreement (CAI). President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said that Europe needed to see greater progress in key areas: state-owned enterprises; forced technology transfer; transparency on subsidies; market access, and sustainable development.

In the question and answer session, Chancellor Merkel added: “Over the past 15 years, I would say that economically, China has become significantly stronger. That means that there is more need for reciprocity and for a level playing field. That may not have been the case 15 years ago, when China was closer to being a country in the throes of development. In many high tech areas it is a clear competitor. In other words, rules-based multilateralism must be complied with under the WTO agreement.” Merkel gave the example of public procurement, where she said that China had been under lengthy negotiations with the WTO but there had been no result.

The two sides reaffirmed their objective of closing the remaining gaps before the end of the year. The EU side emphasized that high-level political engagement would be required within the Chinese system to achieve a meaningful agreement.

‘China needs similar levels of ambition to Europe’

In her speech as Council President Chancellor Merkel chose to focus on climate. She said that the EU and China were now in dialogue to talk about the Glasgow climate conference at the end of the year where national goals will be reviewed. The European Union will be stepping up its 2030 goal and aims at becoming carbon neutral by 2050, the EU discussed China setting similar leadership in setting ambitious goals, especially given its continued heavy dependence on coal-fired power stations. Merkel said that she would like to work with China on its emission trading scheme which will be the largest in the world. The biodiversity conference for 2021 was also discussed.

Hong Kong and human rights

Michel said that the recent national security law for Hong Kong continues to raise grave concerns and called for democratic voices to be heard, rights protected, and autonomy preserved.

The EU also reiterated its concerns over China’s treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the treatment of human rights defenders and journalists requesting access for independent observers to Xinjiang and the release of Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and two Canadian citizens who have been arbitrarily detained. There will be a human rights dialogue in Beijing later this year.

In addition to human rights concerns, the EU asked China to refrain from unilateral actions in the South China Sea, to respect international law, and avoid escalations.

In a brief press written press statement President Xi Jinping said the European Union should adhere to peaceful coexistence, openness and cooperation, multilateralism, as well as dialogue and consultation for the sound and stable development of their relations.

He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic was accelerating changes and that mankind was standing at a new crossroads. Xi called on China and the EU to unswervingly promote the sound and stable development of the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership.

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US: ‘It is no secret that in the past four years, things have been complicated’ Borrell

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In a debate (11 November) in the European Parliament on the recent US elections, The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, congratulated President-elect, Joe Biden, and Vice-President-elect, Kamala Harris, for their historic victory.

Borrell applauded the largest participation in the United States electoral history, saying that it clearly showed that American citizens were very much aware of the importance of this election.

Reboot of EU/US relations

Borrell said that the EU will now look at opportunities to advance its strategic partnership with the United States, a commitment that the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen had already made in her ‘State of the EU’ address to the European Parliament in September.

The High Representative did not hide that the EU/US relations had become more strained under the Trump administration, “It is no secret either that in the past four years, things have become complicated in our relations. I am looking forward to getting back to a frank dialogue.”

Borrell welcomed the clear commitment of President-elect Biden to restoring unity and respect for democratic norms and institutions and to working with allies based on partnership. While recognising that the EU needs to work together with the United States in many frameworks – defense frameworks and others - he said that the EU still needed to reinforce its strategic autonomy to become a stronger partner.

“I do not have to explain that we have had a very significant bilateral relationship globally [with the United States],” said Borrell, adding “We have a common history, shared values and we adhere to democratic principles. This partnership reflects how we go across all economic fields, underpinned by wide cooperation.”

The High Representative outlined a long list of common strategic goals: to reenergize the cooperation in the multilateral fora, in particular in the United Nations; to continue working in promoting the full respect of human rights; to address the difficulties in the World Trade Organization, especially the dispute settlement mechanism; to cooperate in fighting the COVID-19, including strengthening the working of the World Health Organization and the capacity of the global health system, starting with preparedness and response to emergencies; to accelerate ambitious global climate action and to invest in harnessing the technological transformation; to look at China, Iran and our Neighbourhood.

He added a note of caution that he was ready to engage with the new actors, but added that there was quite a long transition ahead, “let us hope it is not going to be a bumping transition.”

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‘We have not done enough to support the Roma population in the EU’ Jourová

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The European Commission has launched a new 10-year plan to support Roma people in the EU. The plan outlines seven key areas of focus: equality, inclusion, participation, education, employment, health, and housing. For each area, the Commission has put forward targets and recommendations on how to achieve them, the Commission will use these to monitor progress.
Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová said: “Simply put, over the last ten years we have not done enough to support the Roma population in the EU. This is inexcusable. Many continue to face discrimination and racism. We cannot accept it. Today we are relaunching our efforts to correct this situation.”
Although some improvements have been made in the EU – predominantly in the area of education – Europe still has a long way to go to achieve real equality for Roma. Marginalisation persists, and many Roma continue to face discrimination.
Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli (pictured) said: “For the European Union to become a true union of equality we need to ensure that millions of Roma are treated equally, socially included and able to participle in social and political life without exception. With the targets that we have laid out in the Strategic Framework today, we expect to make real progress by 2030 towards a Europe in which Roma are celebrated as part of our Union's diversity, take part in our societies and have all the opportunities to fully contribute to and benefit from political, social and economic life in the EU.”

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Commission complains about lack of results in the fight against corruption in #Bulgaria

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Values and Transparency Vice President Věra Jourová led discussions in the European Parliament’s debate on the rule of law in Bulgaria (5 October). Jourová said that she was aware of the protests that have been taking place over the last three months and is following the situation closely. Jourová said the demonstrations show that citizens attach great importance to an independent judiciary and good governance.
She said that the Commission will not lift the ‘Control and Verification Mechanism’ (CVM) that checks Bulgaria’s progress in making reforms to its judiciary and fighting organized crime, she added that she would take the views of the European Council and Parliament into account in any further reports. Fighting corruption European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said that while Bulgaria’s structures were in place they needed to deliver efficiently.
Reynders said surveys show a very low level of public trust in Bulgaria’s anti-corruption institutions and a belief that government lacked the political will to do this in practice. Manfred Weber MEP, Chair of the European Peoples’ Party defended Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s record, adding that he was supportive of the rule of law mechanism in European Council discussions. Weber acknowledges that the rule of law in Bulgaria “is not perfect” and that, there is still much to be done, but said that the government’s fate should be decided next year in elections.
Ramona Strugariu MEP (Renew Europe Group) made one of the more powerful interventions in the debate, saying that when she was demonstrating in the cold winter of 2017 in Bucharest - against government corruption in Romania - the support of President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans support made her feel that someone was listening to the Romanians who wanted reform. Strugariu said: “I am here today to ask for this voice from the Commission and of the Council and of this house because the Bulgarian people need it. Because it matters to them. It is really important to them.”
To fellow MEPs who were endorsing Prime Minister Borissov, she asked: “Do you know who you are endorsing? Because you are endorsing people facing serious allegations of corruption, money laundering and fraud with European money? I have seen women dragged outside by the police and pictures of children sprayed with tear gas, is this protection? Are you sure that this is the person to endorse?”

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