Some European Countries Are Not Going Along with the Anti-China Campaign
Relations between the European Union and China have been frozen, if not totally ruptured, since the imposition of sanctions by the European Union, the Biden Administration, the United Kingdom and Canada on March 22 over the phony issue of human rights violations in Xinjiang, which were followed by counter-sanctions from China and then the May 22 vote by the European Parliament to suspend the ratification of the EU-China “Comprehensive Agreement on Investments” (CAI), which would have been the most important EU-China agreement to date.
Nonetheless, the recent official visits to China of the Foreign Ministers of Hungary, Poland, Ireland, and Serbia on the last weekend in May for meetings with China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi were a show of defiance of this anti China policy. All four praised China’s development and thanked the government for its assistance in dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic. They also welcomed an expansion of Chinese investments. The representatives of the three EU countries underlined the importance of the CAI, and of the resumption of negotiations in an atmosphere of dialogue.
In his meeting with Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defense Simon Coveney, on May 31, Foreign Minister Wang emphasized that Ireland has enjoyed a trade surplus with China for the last decade, while the Irishman called for deepening cooperation in internet security and aviation, as well as in climate change and peacekeeping.
Hungary, Poland and (non EU member) Serbia are all members of the “17+1 group” of Central and East European countries (CEEC) plus China, and are eager to continue organizing a platform for economic cooperation among the group. They also, together Montenegro and Croatia, lie astride East-West and North-South corridors running through the Balkans, which China is helping to construct and develop.
Wang proposed during his meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, that the two countries explore the alignment of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) with Poland’s pandemic recovery program, which is designed to facilitate the use of EU Recovery Fund monies. For his part, Rau said Poland hopes to expand cooperation in the export of agricultural products to China, and has already become a hub of growing railway connections between Europe and China.
Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic thanked China for delivering Chinese-made vaccines and for its investments in infrastructure. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto emphasized that Wang had proved his friendship during the coronavirus pandemic, by offering Hungary the opportunity to purchase the Sinopharm vaccine.
Underlining the importance of southeastern Europe for Beijing, senior diplomat Yang Jiechi visited Slovenia and Croatia on May 24-25, where he was warmly received by the heads of state and governments. Then, on May 26, Beijing said it was ready to discuss rescheduling the debt of Montenegro, a member of the CEEC and NATO, contracted for the construction of an East-West motorway connecting the port of Bar to Corridor 10 of the TEN-T network and on to Bulgaria.