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European Lawmakers Call For Autonomous, Cooperative EU Approach to China

Some members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on Tuesday called on the European Union (EU) member states to develop an autonomous policy toward China independent from the United States and seek cooperation rather than confrontation with Beijing.

The European Parliament on Tuesday held a plenary session in Strasbourg on “the need for a coherent strategy for EU-China relations,” which came after some European leaders, including Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited China in recent weeks.

“After visiting China, French President Macron declared that Europe needs more strategic autonomy and should not be a vassal of the United States of America. I don’t tend to agree with Emmanuel Macron, but this time I think he was right because the current European policy makes no sense and is destroying Europe,” said non-attached Slovak MEP Milan Uhrik at the debate.

Uhrik referred to Macron’s words when he was interviewed by the U.S.-based Politico news service and the French newspaper Les Echos on his plane back from a three-day state visit to China that Europe had increased its dependency on the United States for weapons and energy and must now focus on boosting its own defense industries. The French head of state said that Europe must reduce its dependency on the United States and strategic autonomy must be the fight of Europe.

When it comes to the EU’s China policy, Uhrik said, “Some of you are pushing us into a confrontation with China because the U.S. sees China as a threat to its world dominance.”

“Instead of Europe seizing the opportunities offered by developing Asia, we are looking for a threat or an enemy in everyone. Soon we will have sanctions against the whole world and the whole world will be isolated … We will end up isolated. It is high time, really high time, to put an end to this confrontational policy,” Uhrik said.

“The debate on the European Union’s relations with China places us before the dilemma of having an autonomous international policy based on our interests or continuing to sublet our international policy to organizations and structures that make their decisions based on the interests of others, when not contrary to ours,” said MEP Manu Pineda from Spain (The Left) during the debate.

Pineda said the EU must be an independent actor in the development of an open and multipolar international order, and in this commitment to the autonomy of the EU in its international policies it is necessary to recover normality in its relations with China.

“No one can deny that improving relations with China benefits the EU and its people. Let us not fall into the trap set for us by those who feel their privileges of world hegemony are threatened. Let’s not do their dirty work. Let us defend the interests of Europe from our autonomy,” Pineda said.

MEP Jan Zahradil, Czech member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group, said that EU-China relations are not good right now, but they could and should be better.

“I think that we need to find a new equilibrium with China because, like it or not, China is here as a global player, and it will remain so. We have to adjust ourselves to that new multipolar situation,” he said.

Zahradil called for cohabitation rather than confrontation between the EU and China and argued that the EU needs to de-escalate tensions over Taiwan, not escalate them further.

“There is a Washington-led campaign to counter China’s economic influence in the world, so we see U.S. talking points about internal repression and assertive behavior abroad being parroted by EU representatives, while the U.S. has no problem growing its trade and investment with China year on year,” said MEP Mick Wallace (The Left) from Ireland.

Wallace said the U.S. financial capital wants to make profits in China and in Europe, and driving a wedge between the EU and China is a good way of going about it for them.

“And, very sadly, there are people in Brussels who appear to be helping them to do it,” he added. 

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