Commission reviews relations with China, proposes 10 actions
Against the backdrop of China’s growing economic power and political influence, the European Commission and the High Representative review European Union-China relations and the related opportunities and challenges.
Today, they are setting out 10 concrete actions for EU Heads of State or Government to discuss and endorse at the European Council of 21 March.
The European Union and China have committed to a comprehensive strategic partnership. Yet, there is a growing appreciation in Europe that the balance of challenges and opportunities China presents has shifted. With today’s Joint Communication, the European Commission and the High Representative aim to start a discussion to refine Europe’s approach to be more realistic, assertive and multi-faceted.
China is simultaneously a cooperation 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. The EU will use links across different policy areas and sectors to exert more leverage for its objectives. Both, the EU and its Member States can achieve their aims concerning China only in full unity.
Vice-President, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, said: “China is a Strategic Partner of the European Union. We pursue strong bilateral and multilateral cooperation on files where we share interests, from trade to connectivity, from the JCPOA to climate change. And we are willing to keep engaging robustly where our policies differ or compete. This is the aim of the 10 actions that we are proposing to strengthen our relations with China, in a spirit of mutual respect.”
Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: “EU and China are strategic economic partners as well as competitors. Our economic relationship can be hugely mutually beneficial if competition is fair and trade and investment relations are reciprocal. With this Communication we make concrete proposals on how the EU can act to strengthen its competitiveness, ensure more reciprocity and level playing field, and protect its market economy from possible distortions.”
Today’s Joint Communication proposes 10 action points for the debate: these actions are formulated in the context of relations with China, but some of them relate to the EU’s global competitiveness and security. In general, the EU’s response will pursue three objectives:
- Based on clearly defined interests and principles, the EU should deepen its engagement with Chinato promote common interests at global level.
- The EU should robustly seek more balanced and reciprocal conditions governing the economic relationship.
- Finally, in order to maintain its prosperity, values and social model over the long term, there are areas where the EU itself needs to adapt to changing economic realities and strengthen itsown domestic policies and industrial base.
Specifically, the Commission and the High Representative invite the European Council to endorse the following actions:
Action 1: The EU will strengthen the EU’s cooperation with China to meet common responsibilities across all three pillars of the United Nations, Human Rights, Peace and Security, and Development.
Action 2: In order to fight climate change more effectively, the EU calls on China to peak its emissions before 2030, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Action 3: The EU will deepen engagement on peace and security, building on the positive cooperation on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for Iran.
Action 4: To preserve its interest in stability, sustainable economic development and good governance in partner countries, the EU will apply more robustly the existing bilateral agreements and financial instruments, and work with China to follow the same principles through the implementation of the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia.
Action 5: In order to achieve a more balanced and reciprocal economic relationship, the EU calls on China to deliver on existing joint EU-China commitments. This includes reforming the World Trade Organisation, in particular on subsidies and forced technology transfers, and concluding bilateral agreements on investment by 2020, on geographical indications swiftly, and on aviation safety in the coming weeks.
Action 6: To promote reciprocity and open up procurement opportunities in China, the European Parliament and the Council should adopt the International Procurement Instrument before the end of 2019.
Action 7: To ensure that not only price but also high levels of labour and environmental standards are taken into account, the Commission will publish guidance by mid-2019 on the participation of foreign bidders and goods in the EU procurement market. The Commission, together with Member States, will conduct an overview of the implementation of the current framework to identify gaps before the end of 2019.
Action 8: To fully address the distortive effects of foreign state ownership and state financing in the internal market, the Commission will identify before the end of 2019 how to fill existing gaps in EU law.
Action 9: To safeguard against potential serious security implications for critical digital infrastructure, a common EU approach to the security of 5G networks is needed. To kickstart this, the European Commission will issue a Recommendation following the European Council.
Action 10: To detect and raise awareness of security risks posed by foreign investment in critical assets, technologies and infrastructure, Member States should ensure the swift, full and effective implementation of the Regulation on screening of foreign direct investment.
The Joint Communication will be presented to the European Council on 21-22 March, with the Member States having the first opportunity to exchange views at the Foreign Affairs Council on 18 March. The next EU-China Summit is scheduled for early April.
The existing policy framework for EU engagement with China is the Council Conclusions on the EU’s Strategy on China adopted in July 2016 and the Joint Communication of the Commission and of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy ‘Elements for a New Strategy on China’ of June 2016. This remains the cornerstone of the EU’s policy towards China.
U.S. seeks to add India in NATO plus
There was a message received a few days ago: “In a significant development ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, a powerful Congressional ‘Committee has recommended strengthening NATO Plus by including India.
NATO Plus, currently NATO Plus 5, is a security arrangement that brings together NATO and five aligned nations — Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and South Korea – to boost global defence cooperation. Bringing India on board would facilitate ‘seamless intelligence sharing between these countries and India would access the latest military technology without much of a time lag.
The House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), led by Chairman Mike Gallagher and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi, overwhelmingly adopted a policy proposal to enhance Taiwan’s deterrence, including through strengthening NATO Plus to include India.
“Winning the strategic competition with the Chinese Communist Party and ensuring the security of Taiwan demands the United States strengthen ties to our allies and security partners, including India. Including India in NATO Plus security arrangements ‘would build upon the US and India’s close partnership to strengthen global security and deter the aggression of the CCP across the Indo-Pacific region,” the Select Committee recommended.”
The news is commented by M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer:
“Indian lobbyists daydreaming about a military alliance with the United States are excited over the breaking news that the US House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the US has adopted a policy proposal to enhance the deterrence of Taiwan, which inter alia included strengthening of NATO Plus by the inclusion of India. Indeed, NATO Plus is a privileged group under the alliance umbrella comprising AUKUS members, plus Japan.
The breaking news on the Hill may have something to do with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming State Visit to the US — call it kite-flying or pressure tactic (or both). More likely, it undercuts India’s newfound enthusiasm for leading the Global South at world forums, which is posing headaches for Washington.
What has India got to do with ‘deterrence of Taiwan’, an entity we don’t even recognise?
Where’s the beef in NATO Plus which has neither an Article 5 nor can be an asset for Modi’s vision? Perhaps, the United Kingdom’s experience as the US’ closest ally provides some clues. Considering the word limit, let me quote just a few lines from a UK House of Commons Committee report dated March with recommendations to the Rishi Sunak government:
“The UK-US relationship in defence, security and intelligence is strong and enduring. Our Armed Forces have fought alongside in many campaigns post-1945 and continue to work together on development of both equipment and doctrine. Both countries benefit from the relationship: the UK benefits from US resources and economies of scale; the US from British niche capabilities, the UK’s global reach and its willingness to defend its values. However, defence industrial co-operation is often limited as a result of US defence export controls. Any failure to consult Allies before taking action can also have negative consequences, as was demonstrated by the Afghanistan withdrawal. Nevertheless, the joint approach in response to Russian actions in February 2022 demonstrates the value of the UK-US relationship.”
The analogy is patently insufficient since the UK lives and survives as world power thanks to the US, which is not the case with India.
Nonetheless, realism is needed. There is nothing like a free lunch in the US way of life and ‘interoperability’ within any NATO format will inevitably translate as living off US military hardware and dittoing US global strategy. Europe has learnt the bitter truth that nothing grows under a banyan tree. European defence remains a chimera, occasional captivating speeches by Emmanuel Macron notwithstanding.
Conceivably, the House Select Committee is a doormat for the US arms manufacturers. The paradox is, this move comes only a fortnight after the Indian Navy successfully test-fired the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from its frontline stealth guided-missile destroyer INS Mormugao — that is, within 18 weeks of BrahMos air version being successfully test fired from the supersonic fighter aircraft Sukhoi 30 MK-I and within 15 weeks of India sealing a $375 million deal with the Philippines for supplying three batteries of BrahMos missile in what is by far the single most prestigious export order India’s defence industry ever secured.
NATO Plus will mean sudden death for India-Russia defence cooperation, notes M.K. Bhadrakumar.
South Africa, President Putin and the ICC
South Africa will grant diplomatic immunity to all international officials attending the BRICS summit in August, a move that will allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid arrest.
South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor issued a gazette notice extending its Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges Act to the summit delegates.
“In accordance with the powers vested in me by Section 6(2) of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, 2001, I hereby recognise the BRICS ministerial meetings to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, from 1 to 2 June 2023 and the 15th BRICS summit to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 22 to 24 August for the purpose of granting the immunities and privileges provided for in section 6(1) of the said Act as set out in the attached notice,” the gazette reads.
South Africa, which has close ties with Russia, has faced a diplomatic dilemma since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Putin in March over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
A signatory to the ICC, Pretoria is obliged to arrest Putin if he lands in South Africa.
Clayson Monyela, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson, defended the move, saying such notices are issued every time there is an international meeting in the country.
The government notice, released on Monday, followed Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s announcement that he would meet with the inter-ministerial committee tasked with seeking solutions concerning South Africa’s options for Putin’s visit.
“This is a standard conferment of immunities that we do for all international conferences and summits held in South Africa irrespective of the level of participation,” said the department.
“The immunities are for the conference and not for specific individuals. They are meant to protect the conference and its attendees from the jurisdiction of the host country for the duration of the conference.
“These immunities do not override any warrant that may have been issued by any international tribunal against any attendee of the conference,” added the ministry.
Initially, President Cyril Ramaphosa had announced that the ruling party had resolved that the country would quit ICC before backtracking hours later citing a “communication error”.
South Africa, which has strong economic and trade relations with the US and Europe, has been walking a diplomatic tightrope over the Ukraine conflict, choosing to maintain a neutral stance on the Russia/Ukraine conflict.
The International Relations Department said it is also looking at a legal opinion on handling the ICC’s arrest warrant.
Authoritarian regime to strengthen in Poland
This autumn the elections will be in Poland. The ruling party clearly understands that it can lose the vote, so President Duda signed a law that allows him to start political repressions against the opposition. This is a reminiscent of the situation in the 30s of the last century, when authoritarian regimes began to strengthen in Europe. Now a similar process is starting in Poland. The opposition fears he has ‘set off a Polish civil war.’
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said he will sign into law a controversial bill creating a commission to “investigate Russian influence on Polish politics that could ban people from public office for a decade,” writes POLITICO.
Duda and the Law and Justice (PiS) party government say it’s an effort to root out the Kremlin’s agents in Poland, but the opposition warns the commission is aimed at harassing political rivals — especially Donald Tusk, a former prime minister and European Council president who heads the opposition Civic Platform party — ahead of this fall’s pivotal parliamentary election.
The decision is likely to worsen already fraught relations between Warsaw and Brussels, with the European Commission freezing billions in EU pandemic recovery cash over worries the Polish government is backsliding on the bloc’s democratic principles.
The commission law was narrowly approved by the Polish parliament after a heated debate; Duda’s decision to rapidly sign it into law dashed hopes that he would distance himself from the law.
Duda did say he would also send the law to be examined by the Constitutional Tribunal — a top court dominated by PiS loyalists — but that won’t prevent the commission from beginning work.
“People have the right to know,” Duda said in a broadcast to announce his decision, adding: “The public should form its own opinion on how… those elected in general elections… understood the interests of the Republic of Poland, whether those interests were actually properly executed.”
The opposition denounced the commission as a political weapons designed to cow PiS’s rivals ahead of an election it might lose.
“President Andrzej Duda has seriously weakened our country today, internally and externally; he has decided to set off a Polish civil war,” said Szymon Hołownia, head of the Poland 2050 opposition party.
Borys Budka, one of the leaders of Civic Platform, warned that anyone joining the commission should face prosecution.
“This commission is not supposed to explain anything, decide anything, judge anything, it is only supposed to be a hammer against the opposition,” he said.
The Left opposition party called for Duda to be put before the State Tribunal, a body that is supposed to judge politicians.
The commission has also been noted by the United States, Poland’s key NATO military ally.
“The U.S. government shares concerns about laws that could appear to allow for the preempting of voters’ ability to vote for the candidates of their choice outside of a clearly defined process in independent courts,” U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski told Polish television.
The nine-member commission will be chosen by parliament where PiS has a slim majority; several opposition parties have said they will boycott the procedure.
It will examine actions that were taken “under Russian influence” from 2007 to 2022 — a period covering the 2007-2015 governments of the Civic Platform party led by Tusk as well as the current PiS administration.
Critics say the commission violates the constitution as its functioning isn’t precisely defined, its verdicts are final, and members of the commission are shielded from any criminal responsibility. All of the country’s intelligence, police, prosecutors and other official bodies are mandated to cooperate with it, and there is no set procedure for deciding who it will investigate.
It can decide to ban people for 10 years from jobs involving the spending of public funds — which would block them from running for office.
“Duda has signed a law allowing the parliament to create a commission that will usurp the functions of courts, prosecutors and special services,” tweeted Ben Stanley, an associate professor at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw.
Tusk has called for people to hold a mass protest in Warsaw on June 4 — the anniversary of the 1989 partially free election that ended communist rule in Poland.
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