EU Seeks to Toughen China Policy Before Possible Summits

The EU is frustrated by what Europe claims is a lack of progress in negotiations with Beijing, albeit partly hampered by coronavirus lockdowns that limit diplomacy

The foreign ministers of the European Union sought to toughen their strategy over China on Friday for countering the increasingly assertive diplomacy of Beijing and also push the efforts to put an end to the unrestricted access for Chinese business in Europe.

Amidst the criticism from Europe about China's handling of the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak, EU foreign ministers met by a video link for the first time to discuss ahead of two EU-China summits which are to take place this year.

EU Concerned About China's Handling of Coronavirus

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The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell called this week for a "more robust" China strategy and told the U.N. Security Council of his "deep concern" about China's new security law for Hong Kong, calling on Beijing to reconsider. Borrell is due to hold a news conference at 1100 GMT. The EU is trying to find a middle path between U.S.-Chinese rivalry, but the bloc is also divided internally over China, with some countries benefiting from its largesse.

Three senior diplomats said there was increasing frustration with what the EU says is Beijing's failure to make good on an April 2019 agreement that China reciprocates the broad market access that Chinese companies enjoy in Europe. Next month, the European Commission, the EU executive, is expected to come forward with guidelines on ways for EU governments to potentially limit China's access to public tenders in Europe, seen as a way to pressure Beijing.

The EU is frustrated by what Europe says is a lack of progress in negotiations with Beijing, albeit partly hampered by COVID-19 lockdowns that limit diplomacy. This week, German ambassadors told their counterparts at two separate meetings that host Germany could delay the summit between European Union leaders and China's President Xi Jinping in September because of the impasse. However, another EU diplomat said Berlin is working on hosting a summit in the town of Leipzig on Sept. 14. A German government spokesman declined to comment.

(With agency inputs)

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