28th Jan 2021


EU's virtual summit with China This WEEK

  • The EU is holding a virtual summit with China - amid a crackdown in Hong Kong (Photo: Leung Ching Yau Alex)

China and the EU budget are likely to dominate this week, amid simmering tensions on all fronts as diplomacy remains hamstrung by the pandemic.

The week kicks off with an EU-China summit on Monday (22 June), which will take place online because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The European Union and China will discuss the pandemic, its global response and a whole of host of other issues ranging from climate change to the military.

China's premier Li Keqiang will be holding the talks with the European Commission and European Council presidents, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.

The meeting comes amid mutual accusations of trickery on how and where the pandemic, which has since infected almost nine million people, first appeared.

China silenced whistleblowers in late December following the outbreak of Covid-19 in a wet market in Wuhan and later piled on the pressure for the EU to tweak its disinformation report on the giant.

The two sides on Monday will most likely attempt to smooth out their differences.

But their meeting also comes amid poor relations with an increasingly belligerent US president Donald Trump, the China crack down on democracy defenders in Hong Kong, and the internment of some one million Uyghurs in Chinese prison-like camps.

"EU leaders can't just repeat the same lines and hope that they will somehow prompt different behaviour by Chinese authorities," said Lotte Leicht, EU director at Human Rights Watch, in an emailed statement.

The European Parliament earlier this month demanded the EU be more assertive on China when it comes Hong Kong democracy. Whether it will pay off during the virtual summit remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the centre-right European People's Party has said the European Commission will on Wednesday unveil its annual 2021 budget for the European Union.

The Commission did not confirm that date, however, when asked by this website.

But the proposal follows an EU summit where leaders and heads of state and government from each of the 27 member states debated the seven-year annual budget.

The presence of at least one of those leaders at the summit budget talks has raised serious concerns of conflict of interests.

The money issues are a recurrent headache as leaders revisit past divisions and demands from some for an even bigger budget on top of a massive recovery plan.

It means the much smaller annual budget presented on Wednesday is unlikely to find sure footing any time soon.

The EU's 2019 annual budget was €168.7bn, a slight increase from 2018.

Then there is migration.

European commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson last month announced that the forthcoming pact on migration and asylum would be presented at the start of summer.

Details remain sparse.

A spokesperson declined to provide any set date. But if Johansson's announcement carries any weight, it means the package could be presented sometime this week.

Plans are also in place for the relocation of lone child and teenage asylum seekers from Greece to pick up speed.

Some 1,600 were supposed to have been transferred throughout willing EU states but so far, only Luxembourg and Germany have taken anyone in. Luxembourg took in 12 and Germany 47.

Portugal is next in line on the 27th of June. Ireland had also agreed to take eight but under a bilateral arrangement not linked to the EU's 1,600 proposal.

Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Slovenia and Norway have all agreed to take them in.

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